Stewart and his staff made a point all offseason to emphasize the importance of ending games strong. Apparently the lessons took, as the Mountaineers overcame a 15-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation before outlasting the Herd in a 24-21 overtime thriller.
But the 50 minutes preceding the comeback, in which MU largely dominated play, were disconcerting for West Virginia’s third-year head coach.
“We preached all year about finishing,” Stewart said. “I don’t know. We finished. We just didn’t start or play the middle of it very well.”
“But it was a tough environment, and I was very pleased with the way we finished the deal.”
While that game was part of what may be a blossoming rivalry, this week’s contest serves as the resumption of a long-standing one.
WVU and Maryland played every year from 1980 through 2007, but the Terrapins took a break from the series in 2008 and 2009 to play a home-and-home with California.
“It’s going to just be a heck of a good rivalry [game] and we’re sure glad it’s back on our schedule,” Stewart said.
Embattled head coach Ralph Friedgen has mostly managed to keep critics at bay thus far in 2010, starting the year with a narrow 17-14 win over Navy that was not secured until safety Kenny Tate tackled Midshipmen quarterback Ricky Dobbs just short of the goal line on a fourth down play with under a minute to go.
Maryland followed that up with a 62-3 thrashing of FCS foe Morgan State in its home-opener on Saturday. The 62 points were a program-high since a 1975 win over Virginia, and the Terps held Morgan State to only 85 yards of total offense, a program low in the Friedgen era.
“They have a lot of experience back,” Stewart said, though the benefits of that could be debated after the 2-10 finish Maryland had in 2009.
“Their defense is solid. They’re old. [They have] big players up front, tough, big linebackers and a good secondary. Their offensive line is tough, and I think they have two really good quarterbacks [Jamaar Robinson and Danny O’Brien] playing well and two tremendous running backs [Davin Meggett and Da’Rel Scott]. So they’re going to be a real chore for us.”
Stewart’s teleconference was sandwiched around two major items of scheduling news.
Just before the call began, WVU announced on its official sports information department Twitter account that next week’s game at LSU will be played at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and televised on ESPN2.
Just after Stewart concluded his statements, a press release was sent to reporters announcing that the Mountaineer athletic department had reached an agreement with Maryland to extend the series between the two schools through 2017.
West Virginia will visit Byrd Stadium in College Park in 2014 before hosting both the 2015 and 2016 match-ups. The new deal will conclude with another game at Maryland in 2017.