Football: WVU, Maryland likely to drop their plain-vanilla play calling tonight
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"I'm sure what we've seen from them was vanilla, and what they've seen from us, at least the second half of the Marshall game and three quarters of the Eastern Washington game, was pretty vanilla as well," Rodriguez said. "One, you don't need to show it. And, two, you got a lot of young guys in there."
Tonight, they'll add the seasoning for a contest that really cooks.
Maryland and fifth-ranked West Virginia enter this border skirmish with matching 2-0 records crafted at home, on cruise control. Each rested players Saturday as a prelude to the short work week, a five-day groundwork for a physical confrontation that, as Rodriguez put it, usually fills up the training room the day after.
Friedgen's Terrapins dominated this series upon his arrival, winning the first four handily. Rodriguez's Mountaineers won the past two, in 2004 at Mountaineer Field in overtime and a year ago, 31-19, at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md., after Maryland closed within 21-19 in the frenetic fourth quarter.
"I think it's the whole Thursday night atmosphere, very electric," Friedgen said of what he expects to find tonight. "Morgantown is one of the great places to play in this country. I've been to a lot of good places, and it's right up there with the best of them in the country. I think it gets everybody's adrenaline running."
And when he walked through the Mountaineer Field parking lots upon his first visit in 2002, he found nothing but friendly West Virginia fans who treated him "very sportsmanlike." Added Friedgen, "I was a little surprised by that, to be honest with you."
"We'd gotten killed by them a couple of years in a row. It was like a big gorilla on your back," Rodriguez recalled those earlier games. The overall 21-21-2 series record shows, though, "how close and how intense the rivalry has been."
Last year's game was critical in the Mountaineers' road to an 11-1 record, a Sugar Bowl triumph and a No. 5 final ranking. Starting quarterback Adam Bednarik's neck was injured, and Pat White promptly steered West Virginia to four fourth-quarter scoring drives. That staved off the comeback engineered by Terrapins quarterback Sam Hollenbach, who threw for 291 yards but also had a costly fumble in the fourth and was 2 for 13 on third-down conversions.
"It was a good game for us," recalled Rodriguez, whose team's 301 yards rushing was the second-most allowed under Friedgen.
"We had a young team on the road in a tough environment. At 21-19, it was tight. Our young guys responded real well. It was almost like watching our guys grow up right in front of us. I said that, 'These guys are playing like veterans, answering the call.' Turned out, we were OK."
Maryland chugged to a second consecutive 5-6 season. The record might explain why Maryland hired two new coordinators. On offense, the guy replacing Pitt assistant Charlie Taaffe as offensive coordinator isn't so new -- Friedgen, the architect of the pro-style offense he coached from Georgia Tech to the San Diego Chargers who upset the Steelers in that 1994 AFC championship game. On defense, Chris Cosh replaced Gary Blackney.
"That has been the hard part," Rodriguez told reporters the other day. "Two new coordinators, you wonder exactly how that benefits you. Even though coach Friedgen has obviously had his hand in the offense, it's still different when he's the one who calls the plays. [Cosh,] he's completely new to them.
"So speculating what he's going to do [as opposed] to what they did last year is a lot of guesswork. So that's why I'm talking fast in this press conference, to get back to films and try to figure them out."
Of this much, Rodriguez is sure: These turtles are massive.
"Nobody looks like their O-line and tight end. First and second team. Six-6, 360," he marveled. "They'll be one of the biggest teams we play all year. Physical, too.
"It is a concern for us, their size on both sides of the ball, because we're not a physically big team. Ralph is a little bigger than I am, too. ... They'll be eating peanuts off our guys' heads." Salted, not plain.
Matchup: West Virginia (2-0) vs. Maryland (2-0), 7:45 p.m. today, Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va. Mountaineers are favored by 15 1/2.
TV, radio: ESPN; WWVA-AM (1170) and Mountaineer Sports Network. Games also can be heard at www.MSNsportsNet.com.
West Virginia: Starting S Ridwan Malik (strained hip) and OT Damien Crissey (sprained ankle) along with backup DT Doug Slavonic (high ankle sprain) aren't expected to play. CB Larry Williams is questionable with a bad back. TB Steve Slaton missed at least one day while battling a sore ankle. QB Patrick White rested his strained rib muscle all last week in practice, and "he's looked and felt good this week," coach Rich Rodriguez said. ... If Williams is unable to play, Vaughn Rivers of Perry Traditional Academy would start in a young secondary that figures to be tested.
Maryland: TBs Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore rumbled for 319 yards combined against William & Mary and Middle Tennessee State. ... QB Sam Hollenbach threw for 291 yards against the Mountaineers last September in a 31-19 loss. ... TE Joey Haynos, 6-8, 267, is a popular Hollenbach target; OTs are 6-9, 350 and 6-6, 320; OGs 6-5, 301 and 6-3, 289; C 6-2, 318; DEs 6-3, 303 and 6-3, 263; and NT 6-5, 307. Two backup NTs weigh 311 apiece.
Hidden stat: West Virginia rushed 64 times for 301 yards last September -- the second-most Maryland has permitted under Friedgen.
First Published September 14, 2006 12:00 am