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Terps, Turnovers foil WVU

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- West Virginia beat Maryland in virtually every category Saturday afternoon before 40,166 fans at Byrd Stadium.

But the unbeaten Terrapins beat the Mountaineers in the one that counted most -- the scoreboard.

Maryland forced six WVU turnovers while playing turnover-free football in defeating the Mountaineers, 32-20.

West Virginia led in time of possession (31:43-28:17), first downs (27-23), passing yards (279-192) and total yards (430-373). But in the end, it just didn't matter.

The win raised the upstart Terps' record to 4-0, while the Mountaineers fell to 2-2.

"We are not going to beat anybody with six turnovers, especially a pretty good Maryland team," said a disappointed WVU coach Rich Rodriguez. "We need to get things corrected in a hurry, because we've got some excellent football teams coming up."

Trailing 19-13 at the half, West Virginia's defense forced three straight punts by the Terps' Brooks Barnard. But the Mountaineers failed to cash in, and instead, a costly interception led to an easy Terrapin score.

Randall Jones' interception and 30-yard return gave the Terps a first down at the WVU 22. Then, on a third-and-17 play from the 29, Maryland wide receiver Gullian Gary outfought cornerback Lance Frazier for the ball and raced into the end zone, giving the Terps a 25-13 lead.

But West Virginia answered immediately with Shawn Terry's 100-yard kickoff return with just 24 seconds remaining in the third period. This made it 25-20 and it appeared WVU had the momentum.

But the Terps responded with their most impressive drive of the game, a nine-play, 81-yard march that was highlighted by tailback Bruce Perry's running. Perry carried the ball five times for 45 yards during the drive and also caught a screen pass for a 19-yard gain. Quarterback Shawn Hill's 1-yard sneak capped the drive.

"They went to an unbalanced line and just pounded it at us," WVU linebacker Kyle Kayden said. "We never really adjusted to what they were doing.

"It was disappointing, because we had stopped them for the most part up until then."

West Virginia entered the red zone two more times, but came up empty, dooming the Mountaineers to their second defeat.

After forcing the Terrapins to punt on their first possession, the Mountaineers promptly drove from their own 13 to the Terrapin 9.

But Avon Cobourne was dropped for a 4-yard loss on first down and two plays later, strong safety Tony Jackson intercepted a Brad Lewis pass in the endzone to snuff out the WVU scoring threat.

Later in the quarter, Maryland pieced together a six-play, 56-yard drive that was capped by reserve tailback Mark Riley's three-yard run. This gave the Terps a 7-0 lead with 3:55 remaining in the period.

West Virginia, thanks to a pair of 15-yard penalties against the Terps, came right back with a 10-play, 71-yard march capped by Brendan Rauh's 27-yard field goal.

The Terrapins responded with an impressive drive of their own, marching 80 yards in nine plays to take a 13-3 lead. Shaun Hill's 32-yard pass to Scooter Monroe highlighted the march which was capped by Perry's 6-yard run. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving the Maryland lead at 13-3.

Rauh hit another three-pointer on WVU's nex possession to make it 13-6.

West Virginia finally caught the Terrapins late in the second period, only to squander it right back.

First, the Mountaineers drove 74 yards in 11 plays and scored when Lewis hit Phil Braxton for an 11-yard touchdown. But after a spirited defensive stand by WVU and ensuing punt, Lewis fumbled while attempting to pass and linebacker Mike Whaley returned it 52 yards for a touchdown to give the Terps a 19-13 lead at the intermission.

Lewis completed 31 of 52 passes for 279 yards, but was intercepted four times. Cobourne rushed for 128 yards on 31 carries, but did not dent the end zone for the first time this year.

Perry, the nation's leading rusher, carried 31 times for 153 yards. Hill hit on just 13 of 32 passes for 192 yards, but did not throw an interception.

"They turned it over six times and we didn't," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "That's six more possessions we got and we should have had more points...It should have been a rout. They did a very good job to stay in the game."

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com

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