Something we are trying to do this season is get in touch with a blogger from the opposing team each week. For the West Virginia game we were lucky enough to get Country Roads from The Smoking Musket to answer our questions. As we inch closer to kickoff be sure to check them out for the latest news on the Mountaineers, and if I had to guess some digs at our Terps.
Thanks again for taking the time to participate.
1. With the announcement that Maryland and West Virginia have extended their contract through 2017, what are your thoughts on the two schools playing in an annual rivalry? Obviously it doesn’t match up with conference rival Pitt, but do you think it is good for West Virginia?
Personally, I like playing Maryland and I think most WVU fans would agree with me. It’s a historic rivalry that has its fair share of close games and general animosity, and the game typically serves as a good barometer for how WVU’s season will play out. Additionally, the close proximity of the schools and the fact that Maryland is located in one of WVU’s recruiting hotbeds underscores the importance of coming out of these games with a win. The main negative, in my opinion, is that the series restricts WVU’s ability to schedule other ACC opponents like Virginia Tech, UNC, NC State, and UVA, who are also attractive opponents.
2. Noel Divine seems primed to really have a great senior year. I think all Maryland fans remember him bursting onto the scene in his freshman year with his big game against the Terps. Is he a real Heisman candidate, and what does Maryland need to do slow him down?
WVU’s offensive line has struggled so far this year. If the line improves and WVU manages to win the Big East, I think he has an outside chance at getting an invite to New York if for no other reason than his name. Outside of a couple long runs here and there, Devine has looked mortal on most of his carries so far because there are two or three defenders in his face as soon as he gets the handoff. Contain the big plays by filling gaps and tackling well, and much of his yardage will be negated. The other key is to jump out to a big lead and force WVU to play from behind. While we don’t totally abandon Devine in those situations (he still gets the ball on draws and screens), it at least helps limit his number of carries and, by extension, his ability to break a big play.
3. Geno Smith seems to be playing fairly well so far early in his first season as the starter. What are your thoughts on Smith so far, and is he the long term answer at QB for the Mountaineers?
After Friday night’s comeback against Marshall, I’m sold on Geno. As Bill King noted on Rivals Radio this morning, Smith led two scoring drives of more than 90 yards when he had absolutely no room for error, then converted a 2-point conversion to complete the comeback. That’s big time stuff, no matter the opponent. Granted, Marshall is not the best team we will play this near nor is it a particularly hostile environment, but it’s far from the friendly confines of Mountaineer Field. Completing that comeback the way he did on the road is enough to convince me. I also think he has a corps of quality young receivers, including Geno’s high school teammates Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney, who will be able to get open and make plays for him, which can only help his development. If OC Jeff Mullen calls plays to allow Geno to showcase his talent and the offensive line keeps him on his feet, he could have a special career in Morgantown.
4. Now that Rich Rodriquez has been gone for a few years, how do you feel the program is fairing under Bill Stewart? He has guided the team to 9-4 records in each of his first two seasons, which is not bad, but the program does not seem to be at the level Rich Rod had. How does the fan base feel about him?
The fan base is deeply divided over Coach Stew, which is sad to see for such a passionate and dedicated group. I don’t think anyone can look at those 9-4 years after three straight 11-win seasons and say that we haven’t taken at least a small step back. But I count myself among the group who isn’t ready to throw in the towel on Stew quite yet. Mostly, I don’t think 9-4 is that bad of a record at WVU and I’m not sure how much of the dropoff can be attributed to the loss of guys like Steve Slaton, Darius Reynaud, and Owen Schmitt to the NFL after the Fiesta Bowl win. I do have my concerns, however, as we seem to play down to the level of our competition and our offense has failed to show any kind of sustained success, but I also see some positives because Stew has recruited well and because our defense looks to have improved some. Pretty soon, though, Stew is going to have to win a couple Big East championships or even the most optimistic of us are going to get restless.
5. What are some areas Maryland might have an advantage coming into the game, and where do you think West Virginia might have the advantage?
I’m certainly no expert, but based on what I’ve seen in the first couple games from both teams I feel like Maryland’s best chances for success come in stopping WVU’s running game and moving the ball with Jamarr Robinson. I know Navy ran for a bunch of yards, but the triple option is different than WVU’s spread attack. Maryland traditionally has good size up from and excellent linebacker play. If that’s the case this year, the Terp front 7 could give our mediocre line fits and force Geno Smith to win the game with his arm. As for Robinson, running quarterbacks have enjoyed their fair share of success against WVU in the past few years, highlighted mainly by the huge performances of BJ Daniels and Matt Grothe of USF. Even though WVU faces mobile quarterbacks in practice all the time, we seem to struggle when we face them in actual games. In the end, though, I think WVU’s playmakers on offense (Devine, Jock Sanders, and Tavon Austin) and overall speed on defense (led by JT Thomas and Robert Sands) will swing things in WVU’s favor. Not many teams are able to contain all three of those guys, and it seems to be only a matter of time until at least one of them gets loose.
6. What is your prediction for the game?
If the game was in College Park, I may feel differently, but I think the comeback against Marshall gave this team some confidence and the guys will come out ready to play in front of the home fans on a beautiful September afternoon. 24-13 WVU.
Thanks again to Country Roads, and good luck this weekend! Again be sure to check out The Smoking Musket
for more on WVU.