COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland football coach Joe Krivak said he would know more about his team once it had to face adversity for the first time this season.
The time has come. Riddled with injuries, Maryland (1-1) will face West Virginia (2-1) without its starting quarterback today at 4 p.m. at Byrd Stadium.
The Terps will start junior John Kaleo, an All-American at Montgomery College-Rockville last season, at quarterback in place of senior Jim Sandwisch, who re-injured his right elbow and shoulder in a 31-17 loss to Syracuse on Saturday night. If Kaleo is ineffective, the Terps would call on true freshman Scott Milanovich, from Butler, Pa.
But there are more concerns than just at quarterback. Senior running back Troy Jackson has been bothered by a slightly pulled hamstring, and alternate Mark Mason has bruised his right shoulder in both games this season. The offensive line, which already has lost left tackle Steve Ingram (ankle and knee injury) for the season, is a makeshift one. Senior starting cornerback Scott Rosen won't play because of a pulled hamstring, and defensive linemen Lubo Zizakovic (thigh bruise) and Darren Drozdov (ribs) are not fully recovered, even though they probably will play.
"West Virginia uses this game as a barometer," Krivak said. "If they win, they usually have a good season. If they don't, they usually have a down year.
"The same can be said for us. We're a little banged up, and I thought we played hard last week only to come up a little short. But like I said, we were disappointed, but we're not discouraged. This is a good test for us, because over the years, except for that one about three years ago when they blew us out, these games have been decided by a touchdown or less. It's going to be another backyard brawl."
If Maryland is to win the game, it is going to need better production from its offense than it has gotten in the first two games. The Terps are averaging only 280 yards of total offense, compared with 303.3 allowed by West Virginia. More importantly, the Terps have yet to develop a mid- to long-range passing game.
Of Maryland's 37 receptions this season, only six have been to wide receivers, who have gotten jammed on pass routes. And when they have been open, Maryland quarterbacks haven't had time to pass.
"It's the little things that we need to work on," said Jerry Eisaman, Maryland quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. "We're not all on the same page, but we're getting there and adding confidence."
One person who doesn't lack confidence is Kaleo, 5 feet 11, 199 pounds. He started the second half for Sandwisch last week, but was an ineffective 8-for-19 for 83 yards. Three of his passes were intercepted.
"A lot of people have been judging me on that one performance, and it's not fair," said Kaleo. "The circumstances were not ideal either. But I believe in myself, and I know I can play quarterback here."
Defensively, Maryland has played well this year, even though Syracuse rolled up 303 yards in the first half last week. Maryland allowed only 53 in the second. West Virginia (353 total yards per game), though, runs the option, an offense that has given the Terps a lot of trouble through the years.
West Virginia sophomore quarterback Darren Studstill is a talented runner, and one who possesses the type of elusiveness that gives Maryland fits. James Jett (six receptions for 72 yards) and former Maryland player Michael Beasley (4-for-46) are quality Mountaineers receivers. Maryland is allowing 238.5 passing yards.
"They've got quality skilled people, and they can get after you," ,, said Krivak.