(UPDATE: This summer, the Big Ten announced that the 2015 Maryland-Penn State game will be at M&T Bank Stadium. Apologies for the mix-up. Post has been changed to clarify.)
Maryland center Sal Conaboy’s introduction to college football didn’t actually occur at a college stadium, but before 69,348 fans at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 6, 2010. From the moment Maryland sprinted from the tunnel until the final snap, when the Terps finally secured a 17-14 win over Navy, Conaboy felt the unique electricity.
“Cool atmosphere, everyone was into the game,” Conaboy said Tuesday. “I’m hoping it’s similar to that.”
Maryland’s return to Baltimore on Saturday to face border rival West Virginia should be similarly electric. The Mountaineers’ faithful always travel well, while the Terps are looking to remain undefeated and snap a seven-game losing streak to West Virginia. For a team that’s struggled to fill even the relatively small Byrd Stadium over the past several seasons, hosting a pseudo “home game” inside an NFL stadium should provide a financial, recruiting and atmospheric boost.
According to a copy of the contract signed between Maryland and M&T Bank Stadium, the athletic department will receive $3.5 million for hosting this game. The Terps were supposed to play Virginia Tech there next season, but that matchup fell through when Maryland announced its move to the Big Ten, meaning that Penn State will come to town in 2015.
Maryland is also expecting several high-profile recruits in attendance. Terrapin Times has reported that recent commitment Jesse Aniebonam (Good Counsel) and teammates will be there, as will athletes Jordan Noil and Juwann Winfree, two top targets left in the class of 2014. It’s all part of Coach Randy Edsall’s attempts to make inroads into the Baltimore area (earlier this year, the Terps also had an open spring scrimmage at the city’s Dunbar High School).
“Playing in Baltimore’s a big thing, being able to play in front of your home town, your home crowd is important,” said tight end Dave Stinebaugh, who hails from Charm City. “As far as recruiting, it’s a big tool. Anytime you can play somewhere other than your main campus, NFL stadiums, it’s a big recruiting tool and something I think can help us big time.”
For quarterback C.J. Brown, a die-hard Steelers fan from outside Pittsburgh, playing in enemy territory will be a bittersweet moment. He says he trades barbs with Ravens fans “all the time.” Brown didn’t play against Navy in 2010 but has experience in an NFL stadium, seeing action in the second half against Notre Dame at FedEx Field two seasons ago.
“Playing in NFL stadiums is always exciting,” he said. “I’ve been there before. It’s a different experience. It’ll be good. Should be a really good crowd, and I know everyone’s really excited to play there.
“I think it’s the fact that it’s kind of a home game for us, but it’s not. It’s not right here in our back yard, but it is in Baltimore. It’s still our home crowd, things like that. Just the fact that it’s an NFL stadium maybe adds a little more. But all in all, the field’s the same size. You still have to go out there and play the game.”