West Virginia 19,
West Virginia's final salute to Maryland came in an interview room long after the Mountaineers' 19-16 overtime victory Saturday. Kay-Jay Harris, West Virginia's senior running back, thrust his hand in the air and shouted, "We must protect this house," mocking Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen's Under Armour television commercial.
Because Maryland was featured in the commercial, "that was our slogan all week," said Harris, adding "Is Under Armour second-guessing why they didn't come to Coach [Rich Rodriguez] to give him an endorsement deal?"
Maryland's four-game winning streak against West Virginia is over, but the rivalry rages on.
The seventh-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) held off a Maryland team that even Friedgen acknowledged had no business being in the game after its first-half performance. Overall, five turnovers, including three first-half interceptions thrown by quarterback Joel Statham, could have fueled a West Virginia rout.
Yet the 21st-ranked Terps took West Virginia into overtime after each kicker missed a chance to give his team the lead in the game's final two minutes. Nick Novak's 33-yard field goal gave the Terps (2-1) a 16-13 lead in overtime, setting the stage for West Virginia's game-winning touchdown.
On a third and four from the 7, quarterback Rasheed Marshall first glanced left, then fired a pass into the end zone to wide receiver Chris Henry, who had beaten cornerback Domonique Foxworth for inside position.
Some players did cartwheels. Fans spilled onto Mountaineer Field. The sold-out crowd of 60,358 exited as many sang "Take Me Home, Country Roads." West Virginia beat Maryland for the first time since 2000, before Friedgen had arrived in College Park or Rodriguez in Morgantown.
The game's only resemblance to the teams' meeting in the 2004 Gator Bowl was that the stadium was awash in blue and gold. West Virginia, according to members of both teams, gave better effort. And Maryland, unlike in its 41-7 bowl victory, committed an assortment of organizational errors, Friedgen said, along with the turnovers.
"As a whole, I don't think we played as well as we're capable of playing," Friedgen said. "And when that happens, I've got to look at myself in the mirror. We didn't play with the intensity they played with in the first quarter. After that, we did."
Maryland appeared on the verge of emerging with an upset when Novak lined up for a 49-yard field goal with 1 minute 15 seconds remaining and the score tied at 13. During pregame warmups, Novak had intentionally missed kicks to gauge how the swirling wind would affect the ball's direction. On the 49-yard attempt, Novak later said, he over-kicked it, missing wide left.
West Virginia had a chance for a game-winning kick with five seconds remaining, but Maryland's William Kershaw blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Friedgen said the fact that Maryland remained in the game was "amazing," adding that "if they are the No. 7 team in the country, we can't be far behind."
At halftime, Statham had more interceptions than completions (two). Maryland had 72 total yards, 40 of which came on a run by Sam Maldonado. But the Terps trailed only 7-3 because of a defense that did not surrender big plays.
"When I went in at halftime, I knew I couldn't play any worse than I had played," said Statham, who finished the game completing 9 of 20 passes for 108 yards.
Statham said he felt more comfortable in the second half. Late in the third quarter, Statham lofted a 27-yard floater to receiver Derrick Fenner, who outjumped cornerback Adam Jones for the touchdown that tied the score at 10 after the extra point.
Friedgen credited Statham for his resiliency and said his third-quarter option pitch to Curtis Williams, which was fumbled and recovered by West Virginia, wasn't Statham's fault.
For most of the game, Statham worked with a diminished receiving corps. Dan Melendez (hamstring) did not play, and Rich Parson (back) left in the first half for X-rays, which were negative, and did not return.
The Mountaineers, meantime, tried throughout the game to take advantage when Maryland cornerback Gerrick McPhearson (5 foot 10) covered Henry, who stands 6 feet 5. McPhearson held his own, Friedgen said, which forced West Virginia to rely more on its running game and particularly Harris, who was questionable all week because of a hamstring pull. The 25-year-old rushed for 142 yards on 32 carries and scored the game's opening touchdown.
"This," Harris said, "was the game that everyone had circled on their calendar."