After blowing out its first two opponents, West Virginia expects its first significant challenge of the season when it hosts Maryland on Thursday night.
The fifth-ranked Mountaineers (2-0) began preparing for the Terrapins (2-0) and the short turnaround before halftime of their 52-3 rout of Division I-AA Eastern Washington on Saturday.
Sophomore running back Steve Slaton rushed for 105 yards on eight carries and went untouched on first-quarter touchdowns runs of 49 and 17 yards. He went to the bench afterward and didn’t return, removing his uniform after halftime.
“The point was really just to save me for Maryland,” said Slaton, who rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-10 victory over Marshall on Sept. 2. “I hate to come out of any game. But as long as we win it really doesn’t matter.”
Sophomore quarterback Pat White directed three touchdown drives before coming out, allowing three backup quarterbacks to each score a touchdown.
“Usually we have a couple of days to let the last game soak in and in this case you don’t,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We’ve had to get their focus on Maryland right away.”
The Mountaineers have won two straight games over the Terrapins, and used a 24-point fourth-quarter comeback to defeat them 31-19 last season. They have not won three in a row against their ACC rival since 1996-98.
The two schools have played every year since 1980, and the all-time series is tied at 21-21-2.
“If you can’t get excited for this one, you’d better check your pulse,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of intensity in this rivalry.
“Guys who have been in the program know what the Maryland game means. For a couple of years, we couldn’t even get close to them.”
Before the last two meetings, Maryland won four straight against West Virginia, including a 41-7 victory in the 2004 Gator Bowl. Since losing that game, though, the Mountaineers have won 13 of their last 14 overall.
Thanks to playing weaker opponents in its first two games, West Virginia owns one of the nation’s top offenses. The Mountaineers lead the country in rushing yards (706), are third in total yards (1,076) and sixth in points (94).
While the West Virginia offense has been cruising, Maryland’s offense has been shaky.
The Terps committed four turnovers in a season-opening 27-14 win over Division I-AA William & Mary and were outgained 321-274 in a 24-10 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
“We’ve got to get to where we’re not playing timid, (where) we’re playing aggressively,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Sam Hollenbach completed 11 of 16 passes for 139 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Terps, while Lance Ball rushed for two TDs.
Hollenbach had one of the best games of his career in the loss to West Virginia last season, going 20-for-31 for 291 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Maryland has not started a season 3-0 since 2001, when it won its first seven games en route to a 10-2 finish and its last ACC title.
“It’s going to be a very physical game,” Friedgen said. “We’ve got to rise to the occasion. It’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to playing on Thursday night with the whole mystique.
“It’ll be great preparation for the rest of the season.”