WVU 31, Maryland 21: Yep, that score is right.
West Virginia, who was more than a three-touchdown favorite, faced a stiffer challenge than any Mountaineer expected from the Terps.
So how was Maryland able to keep it so close with eighth-ranked WVU?
While it would be easy to blame it on West Virginia’s sluggish performance, that’s too simple.
It’s clear Randy Edsall spent the week studying how Syracuse defended WVU the past two years in back-to-back upsets. The Terps showed a lot of grit on defense by getting after Heisman-favorite Geno Smith, and hitting him early. From that point on Smith seemed rattled and unsettled in the pocket.
In fairness to Smith, he still completed 30-of-43 for 338 yards and three touchdowns — all of them to the speedy Tavon Austin.
Lets get back to Maryland, though.
The Terps also stifled the WVU running game, but that may have been due to the absence of Shawne Alston, who sat out with a thigh injury.
You have to also appreciate the performance by freshman quarterback Perry Hills, who was harassed by Mountaineer defenders most of the game. After falling behind 14-0, Hills sparked the Terps with a 42-yard TD strike to Stefon Diggs — who also caught a 56-yard TD pass.
With Hills and Diggs, the Terps displayed some exceptional young talent that could help Maryland get back to ACC respectability.
But as Edsall said during his post-game presser, Maryland wasn’t in Morgantown looking for a moral victory.
So how was WVU able to still get a win if Maryland was playing so well? In the end, the Mountaineers had more talent and experience on the field.
WVU’s defense is quickly becoming a bend, but don’t break unit. They also struggle a bit to get off the field on third down, but they created turnovers (one for a touchdown), and had some timely sacks.
It also helps that Dana Holgorsen’s team did not turn the ball over again either.
Maybe the Mountaineers were looking ahead to opening Big 12 play next week against Baylor, but they’ll have to play much better if they expect to be a serious contender.