WVU Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Maryland

Amit BatraCorrespondent IIISeptember 14, 2012

WVU Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Maryland

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    After squeaking out two wins against William & Mary and Temple, the Maryland Terrapins will come to Morgantown on Saturday, Sept. 22 to battle the West Virginia Mountaineers.

    WVU first played Maryland in 1919.  Since then, this rivalry has been on and off, but it has been constant from 2004-2007 and, more recently, 2010-current. 

    Currently, the Mountaineers lead the series 25-21-2.  In 2010, when the rivalry resumed, West Virginia pulled out the victory at home 31-17.  Last year, quarterback Geno Smith had quite the showing in College Park to lead the Mountaineers to a 37-31 victory.

    Smith had a 73.5 percentage completion rate and threw for 388 yards in the game.

    Maryland will be led by freshman quarterback Perry Hills.  The Terps struggled against William & Mary offensively, but were able to score 36 points against Temple the following week.

    The Mountaineers will have opportunities to score with their potent offense, but no team should be overlooked, especially against a non-conference opponent with nothing to lose.

    Here are some keys to the game against the Terps next Saturday. 

1) Get to Hills

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    Yes, seeing a picture of the Mountaineers getting to Pittsburgh's Tino Sunseri is always nice. 

    But, this is what West Virginia needs to do against Maryland.  A freshman quarterback coming into the hostile Milan Puskar Stadium will be interesting to see. 

    If the WVU defense is able to feed off the crowd, expect to see some sacks on Hills. 

    In the first two games of the season, Hills hasn't been extraordinarily special.  He has an even 60 percent completion rate, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

    Against William & Mary, the freshman out of Pittsburgh went 16-of-24 for 145 yards.  His completion rate was over 66 percent.  However, in the game, Hills didn't have any touchdowns and he threw three interceptions. 

    In the road game against Temple, Hills did a much better job.  He completed 11 of his 21 passes for 190 yards.  While his completion rate was down, he did throw two touchdowns and had zero picks.

    It's a bit early to say what this kid is made of, but if West Virginia gets some pressure on him, you have to like its chances for victory. 

Stop the Terps Rushers/Receivers

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    Sophomore running back Justus Pickett has scored a touchdown in each game this season thus far.

    He's run for 114 yards on 32 carries.  Besides him, the Terps have some weapons at receiver.

    Sophomore Marcus Leak has a touchdown on the year and six receptions for 127 yards. 

    Freshman Stefon Diggs also has six receptions for 89 yards.  Together, Diggs and Leak have 216 of the 335 total receiving yards for the Terps.

    The WVU secondary will look to keep these two from having explosive games in Morgantown next Saturday.  If not, this could be more of a game than fans and the nation expect. 

    Pickett will also be a guy the West Virginia defense must contain.  He has the ability to have solid runs, so the Mountaineers must prevent him from getting into the end zone. 

Home Is Where the Heart Is

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    The Mountaineers are a different animal at home.  It's as simple as that. 

    WVU wants to put up points for the crowd and to prove to the nation that it's the real deal.

    Well, in the second game at Milan Puskar Stadium, West Virginia can do just that against an ACC-foe in Maryland.

    In the 69-point offensive showcase against Marshall, Geno Smith was ready from the start.  With a completion rate of over 88 percent, the Heisman Trophy contender was remarkable with precision passing and running when needed.

    In fact, his performance earned him the award of Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.

    The offense is almost unstoppable at home, and the defense and special teams units have improved from last season. 

Mixing Up the Run/Pass

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    The mixture of passing and rushing was successful for West Virginia against Marshall.  In all honesty, how many defenders are going to stop Shawne Alston when he's running hard?

    Alston had 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the Marshall defense.  Andrew Buie had 80 yards rushing himself.  The Mountaineers had 331 yards rushing on the day against the Thundering Herd. 

    When Smith is about to only throw four incomplete passes, things should go well for the offense. 

    The nation knows how well West Virginia can pass the ball, but when opponents need to also respect the rushing game, it makes life a lot more difficult for opposing defenses.

WVU Receivers Will Make Plays

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    Stedman Bailey, J.D. Woods, Tavon Austin, Ivan McCartney, Andrew Buie, Jordan Thompson and KJ Myers all recorded at least one reception against Marshall (Yes, Buie isn't a receiver.)  What a well-rounded attack it was for the Mountaineers.

    Bailey led the way with nine catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.  Austin was also able to get in the end zone, as he finished with 10 receptions for 53 yards. 

    Woods also scored after a promising game with seven receptions and 75 yards. 

    With WVU having so many weapons, defenses will struggle to contain all of them.  Each receiver in this unit is capable of making a big-time play. 

    Against a defense such as Maryland's, West Virginia can have a field day in the air.