- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

There are two undeniable truths about the Maryland football team entering its showdown with No. 3 West Virginia on Thursday night at Byrd Stadium.

The Terrapins have thought about this game for quite some time after absorbing a pounding at Mountaineer Field last year. And if the Terps play as erratically on offense as they did in Saturday’s 26-10 defeat of Florida International, they will have another three years to rue another whipping at the hands of their border rivals.

Maryland (2-0) is right where it is supposed to be after dispatching a pair of lesser entities in the first two weeks. The Terps won few style points along the way, but that is not atypical for a team that has shown no inclination to pulverize opponents over the last few seasons.

That might prove costly later when the Terps go trolling for recognition from voters who shrug at a pair of ho-hum victories at the start of the year. Of course, Maryland could render the manner of those performances irrelevant with a signature outing against the Mountaineers (2-0).

“We’ll see where we are next week,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “We’ll find out what we are in the next four weeks because I don’t think anybody in the country has as tough a schedule as we do in the next four weeks.”

The Terps also have games looming at Wake Forest and Rutgers, as well as a home date with Georgia Tech. But early season arbiters will judge Maryland on its ability to hang with West Virginia, a test it failed miserably in last year’s 45-24 drubbing.

One facet sure to be examined ad nauseam this week is the play of quarterback Jordan Steffy. The junior followed his steady (and at times sparkling) starting debut with an unremarkable 18-for-25, 135-yard night. He faced a steady blitz by Florida International and managed to avoid committing a turnover despite fumbling twice. But he also wasn’t as sharp and seemed to be less comfortable in his second take as the Terps’ top guy.

“It’s hard to say in a game like this,” Steffy said. “It was a defensive battle, and I felt fine. I made some reads I want to take back, but last week I made some reads I want to take back also. Obviously, I want to contribute to this team. I just have to do the little things and get us in the right plays, and I missed a couple plays. I’m not really concerned.”

Friedgen seemed relatively unworried about Steffy and said an unpolished outing or two is part of any quarterback’s growth. The coach’s restraint in dissecting his quarterback might be connected with his own relief at escaping the desolate, decaying Orange Bowl with a victory and no significant injuries.

Friedgen preached last week about Steffy occasionally lapsing into bad habits and predetermining a decision on a play. There were times he did so Saturday, and the Terps stalled after scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions.

“He’s capable of doing it,” Friedgen said. “He just gets a little hyper, and he anticipates this is what should happen. He reads the coverage and says, ‘Well, in this coverage, this is what usually happens.’ You can’t do that.”

West Virginia — and several other teams awaiting Maryland in the next few months — will not be quite so forgiving as Florida International. Thursday’s game will present Steffy with his first extended test against a well-regarded opponent and the first chance for the Terps to evaluate him against a formidable foe.

But Steffy’s story could be secondary to how Maryland fares in its last game against West Virginia before a two-year hiatus in the series. The Terps eventually recovered from last year’s rout to win nine games but would prefer not to follow the same route this week.

“They beat us so bad, and they were talking a lot of trash,” said tailback Keon Lattimore, whose five touchdowns are the most in a two-game stretch for the Terps since Bruce Perry combined for five against Eastern Michigan and Wake Forest in 2001. “This is a rivalry game, and we’ve been waiting for this moment a long time. We want to get this sour taste out of our mouth, and now we have a great opportunity to do it.”

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