- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

The Maryland Terrapins are regarding today's game at West Virginia as a second opening day a chance to restart the season on a positive note with their first victory over a legitimate opponent.

"People are a little upset right now because we lost to Notre Dame and Florida State," said receiver Scooter Monroe, whose squad fell to the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish 22-0 in the actual season opener. "Those are two of the top teams in the country. We're just looking to start our season over."

Now that Maryland (3-2) has moved past the powder puff segment of its schedule with convincing wins over three tasty opponents around a seemingly inevitable loss to No.11 Florida State, the Terps return to the competitive portion of the schedule.

Following the Mountaineers (3-1), Maryland finishes the season with seven ACC games that will determine if it can repeat as conference champion and earn a second consecutive bowl appearance.

"We have kind of been gearing things towards this stretch run," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I just hope we are ready to do it. To me, how our season goes will be determined how well we play in the last eight games. It's up for grabs. We could win them all. We could lose them all, too."

Today's trip to Morgantown will be a good gauge of Maryland's potential because it will face the nation's best rushing offense and the country's top runner in Avon Cobourne. It will also be the Terps' first true road game (Notre Dame was at a neutral site) and on artificial turf at Mountaineer Field.

A hostile crowd will greet Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien, who began his career at West Virginia and spent two years there before transferring last season. McBrien started one game and played in 10 for the Mountaineers in 2000. Friedgen said his quarterback has given no hints as to his feeling on the return to Morgantown.

"He could be holding four aces and you'd never know it or four deuces," said Friedgen, who put McBrien off limits to the media this week. "I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. He just has to go in and focus on what he has to do. I personally like that type of situation."

McBrien has yet to prove he can be productive against top competition. The fourth-year junior did not lead a touchdown drive and had four interceptions against Notre Dame and Florida State. He was pulled late in those games after they were out of reach.

Maryland's unproven passing attack starting with McBrien will be a critical part of the Terps' offense. Maryland wants to control the ball and keep the Mountaineers' potent rushing attack off the field. West Virginia averages 345.5 yards on the ground.

Cobourne has a 159.5 yards a game average, gaining 6.5 yards a carry. The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder ran for 260 yards last week against East Carolina, including 190 in the first half.

The Terps must slow him down, and do it without outside linebacker Leroy Ambush, who is serving a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Redshirt freshman Ricardo Dickerson will make his first start.

The Terps plan to stack the line of scrimmage with extra defenders, hoping to force untested quarterback Rasheed Marshall to pass.

"Everybody has got to be in their hole in their gap so [Cobourne] can't find cutback lanes," Maryland nose tackle C.J. Feldheim said. "We have to go out and prove we can win against a good team, which we haven't done yet. Especially for our defense, it's a statement game."

It is a message that likely will have a long-lasting effect on the Terps. To be a positive sign, this second opening day will have to be a lot more successful than the first.

"This is the one we need to get," said Monroe, Maryland's leading receiver. "It is going to give us confidence against a good football team."

Terps receiver Jafar Williams is expected to play today despite aggravating his sprained left shoulder in Thursday's practice.

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