W. Va. back on comeback trail Mountaineers look for another Terps lift in quest for bowl COLLEGE FOOTBALL

September 16, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

West Virginia doesn't want Maryland to represent the high point of its season again.

The Mountaineers scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter a year ago to beat the Terps, 34-33, in Morgantown. As demoralizing as the result was for Maryland, West Virginia couldn't generate much momentum from one of the best comebacks in its history. The Mountaineers won the following week to improve to 3-0-1, but took only two of their last seven games.

West Virginia has followed three straight bowl seasons (1987-89) with three straight years that ended before Thanksgiving, and the older Mountaineers are getting restless.

"We really need to beat Maryland and keep right on winning," wide receiver and ace punt returner Mike Baker said of the 1-0 Mountaineers. "We talk all the time about going to a bowl game, but we've got to take care of business right now to make that a reality."

Baker didn't get to enjoy West Virginia's 1992 win over Maryland. He broke a foot in the first half against the Terps, and was out the rest of the season. He watched a frustrating October from the side lines, as the Mountaineers tied Boston College, then lost three straight to Syracuse, Penn State and Miami.

The Syracuse game was especially frustrating, the Mountaineers blaming the officials for the 20-17 loss.

West Virginia left no doubt about the outcome in its 1993 opener, using more than 70 players in a 48-6 thumping of Eastern Michigan on Sept 4. The Mountaineers have had two weeks to prepare for the Terps, but like most coaches in his position, Don Nehlen wasn't too pleased with an idle weekend this early in the season.

As lopsided as the opener was, West Virginia didn't escape without losing two important offensive starters. Senior tailback Jon Jones gained 93 yards on 16 carries before breaking a bone in his lower left leg. Center Dan Harliss (sprained left knee) also will miss the Maryland game.

Minus Jones, the running game is fuzzy. Robert Walker, Saturday's tentative starter at tailback, injured an ankle against Eastern Michigan and missed a week of practice. It will be the season opener for the No. 2 tailback, Jimmy Gary, who served a one-game suspension for violating team rules. The fullback, Rodney Woodard, is nursing a sore ankle.

Throw in a relatively inexperienced offensive line, and Maryland hopes that it can slow quarterback Jake Kelchner and West Virginia's option attack. The Mountaineers aren't expected to throw much, but neither was North Carolina, which passed for 370 yards in getting eight touchdowns against Maryland last week. The Terps remember Kelchner's backup, since Darren Studstill came on at halftime a year ago and engineered their comeback.

The West Virginia defense, which allowed Eastern Michigan only 234 yards, features a strong set of linebackers, including Butkus Award nominee Tim Brown, but Nehlen isn't expecting to completely stop the Terps' run-and-shoot.

"When you play Maryland you don't know what to expect, but it's obvious that we're going to have to score a lot of points to win," Nehlen said. "Maryland has a high-scoring offense, it seems they score at will. I just hope and pray they don't find the secret to their defense."

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