Before arriving in Morgantown, West Virginia's Tavon Austin starred at Dunbar High School in Baltimore.
MORGANTOWN - The kind of numbers Tavon Austin has posted through the first two games of the season are all pretty good.Not only has he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and averaged a staggering 22 yards per punt return, Austin also has nine receptions for 114 yards. After admittedly struggling offensively during an abbreviated win over Marshall, Austin was far more consistent in every phase in Saturday's 55-12 win over Norfolk State.Know this, though: He would trade it all for a productive game and a win against Maryland Saturday in College Park. For the kid from Baltimore, that one is just special."Yeah, it's a little different,'' Austin said. "My grandmom always tells me, 'Tavon, if you're gonna lose to a team, don't lose to Maryland.' I can't disappoint her, so I can't lose to Maryland.''Saturday when the Mountaineers (2-0) and the Terrapins (1-0) meet in a noon game televised by ESPNU, Austin will already have a leg up on what amounts to his home team. A year ago in Morgantown, Austin caught the first two touchdown passes of the game as the Mountaineers went up 28-0 and eventually won 31-17. He wound up with seven catches for 106 yards, both of which were career highs at the time.Austin isn't the only Mountaineer playing close to home Saturday. Regulars like safety Terence Garvin (Baltimore), guard Jeff Braun (Westminster) and fullback Ryan Clarke (Glen Burnie) all are from Maryland.And tailback Vernard Roberts is from Washington. College Park is inside the D.C. beltway.
"That's a home game for me,'' Roberts said. "I'll definitely be excited.''West Virginia and Maryland are playing for the second time since resuming their series after a brief hiatus. The teams have played 47 times over the years, including every year from 1980 through 2007. West Virginia holds a 24-21-2 edge in the series and has won five in a row since snapping a four-game Maryland win streak.The Terrapins haven't played since Labor Day, when they beat Miami 32-24.
As far as guys like Roberts and Austin are concerned, though, this week has to be all about the business at hand and not about any personal rivalries."It's no different,'' Roberts said. "Even though it's a home game for me, it's just like any other one. You practice hard, you execute and you try to get the win.''"I'm not going to treat it any different than any other game,' Austin said. "I saw them play. They're pretty good.''BRIFELY: Austin, by the way, ranks first in the nation in kickoff returns (48.0 yards per runback), fourth in punt returns and seventh in all-purpose yards. Quarterback Geno Smith is seventh in total passing yards.West Virginia's coach-named award winners for Saturday's win over Norfolk State did not include an offensive champion, despite 55 points and 533 yards of total offense.
"We couldn't find anybody [who graded out well enough],'' coach Dana Holgorsen said Sunday night. "I know that sounds crazy, but we couldn't find anybody who played well enough to get that award.''The other award winners were Darwin Cook on defense, Cecil Level on special teams (for the second straight week) and Coley White and William Marable on scout teams.The Mountaineers moved up to No. 18 (one spot) in this week's Associated Press media poll and to No. 20 (four places) in the USA Today coaches' rankings.Through two games, West Virginia is the only team in the country that has yet to lose or gain a turnover.Since 2003, there have been only two Mountaineer Field crowds smaller than the 51,911 for Saturday's game and both were late-season, cold-weather games - last year against Rutgers and the 2007 snow game against South Florida.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com