- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The chance to beat a top 10 team for the first time since 1990 has Maryland eager to travel to West Virginia on Saturday despite Mountaineer Field’s reputation as one of the tougher eastern venues.

“It’s the Roman Coliseum with lions chained to your back,” Terrapins defensive end Henry Scott said yesterday. “It’s one of the toughest places we’ve played, but all that adds to the atmosphere and makes you feel like you’re playing in a big game.”

Maryland’s 35-30 victory over No.8 Virginia in 1990 that sent the Terps to the Independence Bowl was their last victory over a top 10 foe. Maryland is a 61/2-point underdog, but the Mountaineers aren’t talking like front-runners after underachieving badly last season.

Seventh-ranked West Virginia (2-0) spent the offseason hearing about its four straight losses to No.23 Maryland (2-0), including a 41-7 whipping in the Gator Bowl. Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez joked that he was considering a visit to a “voodoo doctor” and said he made Maryland the early-season focus of his team even though the game is a non-conference meeting.

Comparatively, the Terps seem much more reserved about the third meeting in 13 months. Coach Ralph Friedgen is 4-0 against West Virginia to give the Terps a 21-19-2 series lead. Those four victories have been by an average score of 39-13. The Mountaineers had won four of five before the current streak started.

“I’m sure they want to beat us very badly,” Friedgen said. “It’s a rivalry, and anytime you lose to somebody I’m sure you want to beat them the next time you play them.

“A lot of things in the past went right for us. A lot of people are talking about [West Virginia] having a chance to win the national championship. Our kids look at this as a pretty big game and an opportunity for us.”

Familiarity between border schools has lessened some of the pregame drama. The annual series feels like an extra ACC game for Maryland, which should help keep the Terps from letting down against a non-conference foe, like it did against Northern Illinois last season.

“We won’t look past West Virginia,” running back Josh Allen said. “The team we played last year is different from the team we’re going to play this year, and our team is different, too.”

Maryland may be West Virginia’s biggest obstacle in its quest for an undefeated season. The Mountaineers play in the depleted Big East and their toughest challenges this season should be ACC members Maryland and Virginia Tech (Oct.2). Rodriguez is 4-8 against ranked teams, but the Mountaineers haven’t played host to a ranked team since No.1 Ohio State beat them 34-17 in the 1998 opener.

“West Virginia wants to prove some things this year,” Scott said. “They’re high in the polls, and nobody wants to drop out of the top 10.”

Maryland hasn’t been ranked as high as No.21 after the season’s opening two weeks since 1985. The Terps began as No.15 last year before losing their first two games. Maryland opened 1-1 and 0-2 the last two years.

“It gives us something to build from that we haven’t had the last two years,” Allen said of the ranking.

Notes — Rodriguez said he doesn’t plan for running back Kay-Jay Harris (hamstring) to play but wouldn’t rule it out. … Maryland guard Russell Bonham (knee) is expected to play but Andrew Crummey might still start at the position. … “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver is a staple on the practice field sound system this week. The Terps will pipe in loud crowd noise throughout tomorrow’s practice to simulate game conditions. … Cornerback Isaiah Gardner transferred from Notre Dame and will play for Maryland next season.

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