Run leads way for WVU
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – West Virginia used a bullish running attack to make a powerful case for a national ranking in a 31-19 victory over Maryland Saturday at Byrd Stadium.
The Mountaineers moved to 3-0 with their second road win of the season and first victory at Maryland since 1997.
“I think our best football is still ahead,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said.
No West Virginia team since 1974 has started 3-0 and failed to earn a bowl bid.
Last season, Rodriguez orchestrated an 8-4 finish and a Gator Bowl berth after starting with three consecutive wins.
He played orchestra leader again following the victory over Maryland. Rodriguez led his players, the Mountaineers band and about 5,000 fans in an emotional sing-along celebration outside the West Virginia locker room.
Maryland (1-2) lost at home for only the fifth time since coach Ralph Friedgen took over in 2001.
“This is a disappointing loss,” Friedgen said. “I knew this would be a tough team to run against. This is why they are one of the best teams in the country.”
Ranked No. 1 in the nation in fewest yards allowed, the West Virginia defense gave up only 50 net rushing yards, but Maryland moved the ball through the air with 291 net passing yards.
Mixing mistakes with power running, the Mountaineers ran for 301 yards and four rushing touchdowns. As usual, the Mountaineers shared the load, with freshman tailback Jason Gwaltney scoring twice. Tailback Pernell Williams and fullback Owen Schmitt also ran for touchdowns.
“I was really proud of the way we ran the football,” Rodriguez said. “To run for close to 300 yards on Maryland is a tough feat. Not many people come into their place and do that.
“Today, we played with that hard edge, and I think that’s what you need to have success,” he said.
Following Schmitt’s 3-yard touchdown run and William’s 1-yard end zone plunge, the Mountaineers led, 21-6, and appeared to have the victory in the bank with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
In less than 2 minutes, Maryland regained momentum.
Maryland tight end Vernon Davis brought the sellout crowd to its feet with a 73-yard touchdown catch and run.
The crowd was still standing when West Virginia’s Antonio Lewis fumbled the kickoff and Terps wideout Danny Oquendo fell on it.
Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach flipped a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jo Jo Walker to cut West Virginia’s lead to 21-19.
“This was a huge win for our team against a rival like Maryland on the road,” Gwaltney said. “I think we had something to prove.”
Mountaineers kicker Pat McAfee of Plum added a career-long 40-yard field goal with 2:18 remaining, and the defense did the rest.
“It was a good win for our kids because they had to come back off the canvas after they took a punch,” West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said.