- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

A rivalry, albeit one-sided in recent years, gets renewed Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va., and instantly becomes an early season showdown.

Maryland, ranked 21st, visits No.7 West Virginia just nine months after the Terrapins dominated the Mountaineers in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. The West Virginia players remember that loss to the Terps — 41-7 in Jacksonville, Fla. — as well as a similar one, 34-7, last September in College Park. They are eager for a rematch.

“Now we can worry about Maryland,” Mountaineers cornerback Adam Jones told the Morgantown Dominion Post. “Once we beat Maryland, then we will be all right.”

Said Terps defensive end Shawne Merriman: “They definitely have to have a bitter taste in their mouth, and we know that they do. We know they’re a great team and have great athletes, but we’re a great team, too, and we have pretty good athletes ourselves.”

Maryland seemingly has found a close rival for the first time since their series with Penn State ended in 1993 — though that wasn’t much of a rivalry, considering the Nittany Lions held a 35-1-1 advantage.

West Virginia and Maryland each lack a serious in-state opponent. Maryland’s hottest ACC foes, N.C. State and Virginia, have their own regional rivals. West Virginia held a 19-17-2 edge in the series with Maryland before Ralph Friedgen arrived in College Park. Friedgen has a 4-0 record against the Mountaineers, and his teams have won those games by an average score of 39-13.

But Saturday could be a different story. Mountaineer Field will be sold out, and the rowdy crowd is notoriously harsh on visitors. In order to get ready for the West Virginia fans, Maryland will play loud crowd noise on its practice field speakers this week, but it will be hard to truly prepare the younger players.

“They’re going to be loud and in our heads,” receiver Steve Suter said, “so you have to try to take the crowd out early.”

Said quarterback Joel Statham: “I have to concentrate a lot more because the crowd is going to be a lot worse than here at home.”

Friedgen spent the last two weeks worrying whether his youngest team yet would be ready for new experiences. Bad plays nearly undermined the 23-20 victory over Northern Illinois on Sept.4. However, Maryland showed greater seasoning in the 45-22 triumph over Temple on Saturday. Now, Friedgen wonders if the Terps are ready to travel effectively.

“They really like us up there [in West Virginia],” Friedgen joked. “After I dodge the first four whiskey bottles that come out of the stands … I’m a big target, so they really come out of the stands.

“We have to go to Virginia. We have to go to [Clemson’s] ‘Death Valley.’ We have to go to Virginia Tech. It’s not like we’re not going to tough places to play. If we want to be the team we want to be, we have to win on the road. It’s what college football is all about. I get fired up going to those places.”

Friedgen was upset his second-team defense allowed Temple to score 15 points before the Terps’ starters returned for the final series.

“I got after them,” he said. “We have guys that say they want to play. Well, if we give them an opportunity, I expect them to play. … Don’t be complaining if you can’t produce. I’m about producing. It’s not a charity situation. If you get on the field you have a chance to show us what you can do. … We’re still going to play them.

“They’re going to get better, or I’m going to find new people. For this program to go where we want, we have to have more than one team. We have to have two teams. They better pick it up in practice, too. It wasn’t a kinder, gentler Ralph after the game.”

Friedgen said he had no regrets playing freshman quarterback Jordan Steffy in the fourth quarter. The playing time ended any chance of Steffy being redshirted this season. The freshman didn’t complete any of three passes, but he did gain 14 yards on an option run.

“I went to Jordan at halftime and said ‘What do you want to do?’” Friedgen said. “He said ‘I want to play, coach.’ The coaches were split, but I made the decision to play the kid. If he wants to get better he has to play. He was shaky, too. He had a couple plays wrong.”

Note — Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (hyperextended elbow), running back Josh Allen (shoulder) and safety Josh Wilson (bruised knee) are expected to play against West Virginia.

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