Protect This House?
In Coach Ralph Friedgen's first three seasons at Maryland, his teams went 19-1 at Byrd Stadium. Even with last year's struggles, the Terps were 4-2 in College Park, making last week's home loss to Clemson especially disheartening. "That's where that game really hurts, because you've got to hold serve at home," Friedgen said. "It's like a game and a half you lose on that one." After today, Maryland's final three home opponents -- Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College -- are ranked in the Associated Press top 25. On the plus side, Eric Ogbogu -- the former Terp linebacker who screamed "We Must Protect This House!" in the once-ubiquitous Under Armour commercial -- was re-signed by the Dallas Cowboys last week.
Waiting for Turnovers
Maryland finished 102nd in the nation in turnover margin last year, with a defense that produced an average of 1.5 takeaways a game. The offensive turnovers have continued -- four in two games -- and the defensive takeaways have been even rarer than they were a year ago: just a single interception of a desperation pass on the last play against Navy. For motivation, Maryland can look at last year's overtime loss in Morgantown, when the Terps committed five turnovers to West Virginia's one.
Since spring practice, Maryland's players and coaches have predicted their rushing game would get a jolt from a renewed reliance on blocking fullbacks. But that plan crumbled as the personnel disappeared: Ricardo Dickerson has played through knee and shoulder injuries, Tim Cesa missed the preseason and first two games because of mononucleosis, Matt Deese had surgery to remove cartilage from his knee and has yet to play and Jeremy Navarre became a starting defensive end. Cesa finally returned to practice last week, and although coaches said he was rusty, he figures to see at least limited action today. Deese also returned to practice and could be used in goal line sets.
The Red Zone
And speaking of the goal line, it's been a particularly troubling spot for both teams. While the Terps have scored on eight of their nine trips inside the opponents' 20, it hasn't always been pretty. Against Clemson, for example, they ran eight offensive plays from inside the 5-yard line and only one resulted in a touchdown, leading a peeved Friedgen to hold a goal line scrimmage this week. West Virginia has been worse; 10 trips into the red zone have resulted in 27 points, with misfires coming on two lost fumbles, a failed fourth and goal and a missed 32-yard field goal.
Friedgen has urged quarterback Sam Hollenbach to scramble more this week, and for inspiration he need only look across the field. West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez's option offense provides plenty of running chances for his quarterback, or more appropriately this season, his quarterbacks. First-year starter Adam Bednarik -- a second cousin of NFL Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik -- is the Mountaineers' second-leading rusher, behind only platoon partner Pat White. Together they've gained 221 yards, helping West Virginia amass the nation's eighth-best rushing offense (255.5 yards a game). Bednarik is right-handed and White left-handed, presenting a further complication to defenses. And Bednarik's ability to launch rugby-style quick kicks will keep the Terps wary on third and fourth downs; the quarterback has already punted three times in two games.