Terps get trounced

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No. 5 West Va. proves it's a step above UM, running to 4-TD lead

West Virginia 45 Maryland 24

September 15, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Somewhere around Cumberland, Md., the Maryland football team's bus broke down Wednesday afternoon en route to the Terps' biggest game of the young season.

The Terps arrived safely, but when it mattered most last night against No. 5 West Virginia, not only didn't they show up, but the wheels also came off.

An embarrassing first-quarter rout on national television led to a 45-24 loss to the Mountaineers before a crowd of 60,513 at raucous Milan Puskar Stadium.

"We got our butts kicked," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Nothing I'm going to say or do is going to change that."

It was the first game of the season that provided a chance for the Terps - and the program - to make a statement after back-to-back 5-6 seasons. They did, but not the one they had been hoping for.

The outcome instead showed the disparity between Maryland (2-1) and one of the nation's elite programs, and that the Terps might not have come far from the fumbles, turnovers and careless penalties that have hindered them in the past two seasons.

The game was defined as early as the first quarter when the speed, talent and athleticism of West Virginia (3-0) overwhelmed Maryland's defense with 28 unanswered points and 230 yards of total offense.

Much of that could be attributed to standout running back Steve Slaton, who finished with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. The Terps finished with 122 yards rushing.

Cheers of "SU-PER STEVE" resonated from lingering fans as Slaton was one of the last players off the field, escorted by a few West Virginia officials, and even more television cameras.

Maryland gave its former recruit ample opportunities to run the ball, as the Terps turned it over five times on three fumbles and two interceptions. They also allowed a 96-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.

Maryland, which had wins over Division I-AA William and Mary and unheralded Middle Tennessee State, watched the Mountaineers compile more than 300 yards rushing for the third straight game.

If there were any doubts about whether West Virginia's offense - which gained an average of 538 total yards in wins against Marshall (42-10) and Eastern Washington (52-3) - is of championship caliber, they were erased in the first quarter.

The Mountaineers scored on all four possessions, and Slaton rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. The Mountaineers came into this game second in the nation with an average of 353 rushing yards per game, and ran for 193 against Maryland in the opening 15 minutes.

It was the first time under Friedgen's tenure an opponent had scored 28 points in a quarter.

"They were just gashing us," he said. "A lot of [the players] were star-struck. I saw some bright spots. I know it's hard for you all to see but ... I thought our running game was still there. Defensively, we have to sit down and evaluate where we are and what we have to do to get better."

The offensive onslaught began immediately, as West Virginia opened the game with two touchdowns in nine plays and less than five minutes. The Mountaineers proceeded to score on all but one possession in the first half.

As soon as Maryland touched the ball, it lost it. Senior cornerback Josh Wilson and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey botched their exchange on the first kickoff and linebacker Ovid Goulbourne recovered it on the 11-yard line.

West Virginia scored three plays and 1:32 later for a 14-0 lead.

Then it scored again on the following possession, this time when Slaton first ran right, then juked left, and darted up the sideline and through at least three missed tackles for a 37-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

The Terps' running game, which was expected to be its strength this season, was held to 53 yards in the first half.

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach was 24-for-45 for 211 yards, but threw two interceptions.

Maryland's lone first-half touchdown in part resulted from a 15-yard West Virginia penalty for unnecessary roughness. It was one of 13 penalties in a physical game that added up to 135 yards for both teams.

Even when they fumbled, the Mountaineers scored.

They got the final possession of the first quarter because Hollenbach threw an interception. Slaton took off for 52 yards, landing his team on Maryland's 2-yard line. He tried to punch it in, but fumbled in the end zone. It was recovered by tight end Brad Palmer for the score, and a 28-0 lead.

It only got worse.

West Virginia receiver Darius Reynaud returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and the 38-10 halftime lead.

Lance Ball's 11-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter pulled Maryland within 38-17, but the Terps got no closer.

They actually won the second half, 14-7, which Friedgen took pride in.

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