COLLEGE PARK, MD. – A messy first quarter was to be expected for this West Virginia team. Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker expressed how unclear he was of the new Maryland coordinator hires, calling the in-game Maryland scouting a “cat and mouse game” over the first two series.
Those first two series of cat and mouse game, unfortunately, put the Mountaineers in a hole early on. With 11:46 left in the first quarter, the Terrapins had already driven down the field. Over the course of only nine plays, the team came 45 yards and kicked a successful field goal. Down 3-0 to a rapid-play offense, the Mountaineer defense was forced to regroup.
As Parker’s team took the field, Jarret Doege was on fire, connecting with Isaiah Esdale for a 16-yard gain. Two Leddie Brown runs and a 20-yard gain from Winston Wright Jr. later, the Mountaineers were poised in the Maryland red zone. A 20-yard touchdown run from Brown landed in the end zone. Casey Legg’s kick went through the uprights and suddenly, the Mountaineer offense was off and running. With 8:52 left in what was to become a high-scoring first quarter, the Mountaineers lead the Terrapins 7-3.
The Mountaineer linebackers were the stars of the first series. Captain MIKE Josh Chandler-Semedo and WILL Exree Loe each ended with a tackle. Nose tackle Akheem Mesidor also ended the first drive with two tackles and an assist.
The Mountaineers were quickly humbled, when the Terrapins came storming back. Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa found Dontay Demus Jr. downfield for a shocking 66-yard touchdown run. With the score now 10-7, the Mountaineers were in for some additional heartbreak. Five plays later, a Maryland blitz landed Doege in the turf, sacked by defensive back Tarheeb Still. As if a loss of 10 yards wasn’t bad enough, the next play, Doege was crushed again. A break-down from offensive lineman Wyatt Milum allowed another sack and a collective loss of 18 yards on sacks over the course of two plays.
That set the tone for the University of Maryland’s offensive press. Eight plays later, the Terrapins quickly passed to Chigoziem Okonkwo, who ran 18 yards into the end zone. The Mountaineers were suddenly down 17-7 with 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Those seconds ticked far slower when kick-off returner Wright Jr. escaped the entire Terrapin team and ran the ball 98 yards back. It was ruled just short of the pylons, but a two-yard Brown run later, the Mountaineers were back within striking distance, only losing by three points to conclude the first quarter.
Doege’s second quarter left some to be desired as well, going 9-14 for 130 yards and a disastrous interception. He also caused a delay of game after communication broke down between he and running back Brown and Doege called for a timeout that the Mountaineers didn’t have to offer. The defense saved the second quarter though. WVU’s Vandarius Cowan sacked Tagovailoa for a loss of eight yards on 4th and 1. Jackie Matthews followed that with a tackle for loss of Maryland’s Tayon Fleet-Davis. Dante Stills then put his name in the stat book with a credited sack of Tagovailoa for a loss of 13 yards, putting Maryland in a 4th and 20 scenario.
The Mountaineers went into halftime following a holding penalty on Doug Nester with only eight seconds left. It was sloppy on both sides, to say the least.
It didn’t get much better for Doege, who started the third quarter with his third sack of the game, going to ground at the hands of Maryland’s Okuayinonu. The incompletions were out of control for Doege, throwing unsuccessful options to Brown and Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who didn’t get his first minutes of the game until the second half. Doege also earned an intentional grounding when he lost control in the pocket and opted for the Maryland sideline instead.
The third quarter ended without a scoring drive by either team. The Doege to Wright Jr. connection was strong but earned in short spurts. Wright Jr. only drove nine yards of offense. Doege’s other preferred target, Esdale, added 29 yards, but mostly around the middle of the field.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, the Mountaineers came out playing defeated, which Tagovailoa and the Terrapins took full advantage of. Tagovailoa found Rakim Jarrett for a humbling 60-yard touchdown following a sideline run by WVU kick returner Wright Jr. that ended abruptly when he stepped out of bounds in front of an empty backfield. As the Mountaineers attempted to battle back for first downs, the best the offense could do was scrap together 14 plays that resulted in a Casey Legg field goal. Down 30-24 with just short of three minutes left in the game, the Mountaineers couldn’t close.
The result? A 30-24 messy loss for the Mountaineers in game one of WVU head coach Neal Brown’s third season. This adds a fifth consecutive road loss to Brown’s West Virginia repertoire.