Previewing Maryland-West Virginia with a Mountaineers beat reporter

  • The Mountaineers hung with Alabama in their season-opener, then walloped Towson 54-0 last week.
The Mountaineers hung with Alabama in their season-opener,… (Charles LeClaire, USA Today…)
September 11, 2014

Back for a second season, we'll be previewing each of Maryland's football games by conducting a Q&A with a reporter who covers the Terps' next opponent.

This week, we traded emails with Mike Casazza, who covers West Virginia football for the Charleston Daily Mail. Be sure to check out more of his WVU coverage here before the Terps and Mountaineers kick off Saturday at noon in College Park.

Tracking the Terps: Heading into the season it didn't seem like this West Virginia team was going to be a powerhouse. But have the expectations changed for the Mountaineers since they put a scare into Alabama in Week 1?

Mike Casazza: Depends who you ask. Dana Holgorsen was pretty adamant throughout the summer and then camp that his team was going to be better because of returning players and the sort of continuity his team didn't have the previous two years. They knew they were going to play with Alabama, so I don't think anything's changed for them. Maybe it reinforced their confidence but they were already confident. On the outside? It talked a lot of people off the ledge or back onto the bandwagon, but WVU still lost. I actually think the Maryland game is one people on the outside and inside will use to base their opinions going forward -- 1-2 is that much different than 2-1.

Baltimore product William Crest got a chance to see some action in last week's blowout against Towson. How did he look, and what does the future hold for him?

No one knows. Is he going to play a series here or there? Will he do zone read stuff in the red zone? Does Dana dare take Clint Trickett out in favor of a true freshman just to get the kid some playing time? All I know is Dana has never use two quarterbacks and has never taken time or attention away from his offense in practice or in games to go with a gimmick package ... but Crest has caused him to reconsider his opinion and maybe even relent. What's most interesting is WVU has two quarterbacks committed to the 2015 class and one of them is the most touted since Dana's been here.

Do you get the sense that this game means a little more to the Mountaineers coming off last year's 37-0 loss to Maryland?

Not really. Does Maryland want to beat Florida State more next time because the last one was 63-0? I just think so much has changed with regard to personnel, coaching and schemes that it's a wholly different story. And let's be honest about something here: WVU stunk in the fourth game last season and played like a team that should have lost 37-0. Those guys know that. They knew it in the second quarter. And they played with a one-armed quarterback who didn't tell his coaches he'd torn a pectoral muscle. It's just about as clear now as it was then that Maryland should have blown out WVU that day.

If you had to pick one key factor that will decide the outcome Saturday, what would it be?

Big plays. Maryland doesn't give them up, and hasn't given them up to WVU the past two years, and WVU doesn't have many of them this season. I have questions as to whether the Mountaineers can drive down the field again and again on the road and win the game, so it'd help the Mountaineers to break or bomb one or two big plays to get or to set up easy scores. Really, Brian Stewart's done as good a job as anyone the past two years stonewalling WVU, so WVU has to juke that trend.

And is there a key player on West Virginia's roster that we should be keeping an eye on?

Wendell Smallwood. WVU is at its best when it can play fast and Smallwood keys that. He can play running back in one- or two-back sets, but also stay in the game and motion out on the next snap and play slot receiver -- and he might be their best slot receiver. If he can chunk up yards in the running game and be a factor in the passing game, then WVU is moving the ball and playing fast and probably succeeding on offense.

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