Game Preview: Mountaineers Face Tough Terps on Road - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Game Preview: Mountaineers Face Tough Terps on Road


The Mountaineers are getting set for a border battle with the Terps in what can easily be called the toughest game so far for the 2-0 WVU football team.

West Virginia holds a 24-21-2 advantage over Maryland in the all-time series and has won each of the past five meetings including the 31-17 victory in 2010. If the Terps are to close the gap, they'll have to play a more sound brand of football than they showed in Morgantown a year ago.

That shouldn't be quite a big task, either. In its only game, this Maryland squad looked very much improved and far more explosive offensively than it had under previous head coach Ralph Friedgen.

Danny O'Brien, a sophomore, is poised for a breakout campaign. A year ago, he came into the game against WVU and played the role of a popup dummy for Bruce Irvin, who sacked him so hard on his first play just before halftime that O'Brien limped to the sideline rather than take one final snap as his staff and team were screaming for him to do.

He did not return to the game, finishing the day with a stat line that included zero passes and negative six yards on the ground. He went on to have a fairly successful season, though, leading the Terps to win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl.

His Achilles' heel last season was turnovers. Aside from the bowl game, every time O'Brien threw an interception, his team lost. In the other six games that he kept his completions to his teammates only, Maryland won. At this point in the season, he has thrown one interception, but WVU hasn't created any turnovers of its own.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is searching for ways to snatch the ball from the opposition.

"If I knew, we would fix it," Casteel said earlier this week. "We work on it every day and it's just one of those things. We had a chance to get a couple interceptions and [Norfolk State] had a couple bad snaps and the ball bounces back to their guy. We've just got to continue to work on it, that's all."

O'Brien completed 70 percent of his passes against Miami for 348 yards and a touchdown, while showing some versatility with 37 rushing yards. The glaring statistic in his first game of the season was that the team just got one offensive touchdown in the win, and that came on the opening drive.

Aside from fumble and interception returns for touchdowns, the 32 points came mostly on kicker Nick Ferrara's foot. For a defense like WVU that hasn't allowed a touchdown yet and has shown a great ability to create a stone wall inside the red zone, there may be an advantage.

Still, O'Brien is easily tougher than Marshall's Rakeem Cato and either Norfolk State quarterback the Mountaineers have seen, and his success could determine the game.

Defensively, Dana Holgorsen is familiar with coordinator Todd Bradford. The two have faced off multiple times in Bradford's stints with Southern Mississippi and Oklahoma State. During that time, Holgorsen was offensive coordinator at three different schools.

Holgorsen's offenses averaged 37.3 points per game in the past four meetings with Bradford. Again Miami, Bradford's unit started strong with a shutout first quarter, but 21 points over the next two periods put the Hurricanes back in contention and even gave the visitors the lead three times in the game.

Ultimately, it was Maryland's defense that sealed the win with a late interception.

WVU travels to Maryland Friday afternoon in preparation for the noon kickoff, Saturday on ESPNU.

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