- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

The week before Maryland’s annual meeting with West Virginia is usually replete with some verbal jousting, not to mention some hype of a regional rivalry that has grown in stature in recent years.

But the last few days have been fairly quiet. There has been virtually no trash talk from the Terrapins (1-1), who have been more concerned with fixing the glaring mistakes that led to their first loss than trading barbs with the Mountaineers (2-0).

However, memories of last season’s 19-16 overtime loss to the Mountaineers remain fresh for the Terps, who welcome West Virginia to Byrd Stadium this afternoon.

The early defeat, something of a harbinger of the Terps’ disappointing 5-6 season, sticks with a team that had upended the Mountaineers four straight times.

“It was such an intense game and so many ups and downs in it,” sophomore defensive tackle Jack Griffin said. “I remember [former defensive end] Kevin Eli coming off the field all banged up with a concussion and still going out there and playing. It was just a real tough loss for us, and I think a lot of people still feel we should have won that game. We missed a lot of opportunities.”

Lamenting lost chances was a refrain all week for the Terps and not just in describing last year’s trip to Morgantown. Maryland surrendered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter last week en route to a 28-24 loss to Clemson. Penalties and turnovers hindered the Terps in their ACC opener, and they proved especially frustrating in such a close game.

Several players said this week the Terps had moved on from last week’s disappointment. The real test of that claim comes today, and the relatively young team’s performance against West Virginia could foreshadow their ability to shrug off setbacks later in the season.

“Right now, we’re 1-1, and we’ve played two really close games … ,” junior quarterback Sam Hollenbach said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a perfect situation every time, but we have to show some ability to come back and put last week behind us on the field.”

They will have to do it against a West Virginia team that lost many of its most recognizable names from last year — quarterback Rasheed Marshall, wideout Chris Henry and cornerback Adam Jones — but remains an imposing, physical squad.

The Mountaineers limited Syracuse to 18 yards rushing in their season opener, something that concerns a Maryland team that gained only 56 yards on the ground last week against Clemson. The Terps start three sophomore offensive linemen and split left tackle between a converted tight end (Derek Miller) and a true freshman (Jared Gaither), so some more youthful struggles in the running game could develop today.

“When you get in those trenches, there’s a big difference between being a man and being a boy,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “It’s a matter of maturity. We have some kids that after a while, once they learn and once they get bigger and stronger and they understand what it’s all about, they’ll be fine. But right now, they think that I’m nuts. I said, ‘If you don’t believe me, turn on last year’s tape.’ It was a physical football game, and it’ll be a physical football game this year, and that’s how it should be.”

It was also a close game, and Maryland has enough experience with those in recent weeks. The recollections of tight losses — both last year and this month — is something the Terps will carry onto the field today.

“We let that one get away,” junior cornerback Josh Wilson said of last year’s loss to West Virginia. “The turnovers, the overtime — the defense had a chance to win it again, and we gave it up. Defensively, we have to start winning some games for the offense. They give us support, and we have to be able to finish it. The way we let them beat us last year, it hurt.”

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