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Maryland football falls to West Virginia, 31-17

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 19, 2010; 12:17 AM

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. - This was the big-game litmus test Torrey Smith wanted, a chance for the Maryland football team to display improved maturity and poise. But Saturday afternoon, Smith could only shake his head in frustration after a litany of blunders proved too costly to overcome.

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Smith's two scintillating touchdown receptions - 60 and 80 yards - in a 31-17 loss at West Virginia won't be highlighted as much as Maryland's series of breakdowns: costly penalties, missed tackles, blown coverages and squandered opportunities. A team believing it was ready for prime time demonstrated it was not even ready for an afternoon telecast on ESPNU.

"We are more mature than what we showed," Smith said. "We weren't composed at all."

The 21st-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) won their fifth straight game against Maryland, which has not won a road game in nearly two years. The Terrapins, fortunate to beat Navy in their opener and untested against division I-AA Morgan State last week, became unglued on the biggest stage they've seen thus far. A crowd of 60,122 at Milan Puskar Stadium - mostly awash in old gold and blue - witnessed the Terrapins commit unforced and self-inflicted errors.

"We tackled terrible," Coach Ralph Friedgen said.

"Some guys lost their poise," offensive coordinator James Franklin said.

And at 2-1, concern is now mounting because injuries are mounting. Left tackle Justin Gilbert suffered a third-quarter left leg injury that Friedgen felt was significant because the player heard a "pop." Franklin said he believes Gilbert will return this season but did not know when.

"It's pretty serious," said starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson, who was sacked seven times. "That's my blind side. That one is hard to replace."

Robinson is banged up himself; he played with a sore throwing shoulder throughout the second half. His bruises are a particular concern because backup Danny O'Brien re-aggravated a right ankle sprain when Mountaineers defensive end Bruce Irvin hammered him from behind on O'Brien's only play in the game late in the second quarter. The next healthy quarterback available: freshman Devin Burns.

Friedgen only wanted to use O'Brien if absolutely necessary. Now that O'Brien is "dinged up, is that a couple more weeks without him? We're in a bind right now," Friedgen said.

Friedgen called Robinson's performance "gutty" even though he missed several open receivers, because he repeatedly scrambled to avoid pass rushers. The two words Robinson used to describe his perspective on the game: pressure and confusion.

Coaches spent the week talking about the need for their quarterbacks to yell loudly because of crowd noise. But a communication breakdown occurred on the first series that set the tone for the game. The Terrapins committed four penalties, including three delay-of-game infractions. Robinson also burned a timeout.

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