Terps have sights set on 'very big game' vs. West Virginia

Maryland to renew rivalry with No. 21 Mountaineers on Saturday

September 14, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland was so frequently overmatched last season that it didn't play many games that could fairly be called "big."

That's one reason the Terrapins (2-0) are particularly excited to play at West Virginia (2-0) on Saturday — it feels as if the outcome will have a bearing on the rest of the season.

"This is a very big game for us, playing the 21st-ranked team in the country," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said Tuesday. "The more we win, the bigger the games get."

It's the first time this season the Terps will play a nationally ranked team. It also marks the continuation of a series between two schools that once played every year.

The Mountaineers have won the past four meetings.

"We need to start getting some wins versus them for the rivalry," said fifth-year senior linebacker Alex Wujciak, who recalled the "crazy" atmosphere when the teams met during his freshman season. "The last few times we played them they got the better of us."

Friedgen said again Tuesday that he expected both quarterbacks, Jamarr Robinson and Danny O'Brien, to play.

The coach talked about the swift progress made by O'Brien, a redshirt freshman from North Carolina.

"Danny is a different guy," Friedgen said. "From the day we recruited him I remember he would drive up to Saturday morning practices in the spring from Charlotte. He's kind of a gym rat. He just loves to play football and study football."

O'Brien said Tuesday night that his right ankle, sprained against Morgan State, is "80 or 90 percent" healed and that he expects to play against West Virginia but that he doesn't know when he would enter the game.

Shakeup in kicking game

Maryland's Travis Baltz will enter Saturday's game averaging 46.3 yards per punt, a figure that would place him in the top 10 in the nation if he had enough punts to qualify. But the former All-ACC selection is attracting at least as much attention this year for his achievements as a field-goal kicker — a role he wasn't scheduled for when the season began and isn't certain to hold as it progresses.

Baltz converted two 47-yarders in Maryland's 62-3 rout of Morgan State. It was the first time a Terrapin had converted two kicks of 45 yards or more in a game since Nick Novak did it in 2003.

Baltz became the field-goal kicker after sophomore Nick Ferrara — who had a solid freshman season — suffered a groin injury before the season-opening win over Navy. Friedgen has since indicated he's likely to stick with Baltz as long as the senior stays hot. Apparently, Friedgen can't abide benching a kicker who is 3-for-3 on field goals and 10-for-10 on extra points.

Baltz seemed to surprise Friedgen on Saturday with his range.

Leading 14-0, Maryland appeared ready to punt rather than attempt a 47-yard, first-quarter field goal.

On the sideline, Friedgen "said something like that he didn't think it was in my range," Baltz said Tuesday. "I'm standing there and I heard it. It was one of those pride things. I said to Coach, 'I think I can make it.' He said, 'Fine, go kick it."

After converting the kick, Baltz said he couldn't resist telling the coach: "I told you." Then he kicked another 47-yarder in the third quarter.

Last season, Ferrara was 18-for-25 on field goals, including a 50-yarder. He also filled in for Baltz when the punter was injured and averaged 39.8 yards.

Since Baltz and Ferrara are close, it is delicate to discuss the possibility of one taking over the other's job.

"Our main goal in everybody's mind is to win," said Baltz, who smiled when asked about competition with Ferrara. "The last year, I went down and Nick stepped up. His first game against Clemson he punted well and I don't think there was any awkwardness. We're still close."

Two freshmen out for year

Maryland coaches are bemoaning the season-ending injuries to two players — both on the first play of their college careers.

Friedgen said Tuesday that linebacker-defensive end Marcus Whitfield, a redshirt freshman, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament against Morgan State.

It was already known that third-string quarterback C.J. Brown, also a redshirt freshman, broke his collarbone in the game and is out for the year.

Friedgen said he hoped to obtain medical redshirts for both players.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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