West Virginia-Maryland Preview

West Virginia’s offense has been largely dependent on
quarterback Geno Smith, something coach Dana Holgorsen wants to
change.

The 18th-ranked Mountaineers will try to get their ground game
going Saturday when they play at Maryland, looking for their sixth
straight win in the series.

West Virginia is 2-0, but it’s been a frustrating start for
Holgorsen’s group. After a less-than-dominating 34-13 win over
Marshall on Sept. 4, the Mountaineers trailed at halftime last
Saturday before routing Norfolk State 55-12.

West Virginia has only one field goal in the first quarter of
its two games, and Holgorsen knows the team can ill-afford to start
slow on the road against a quality opponent like Maryland.

“We haven’t started well in two weeks,” the first-year coach
said. “When you’re on the road you’ve got to start fast. … I
still don’t know where we’re at right now. This next week will tell
a lot.”

The Mountaineers have yet to find a replacement for 2010 leading
rusher Noel Devine, totaling only 144 yards on 59 carries in two
games, and Smith has their longest run at 15 yards.

They averaged 159.7 yards on the ground last year.

“It’s more about being efficient and not allowing the defense to
dictate being one-sided,” Holgorsen said. “It’s not about running
the ball. I don’t care about the numbers. I just want defenses to
know we can do both.”

The Mountaineers would be in a lot more trouble if it were not
for Smith. He threw a career-high 371 yards and four touchdowns
last week, including 267 second-half yards when West Virginia
scored 45 unanswered points.

“He plays with some bounce and enthusiasm and has a voice on the
sideline,” Holgorsen said. “He’s about the only voice on the
sidelines we have right now.”

Smith’s numbers after the first two games aren’t that
surprising. In his first season as a starter in 2010, he finished
second in the Big East with 2,763 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and
seven interceptions. His 2,980 yards of total offense rank fourth
in school history.

However, Maryland’s defense could pose a problem for West
Virginia, and the Terrapins will be rested. They’ve been idle since
a 32-24 win over Miami on Sept. 5.

Maryland was effective at taking advantage of the Hurricanes’
mistakes, running back an interception and a fumble for touchdowns.
The 54-yard interception return by Cameron Chism with 39 seconds
left sealed the victory after Nick Ferrara gave Maryland a 26-24
lead with a 32-yard field goal with 1:39 remaining.

It’s a promising start for coach Randy Edsall, who took over a
program that went 9-4 last season. However, that wasn’t enough to
save Ralph Friedgen’s job, and fans are looking for more this
year.

Edsall inherited a talented quarterback in Danny O’Brien, who
threw for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. He completed
31 of 44 passes for 348 yards and one touchdown in the win over
Miami.

Although Maryland lost leading receiver Torrey Smith from last
year, O’Brien found plenty of targets, with six players recording
at least two catches.

“He spread the ball out well to everyone,” Edsall said. “He was
very good when he couldn’t get it to his first receiver at looking
down to his other options. He stayed poised through out and did a
great job at the end.”

The Mountaineers defeated the Terps 31-17 last year in the first
meeting between the two since 2007. Smith threw for 268 yards and
four touchdowns.

West Virginia has won its last five against Maryland, improving
to 24-21-2 in the long-time rivalry.

Edsall went 1-6 versus the Mountaineers while at Connecticut,
with the lone victory coming last year en route to the Big East
title.