- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003

It’s an early-season rivalry with postseason implications. The victor keeps dreaming, the loser begins to rebuild.

Maryland and West Virginia will seek to recover from 1-2 starts tonight before a sellout crowd at Byrd Stadium. Maryland’s victory over West Virginia last season springboarded the Terrapins to an 11-win season and the Peach Bowl after a lackluster start. The Terps hope that beating the Mountaineers again will provide a similar spark.

“West Virginia always seems that game,” offensive tackle Eric Dumas said. “For some reason, it sets the tone for the rest of the season.”

This border clash often foretells the season. Since 1980, West Virginia has won 12 times and has not had a losing season in those seasons. In the 11 years the Mountaineers lost to Maryland, they have had just four winning campaigns. Maryland has ended .500 or better during seasons that brought eight of its 11 wins but has suffered nine straight losing seasons after losing to West Virginia.

“The winner builds momentum getting ready for the rest of the season, and the loser has to sit back and find some answers,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

Said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez: “We need some confidence, we need a spark and we need something good to happen to us.”

Despite last week’s 61-0 rout of The Citadel, the Terps still view beating the Mountaineers as proof that they can contend for a third straight bowl game.

“People are looking at it as our first challenge,” running back Josh Allen said. “If we [win], it reinforces the confidence that we have in ourselves and the fans have in us to keep going.”

Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien is again the central figure in the non-conference rivalry. The West Virginia transfer beat his former Mountaineer teammates last year 48-17, opening the game with a 21-yard touchdown run.

Friedgen said he’s uncertain how McBrien feels despite a solid week of practice. The reserved passer seldom tips his emotions.

“It’s hard to tell if he’s pumped up or not,” Friedgen said. “He doesn’t get real excited. Very rarely have I seen him upset or elated.”

Rodriguez said stopping McBrien is pivotal for the Mountaineers. West Virginia’s 3-5-3 stacked defense is flexible but tends to play the run better.

“I don’t want to say we want to flush him out of the pocket because he runs pretty good,” Rodriguez said. “We need to get him moving around a little bit. If he gets his feet set and gets square, he is really accurate. We need to try and do some things to disrupt him.”

The Terps figure to run more often to reduce pressure on McBrien, whose early season has been disappointing with no touchdown passes. Allen will start, but Bruce Perry and Sam Maldonado will be used regularly.

“We have to establish the running game because they always have an extra guy on you in the box,” Friedgen said. “[It enables us] to be able to maintain that balance between run and pass so we can set things up for Scott.”

Defensively, the Terps can’t be off balance against the Mountaineers’ deceptive offense. West Virginia uses the shotgun and three wide receivers to spread defenses but still runs regularly.

“Even though it’s a no-huddle offense, it’s not real high tempo,” Friedgen said. “Our offense is more high tempo. They look to the sideline for calls. It’s a three, four wide receiver offense. You’d think it would be a lot of passing but last year when we played them there, we were the leading rushing team in the country.”

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