"I see it as a rivalry, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. It's a game that you're playing pretty much every year. The states are bordering each other; we compete against them quite a bit in recruiting. It's a game that has been played a number of times but we have to do our part to get back on the winning side."
The Terps defense has been playing very well this season. The pass defense has held opponents to 124.3 yards per game, which ranks sixth nationally, and the run defense ranked 28th against the run, giving up 103 yards per game. Overall, Maryland is only allowing 227.3 yards per game, which ranks eighth in the nation.
"I'm confident in our defense and I'm very confident in our defense when everybody goes out and does their job, Edsall said. We're going to get tested this week. There's no doubt about that. We're going to be tested quite a bit. But again I like our focus and our mentality that we are bringing. We need to step it up even more this week now. We've got to step it up to give ourselves an opportunity to win. There are things we need to correct and be sound and more solid with some of the little things that we are doing defensively. I think that can make us even better. We've got our hands full this week, there's no question. It will be fun to watch our guys go out and compete against this high-powered offense which we have a tremendous amount of respect for."
"All the players are just doing what the coaches want them to do, linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. We are doing our assignments and plays when they come to us. I believe Coach Stewart is doing a great job putting pressure on the quarterbacks and emphasizing stopping the run and making teams one-dimensional."
The defense will have their hands full trying to contain West Virginia's Air Raid offense that has racked up over 55 points per game and ranks third in the nation. Quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin have the potential of lighting up the scoreboard and have gotten the attention and respect from the Terps coaches and players.
"He's got a great arm and he knows where to go with the ball, Edsall said. He's putting the ball right were its needs to be. I think his accuracy has improved since last year and I see a guy who has done more in the weight room and has gotten a bit thicker. You can watch the film and see the level of confidence that he plays with. If we can shake that confidence a little bit early in the game and disrupt it, then that would be to our advantage."
"There is not going to be a lot of chances for me to do anything against Tavon, but at the end of the day, I got to run to the ball, defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. He is a [heck] of a player. One thing I noticed is he makes a lot of defensive lineman look stupid when they try to tackle him, so when you come you got to come prepared. I am going to try and run him down. He is a little bit quicker than me, but if someone can make him cutback I'll be able to get there."
There have already been similarities drawn between West Virginia's Austin and Maryland's Stefon Diggs, the electrifying receiver who is always a threat to make something happen with the ball in his hands. The Terps will need to get Diggs more touches if their offense is to produce.
The Terrapin offense will also have to play better and not give the ball away as much. The Terps have turned the ball over 10 times already this season while their opponents have only given the ball away eight times. The Mountaineers are 64-4 since 2002 when they win the turnover battle so Maryland will need to protect the ball on Saturday.
Much of the responsibility will fall on the shoulder of quarterback Perry Hills, who is still developing as a true freshman quarterback. Hills will hopefully have run support from the Terps' crowded running back corps. Edsall has listed four running backs in Brandon Ross, Justus Pickett, Wes Brown and Albert Reid as co-starters going into Saturday's matchup.
"I think that we have situations where all four can end up playing, Edsall said. And again, we will see how it all plays out but I have a lot of confidence in each and every one of those guys. The thing is, it's not what somebody didn't do, it's just the situation. I think all four of them will play in the game if things work the way we want them to."
The Terps will have their hands full offensively and defensively, but the 12th man for West Virginia may also affect the young Maryland team. Morgantown is one of the hardest places to play at with the extremely loud fans. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has a 6-2 record at home in the Milan Puskar Stadium already and will look to continue the streak.
"The one thing that we have to do is really prepare our guys for the noise and the hostility that those fans have for their Mountaineers, Edsall said. I would hope that, I know the last time I was playing at West Virginia - my hat goes off to them in terms of we went there after the situation with Jasper Howard, and they couldn't have been more classier and outstanding fans that particular day. They have such tremendous passion for their team, we just have to try and prepare our guys for that and understand they have to stay focused and block all that stuff out. [We] just need to remember that the only thing that is really important it what is going on in between those white lines."
The Terps will face the Mountaineers Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.