MORGANTOWN - Cameron Chism's prevailing memory of the last time he and his Maryland team faced West Virginia is the final result.No one likes being on the wrong end.How the Terrapins managed to do that, though, is what the senior cornerback is focusing on now - in order to make sure it doesn't happen again."They started off really fast on us,'' Chism said. "They got up 14-0 really early, so we weren't really prepared like we should have been for that game.
"We got off to a slow start [on offense], too, and we didn't really start coming back until the second half. We want to get off to a good start early this time.''A year ago, West Virginia led 14-0 after the first two series. Less than seven minutes had run off the clock.It was 28-0 by early in the third quarter after Geno Smith had thrown his fourth touchdown pass of the game and Chism and the Terps' secondary were reeling.Yes, they clamped down after that. But while a pair of long touchdown passes and a field goal managed to get the Terps to within 28-17 with almost 12 minutes left to play, it wasn't enough. West Virginia took almost nine minutes off the clock with a 16-play field goal drive and sealed a 31-17 win.
"We just didn't have enough time,'' Chism said. "And we didn't make a stop when we had to make one.''Among the differences between that game and the one coming up Saturday, of course, is the location. This time the noon game is at Byrd Stadium in College Park. ESPNU will televise it.And the venue, if nothing else, will make it far more difficult for No. 18 West Virginia to jump out so quickly.Still, that's the aim."That's always the goal,'' said Smith, who threw for 268 yards in last year's game. "If you can get ahead of a team and take their crowd out of it a little bit it always helps.''
Indeed, for West Virginia that has been especially important. In the past four seasons, the Mountaineers have only rallied from a halftime deficit to win a road game three times. It happened twice at Marshall (2010 and 2007) and the other time in 2008 against a Randy Edsall-coached Connecticut team. Edsall is now in his first season at Maryland.But for the Mountaineers of 2011, fast starts have not happened. Both Marshall and Norfolk State scored first against West Virginia and led after one quarter.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen would love to see his offense start faster, but there's no magic formula to making it happen."You talk about it, I guess. You talk about coming out faster,'' Holgorsen said. "I've been in charge of offenses where we start really fast and I've been in charge of offenses where we start really slow. If I had the magic formula we'd always start fast. We'll work hard at it and talk about it and try to prepare them as well as we can.''Special teams, of course, can help in getting off to a good start. In West Virginia's first two games, Tavon Austin did everything he could to make things happen. His 100-yard kickoff return against Marshall proved to be the game breaker after the Herd had pulled to within striking distance. He had a 64-yard punt return to set up the offense early in the Norfolk State game, but the offense couldn't capitalize.Austin, who is from Baltimore, figures to again play a big role for the Mountaineers, just as he did a year ago when he caught Smith's first two touchdown passes and finished with seven catches for 106 yards."He's a guy you have to worry about everywhere,'' Edsall said Wednesday. "He's quick and he makes people miss.''Still, Chism hopes that isn't as much of an issue this year as it was last. A year ago the Terps were somewhat shocked by West Virginia's speed, having not played the Mountaineers in three years. Now WVU has a new coaching staff and a different scheme on offense, but the speed is still there.
Then again, Maryland has some speed, too, and the Terps' new offense under coordinator Gary Crowder is in many ways similar to West Virginia's. So Chism and the Terps hope they aren't fooled again."They have a lot of speed. They have a lot of playmakers,'' Chism said. "I've heard that they're going to play fast, no huddle. But we've been practicing against our own offense, so I think we should be ready.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org