MORGANTOWN - Another rivalry looms on the horizon for the West Virginia University football team Saturday, this one of the border warfare variety.
The Mountaineers, 2-0, entertain the University of Maryland in a noon match. West Virginia leads the overall series 23-21-2, including a 31-14 win when the two teams last meet in September 2007. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
"It's good to get them back on the schedule," WVU coach Bill Stewart said during his Sunday conference call. "It's always been a good rivalry."
The Mountaineers come into the contest fresh from a heart-stopping win over in-state rival Marshall, a game in which WVU had to mount two drives of more than 95 yards each in the final minutes to overcome a 15-point deficit and force overtime. Tyler Bitancurt's field goal in the extra period allowed WVU to escape hostile Huntington with the victory.
"It was such a bonding experience," Stewart said.
"Our defense led the charge, even though the offense got all the glory. It will help us down the road."
Stewart said after WVU recovered a fumble, the spark returned to the team, He said the emotions reached such a fevered pitch with the defensive unit cheering on the offense from the sidelines, it because difficult for the coaching staff.
The team hopes to continue riding that emotional lift against a tough Terrapin team that has captured the coaching staff's attention.
"They are going to create havoc," Stewart said. "I'm hoping we can get some big plays so we can keep them off balance."
Part of the strategy will be to continue spreading the wealth offensively. Quarterback Geno Smith leads the Big East Conference in a number of passing categories, including his averaging of 266 yards per game.
He has completed 52 passes, and three WVU receivers Tavon Austin, Jock Sanders and Noel Devine are ranked 1-2-3 in the conference in receptions. Devine also is ranked third in rushing, averaging 111.5 yards per game.
"Geno took what (Marshall) gave him," Stewart said. "He spread the field and made Marshall defend the whole field. I thought he carried the football team (in the final minutes). He spread the wealth, and that's what we have preached to the people."