COLLEGE PARK -- The University of Maryland vs. West Virginia game has been appropriately called the "Barometer Bowl." To the victor, a winning season and a bowl bid usually follows. To the loser goes a disappointing season, but at least they're home for the Christmas holidays.
So as Maryland (1-2) began its two weeks of preparation yesterday for its Oct. 5 game against No. 18 Pittsburgh, Saturday's 37-7 loss to West Virginia was still on the Terps' minds, but they aren't ready to forget about the rest of the 1991 season.
"We're still wondering what happened," said Jim Sandwisch, Maryland's starting quarterback. "I mean, this was a big game. But we have to remember that we still [have] eight more games, and no matter how big of a game it was, it was only one game."
When West Virginia beat Maryland, 55-24, in 1988, the Mountaineers finished the season 11-1 before losing to Notre Dame for the national championship in the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl. In 1989, the Mountaineers beat Maryland, 14-10, and went to the Mazda Gator Bowl. Both times, Maryland ended with a losing record.
The Terps, though, beat West Virginia, 14-10, last season, and it was Maryland (6-5-1) that went on to the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl while the Mountaineers suffered through a 4-7 season.
Can history keep repeating itself?
"We would have liked to have been 2-1 instead of 1-2 playing three straight home games," said Maryland senior center Mitch Suplee. "And if our players weren't depressed about the loss, I would be a little concerned about their attitude.
"But we've got to get back to the point of the first two weeks where we gave consistent effort against Syracuse and Virginia," said Suplee. "There's not a team on our schedule that if we play to our ability, we can't play with."
Maryland's schedule isn't in the Terps' best interests. Six of the last eight games are on the road, including away contests against No. 18 Pittsburgh, No. 19 Georgia Tech, No. 23 North Carolina and No. 7 Clemson. The Terps also play No. 10 Penn State in Baltimore.
"People are writing us off, but we feel pretty good about ourselves," said Sandwisch. "We're still 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Our goals were at the beginning of the season were, and still are, to win the ACC, beat Penn State and go to a bowl. At the beginning of the year, I looked at the schedule and there were teams I thought we could beat and teams I knew we had to upset. So, we're still in the running."
But if the Terps are to pull any upsets, there are a couple of adjustments they have to make. First, find an offense, one that has a mid- to long-range passing game.
And then the Terps must play more aggressive defense, not the bend-but-don't-break type that broke against West Virgina. Finally, no more flat performances like the West Virginia fiasco.
The Terps seem to have one every year. There was the 46-25 loss to Duke in 1989 and the 34-10 trouncing by North Carolina last season.
"I think we've gotten it out of our system," said inside linebacker Mike Jarmolowich. "Each time, the bad games seems to come right before we have the open week. Maybe some of the guys are looking forward to the off-week."
"We had a team meeting just with the players Monday night, and we got a lot of things out in the open," said Jarmolowich. "Most of our problems were from our own doing, not practicing hard enough, no intensity. It's time we stopped pointing the finger, and start getting the job done."
The week off should help the Terps, especially on offense, where they have only 330 yards rushing and 437 passing. Sandwisch, whose tendinitis in the elbow and shoulder of his right arm, should be at full strength against Pittsburgh, along with senior halfback Troy Jackson (hamstring). The offensive line is basically healthy for the first time since preseason camp, and true freshman halfback Larry Washington, from Randallstown, should help the running game.
Now, if only the Terps can get some decent pass routes and more receptions from their wide receivers, who have combined for 10 catches and one touchdown this season.
A smiling Andy Geiger, Maryland athletic director, said: "I can tell you which way this football team is headed: Pittsburgh, that's where. There's still eight more games."