Terps look to pressure WVU on defense, offense

COLLEGE PARK, MD – When redshirt freshman Ford Childress started his first game as the quarterback for the Mountaineers of West Virginia (2-1, 0-1 Big 12), the Houston native understood that there would be pressure.

Not only from learning the myriad of formations utilized in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s ‘Air Raid’ attack, but from opposing defenders looking to do anything they can to keep the signal-caller from getting the Mountaineers into the end zone.

“It’s a lot different out there (on the field),” Childress said following WVU’s 41-7 win over Georgia State. “There were times when I didn’t do a very good job of recognizing what the defense was giving me.”

Should that happen again on Saturday against an unbeaten Maryland prevent unit, you can bet two players in particular-linebackers Marcus Whitfield and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil-will make him pay dearly.

Just ask Connecticut’s Chandler Whitmer. Forced to operate out of his own end zone, the Huskies’ signal-caller was flagged for an intentional grounding penalty when pressure by Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil became too great. The two points created a three-possession lead for the Terps as they held on to defeat UConn by a 32-21 margin at Rentschler Field.

Through three games, the Terps rank first in the nation in sacks per game with 4.67. And, the primary reason is the play of Maryland’s top two linebackers.

“We both talk and argue with one another on who has the most sacks,” Whitfield said. “It’s definitely competition between me and Yannik and the defensive line and the other pass rushers out there, which also helps us.

“It basically just opens it up more for both of us. We both have the speed, and we both use the speed.”

Heading into 50th meeting between the two schools, WVU leads the series by a 26-21-1 margin, Whitfield has recorded 4.5 sacks for 47 yards in losses while Cudjoe-Virgil is close behind with three for 24 negative yards. As a unit the Terps’ defense has recorded 14 sacks for 99 yards and 26 tackles for loss and 122 negative yards.

Somewhat lost in the play of the defense has been an offense that has produced an average of 40.7 points and 554.7 yards per game.

“They (Maryland) have two receivers as good as any we will face in the Big 12 this season,” Holgorsen said. “They have done a great job of getting them involved in the offense and the (C.J.) Brown kid gets better every time he takes to the field.”

Brown, who missed all of the 2012 season recovering from an ACL injury, has completed 67.1 percent of his passes (49-of-73) for 833 yards and six touchdowns. In addition, Brown has rushed for five touchdowns in three games. For his career, Brown has accounted for 23 touchdowns, placing him in a tie for 22nd on the all-time list for the Terrapins.

But, it isn’t a one-man show when the Terps have the ball. Running backs Brandon Ross and Albert Reid have combined for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and wideouts Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Levern Jacobs have consistently come up with the big catch to keep scoring drives alive.

Two of those names are very familiar to Mountaineer fans.

Long, who has 15 catches for 173 yards, was recruited by WVU while Diggs tallied all three Maryland touchdowns a year ago in a 31-21 setback in Morgantown. The final one coming on a spectacular 56-yard catch and run play with 7:25 to go in the game.

“We have a lot of weapons,” head coach Randy Edsall said. “Our offensive staff does a good job of creating problems for a lot of people. What we have to do is take advantage of the opportunites we have, most importantly when we get into the red zone. That’s been a bugaboo for us through the first three weeks.”

Maryland is tied for first-with 22 other programs-with a perfect red-zone conversion rate. Half of those 12 trips, however, have resulted in field goals which the Terps will have to correct if they are to break WVU’s seven-year stranglehold on the series.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun Saturday to be able to go up to M&T Bank Stadium and play in Baltimore,” Edsall said. “I know our guys are excited about it to get up there and play in a great venue in the biggest city in the state.”