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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Steve Slaton ran for 137 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns and Noel Devine added 136 yards on just five carries to lead No. 4 West Virginia to an 31-14 win over the Maryland Terrapins Thursday night at Chevy Chase Field at Byrd Stadium.
For the second straight week West Virginia shook off a slow start in the first half to dominate its opponent in the second half -- this time outscoring Maryland 14-0 in the third quarter to earn a hard-fought victory.
"We knew we were going to go into a tough environment and take a great shot from them and I think we did," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We were disappointed at halftime with our offensive execution; we thought we had some things but it was just a mistake here and a mistake there.
"We were confident because we had the ball first (in the second half) and that was important for us to get that first drive in there and we were able to do that," Rodriguez said.
The Mountaineers took their opening possession of the second half and capped a nine-play, 63-yard drive with a 1-yard Slaton touchdown run to give the Gold and Blue a 21-7 cushion. The key play came on a Devine 31-yard run to the Maryland one, making a pair of Terp defenders collide in the secondary as he juked past them.
West Virginia went back to work later in the quarter, taking just two plays to cover 77 yards and increase the lead to 28-7. Devine set up the score again, taking an inside handoff and racing 76 yards all the way to the one. Slaton again finished off the drive for his third touchdown.
"I thought we did a pretty good job of containing them. The problem with those guys is you make one step out of position they are going to make a big play. You almost have to be perfect and I thought for a lot of the time we were perfect," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Johnny Dingle recovered a Maryland fumble on the very first play from scrimmage and that set up the Mountaineers' first score. Two plays later Patrick White raced 22 yards into the end zone a zone-read play to give the Mountaineers the early 7-0 lead.
Maryland responded to even the score at 7-7 on an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by Keon Lattimore's four-yard run with 9:53 to play in the first half.
The key sequence of the first half came after West Virginia’s Pat McAfee missed a 22-yard field goal with 9:50 to play in the second quarter. The field goal was missed after the Mountaineers failed to get in the end zone despite having first and goal at the two yard line. Two Schmitt and Slaton runs covered 63 yards to the Maryland two; Schmitt's 44-yard burst came right up the middle of the Maryland defense.
West Virginia's defense responded by holding Maryland three and out and putting together a seven-play 78-yard drive capped by a 23-yard run by Slaton to take a 14-7 lead. The drive stayed alive on a crucial pass interference call that converted third and 11 for West Virginia.
The Mountaineer defense forced Maryland into three first-half turnovers, and held the Terps to just 143 first half yards. Eric Wicks corraled two interceptions including quarterback Jordan Steffy’s desperation heave to the end zone as time expired.
"I thought we were running the ball pretty consistently the whole game, we'd just make a mistake here or there and Pat wasn't as sharp as he normally is in the first half. He calmed down in the second half and just let the offense kind flow like it's supposed to."
West Virginia produced 448 yards of total offense against Maryland’s seventh-ranked defense -- 353 of which came via the ground.
"I thought our up front people played better than they did against them last year. I thought for many times we were controlling the line of scrimmage but when one guy gets cut or gets blocked all of the sudden a seam opens up and when they get into it it's not a five-yard gain - they can go 60.
"That's why they're the fourth-ranked team in the nation."
The Mountaineer defense easily had its best performance of the season, holding Maryland to just 269 total yards after giving up 115 in the first quarter. The Terrapins converted just 5 of 13 third down attempts.
"We need a little more speed," said Friedgen. "I think we've improved our speed since we've been here but they've got four guys ... the little kid they put in there he can run also."
West Virginia has outscored its opponents 93-27 in the second half so far this year, wearing opponents out in the third and fourth quarters.
The Mountaineers have won four games in a row against Maryland for the first time ever and now hold a 23-21-2 advantage in the all-time series. The series will now take a two-year hiatus before the Terrapins return to Morgantown in 2010.
West Virginia (3-0) has eight days off before playing host to East Carolina at Milan Puskar Stadium on Sept. 22. Kick off is set for noon and the game will be televised nationally by either ESPN or ESPN2.
WVU - WHITE, Patrick 22 yd run (MCAFEE, Pat kick)
MD - Keon Lattimore 4 yd run (Obi Egekeze kick)
WVU - SLATON, Steve 22 yd run (MCAFEE, Pat kick)
WVU - SLATON, Steve 1 yd run (MCAFEE, Pat kick)
WVU - SLATON, Steve 1 yd run (MCAFEE, Pat kick)
WVU - MCAFEE, Pat 32 yd field goal
MD - Danny Oquendo 22 yd pass from Jordan Steffy (Obi Egekeze kick)
RUSHING: West Virginia-SLATON, Steve 26-137; DEVINE, Noel 5-136; SCHMITT, Owen 4-46; WHITE, Patrick 11-22; SANDERS, Jock 2-12. Maryland-Keon Lattimore 21-80; Lance Ball 6-19; Darrius Heyward-Bey 1-minus 3; Jordan Steffy 11-minus 7.
PASSING: West Virginia-WHITE, Patrick 8-13-0-95. Maryland-Jordan Steffy 16-23-2-180; Keon Lattimore 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: West Virginia-REYNAUD, Darius 4-55; JALLOH, Dorrell 1-21; SLATON, Steve 1-10; GONZALES, Tito 1-8; DEVINE, Noel 1-1. Maryland-Keon Lattimore 4-17; Darrius Heyward-Bey 3-56; Danny Oquendo 3-55; Joey Haynos 2-17; Cory Jackson 2-13; Dan Gronkowski 1-12; Isaiah Williams 1-10.