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by Chris Errington
MORGANTOWN -- These are desperate times for West Virginia University's football team.
Following a disheartening season-opening loss to Ohio State a week ago, the Mountaineers are questioning themselves both offensively and defensively, are searching for leaders and, most importantly, are in dire need of a victory against Maryland on Saturday.
"This is a must win," inside linebacker Mark Plants said.
"I don't know what kind of team Maryland will show up with, but I definitely know what Mountaineer team has to show up."
In order to get its first win, WVU must revamp a defense that gave up a Mountaineer Field-record 549 yards to Ohio State and make corrections to a new-look, four-wide receiver set that caused more problems for itself than it did for the Buckeyes.
"Ohio State beat us physically, but we mostly beat ourselves," quarterback Marc Bulger said.
"We'll still use that (offensive) set, but we need to get everyone on the right page to make it work."
Bulger was referring to the numerous mistakes and general inconsistency against Ohio State that led to just 17 points and a seven-carry, negative-three yard second half for star running back Amos Zereoue.
Bulger said a WVU win Saturday is a must, but more importantly it must be a quick, decisive win.
"We can't go out there and have another shootout with Maryland like we did last week," Bulger said. "A big win would really help us mentally."
Despite the offensive problems, receiver Shawn Foreman said using the formation for the first time against the No. 1 team in the nation was not a mistake and that all will be corrected by Saturday.
"It didn't work as well as we wanted, and now we just want to clean up our mistakes," Foreman said.
"We need to give Amos the ball at least 30 times and with the extra week of practice, I think things will be a lot better when we play Maryland.
"The Ohio State game hurt us, but not nearly as bad as a loss to Maryland would."
Defensively, the adjustments are much tougher.
A paper-thin unit was further depleted with losses to rush linebacker Gary Stills, who will be out for four-to-six weeks with a cracked kneecap, and freshman cornerback Ricky Sherrod, who's lost for the season with torn knee ligaments.
Add to that a line that was pushed all over Mountaineer Field, a linebacker corps that often looked confused and a secondary that was burned for 301 yards and two touchdowns and it's obvious defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap has much work to do.
"We played bad, but not as bad as everyone thought," defensive lineman John Thornton said. "We know we've got work to do, but I think we'll be all right."
Freshman Mark Thurston will take over for Stills at outside linebacker, while fellow freshman Osa Nosa could see his first substantial playing time on the defensive line this week.