Maryland fans and alumni love to wax poetic about the “Curse of Steve Slaton,” but he’s not the only boogie monster in the Maryland vs. West Virginia rivalry. After all, the WVU faithful will never forget Scotty “Bleeping” McBrien.”
Steve Slaton was a dynamic high school football player and track star in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he dreamed of attending the nearby University of Maryland. So when the Terrapins came courting the high school tailback, he gladly accepted a scholarship offer to attend the university. Unfortunately for Slaton, and later the Terps, Maryland had over-recruited at the running back position, and the school rescinded their scholarship offer. Waiting in the wings was a West Virginia program whose offense was built upon speed like Slaton’s, and the rest as they say, is history.
Slaton played three years and amassed nearly 5000 yards from scrimmage and 57 touchdowns before taking his talents to the NFL. In his two games against Maryland, Slaton ran for 332 yards and 5 scores. WVU won both contest, and in fact, the Mountaineers have not lost any of the four contests with the Terps since they were quarterbacked by Scott McBrien in 2003, or as he’s known in Mountaineer circles, Scotty “Bleeping” McBrien.
In the fall of 2001 Morgantown was alive with enthusiasm, eager for the Rich Rodriguez era to begin. After twenty-one years at the helm, College Football Hall of Famer Don Nehlen had retired, and the administration had settled on the offensive coaching whiz and former Mountaineer player to take the reigns. “Spot the Ball,” was the tag line, as Rodriguez had made it clear that he planned to run a spread style no huddle hurry-up offense, that would take the Big East by storm.
Rodriguez’s new system used mobile quarterbacks. Players capable of rolling the pocket and running the spread option offense, something which required a less traditional pocket passing quarterback. WVU had recruited such a player in Rasheed Marshall, and though he was only a freshman, he seemed the heir apparent to the quarterback job. Well the heir apparent was injured midway through the season and the Mountaineers finished a dreadful 3-8.
Prior to Rodriguez’s arrival, it had appeared that red shirt sophomore Scott McBrien would be the future field general of the Mountaineers. McBrien, a Rockville, MD native, had been recruited by Nehlen and had spent his red shirted freshman season learning from future NFL quarterback Marc Bulger. He had even played some during the 2000 season as a backup. But with the arrival of Rodriguez, McBrien, a more traditional pocket passer, was unlikely to have a future. Whether McBrien himself saw the writing on the wall and headed for the exit or the exit door was held for him by the new coaching regime is all ancient history. Regardless of the catalyst, he transferred back home to the University of Maryland, sitting out the 2001 season as required by NCCA rules.
The following year, Scott McBrien returned to Morgantown as the starting quarterback of the Maryland Terrapins. WVU had endured its bumps and bruises since McBrien’s departure, but after 2001’s disastrous campaign, the Mountaineers looked good coming into the 2002 season and had started off 3-1. But on the first series of the game, McBrien led the Terps down the field, scrambling 21 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to cap the drive. Then two possessions later, McBrien executed a play action pass to perfection, hitting wide receiver Jafar Williams with a 45 yard touchdown toss, putting the Terrapins up 21-0 before a stunned Mountaineer contingent. From that point forward Maryland rolled 48-17 and he would forever be known to the WVU faithful as Scotty “Bleeping” McBrien.
In 2003 The Mountaineers traveled to College Park and the senior quarterback again worked his magic. While Maryland’s line and the Terrapins running game battered the smaller faster Mountaineer defense, McBrien did his fair share of damage through the air. On the day he went 14-25 for 220 yards and a touchdown, rushing for another 47 yards on just four carries. When it was over the Terps had handed the Mountaineers a 34-7 defeat. Despite that loss dropping their record to 1-3 on the year, the Mountaineers rebounded, finishing 8-5 on the season and sharing the Big East title with Miami-a team they nearly defeated in a Thursday night thriller to win the conference outright. As the Big East runner-up in the BCS rankings, the Mountaineers headed to Jacksonville, Florida for the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.
But through a cruel and complicated conference ranking and bowl scheduling twist, the Mountaineers would once again meet the Maryland Terrapins and Scotty McBrien. The fact that a player could transfer after a season, sit out a season, and still find a way to face his former school three times in the course of two football seasons is simply mind blowing. Even more mind blowing was McBrien’s Gator Bowl performance, as he left no doubt as to his feelings about his former team, shredding the Mountaineers for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air, and rushing for another. A showing which prompted WVU running back Quincy Wilson to proclaim in a post-game interview, “Scott, if he played us 12 times, he'd probably be in the Heisman race.” Amen to that.
On Saturday in Morgantown there won’t be a Steve Slaton or a Scotty McBrien on the field. But for those traveling over the mountain from College Park, and those descending on Morgantown from around the mountain state, the two names ring familiar and are part of both the highlights and the heartbreak of the stories that make this game special and oh so much fun.