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Thursday Football

Thursday Football

(4) West Virginia (2-0) at Maryland (2-0)
From The Sports Network

GAME NOTES: A pair of unbeaten teams collide in College Park this Thursday, as the fourth-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers take on the upset-minded Maryland Terrapins. As expected, the Mountaineers enter the contest undefeated thanks to a pair of victories over Western Michigan (62-24) and most recently Marshall (48-23). WVU has now won 37 of its last 43 regular season games, including nine straight versus non-conference opponents. As for Maryland, it is also in search of a 3-0 start following back-to-back wins over Villanova (31-14) and Florida International (26-10). The Terps, who have won six of their last seven home games, haven't defeated a top-five opponent since posting a 20-17 home triumph over then fifth-ranked Florida State in 2004. Thursday's game marks the 46th all-time meeting between West Virginia and Maryland on the gridiron, with the Mountaineers holding a narrow 22-21-2 edge. The Mountaineers have won the last three meetings with the Terps, including a 45-28 triumph last season in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers scored just six points in the first half of last weekend's game versus Marshall, but as all good teams do, they rebounded and scored 42 points over the final two periods to capture the victory. The team rolled up 511 yards of total offense in the game, including an impressive 362 yards on the ground. It was a solid follow up to its season opener, when WVU racked up 316 rushing yards and 226 passing in a lopsided win over Western Michigan. Leading the way last weekend, once gain, was the dynamic duo of tailback Steve Slaton and quarterback Patrick White. Slaton rushed for 146 yards and two scores on 24 carries against Marshall, while White posted 125 yards and a touchdown on 17 totes. White also threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 13- of-18 pass attempts. Two of the premier players in the nation, Slaton and White combined for 206 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns in the team's opener. One player that has been overlooked a bit by the tandem is wide out Darius Reynaud, who has quietly put together back-to-back solid performances. After catching five balls for 92 yards in the team's opener, Reynaud hauled in nine passes for 134 yards and a pair of scores last weekend.

WVU's defense has given up a few too many points in each of its first two games, but the unit has done a solid job overall. After holding Western Michigan to just 277 total yards in their opener, the Mountaineers surrendered 387 yards to Marshall last weekend. The unit has shown some weakness against the pass, giving up 511 passing yards this season, but it has done well to limit its opponents to just 153 rushing yards in two games. The defense recorded just one turnovers against Marshall, but made up for it by posting four sacks. Reed Williams guided the defense with 15 tackles and a forced fumble, while Ryan Mundy added eight stops and fumble recovery in last weekend's win.

After racking up 428 total yards of offense in their opener versus Villanova, the Terps were slowed down a bit by FIU last weekend, gaining just 270 yards. The unit posted 135 yards on the ground last weekend and while that is solid, it isn't exactly the same as the 221 yards it gained versus Villanova. Keon Lattimore headed the charge this past weekend, rushing for 111 yards and two scores on 17 carries. It was the second straight strong effort by Lattimore, who gained 106 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in the team's opener. Quarterback Jordan Steffy has yet to throw a touchdown pass through the first two games, but he has completed 75.5 percent of his tosses thus far. Last weekend, Steffy threw for 135 yards on 18-of-25 pass attempts. His main target thus far has been Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has 10 catches for 129 yards on the year.

Defensively, the Terps simply shutdown FIU last weekend, surrendering a mere 163 yards of total offense. Maryland, which gave up only 187 total yards to Villanova, including a measly 11 on the ground, held FIU to 82 rushing yards and just eight first downs. The unit also recorded three turnovers, while allowing FIU to convert just 1-of-10 third down attempts. Erin Henderson led the way for Maryland with 12 tackles and that was a nice follow up to his nine- stop season-opening performance. Kevin Barnes also came up with an interception for the second time in as many games.

Maryland has had a solid start to the season, but it has yet to face an opponent like this. WVU is one the most explosive teams around and with another big time performance from the duo of Slaton and White, it should be able to run away this one.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 38, Maryland 14

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Re: Thursday Football

T-C-U (1-1) at Air Force (2-0)
The Sports Network 

FACTS & STATS: Site: Falcon Stadium (46,692) -- Colorado Springs, Colorado. Television:CSTV. Home Record: TCU 1-0, Air Force 1-0. Away Record: TCU 0-1, Air Force 1-0. Neutral Record: TCU 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Conference Record: TCU 0-0, Air Force 1-0. Series Record: TCU leads, 4-1-1.

GAME NOTES: The TCU Horned Frogs open up the Mountain West Conference portion of their schedule this Thursday, as they take on the Air Force Falcons in Colorado Springs. The Frogs enter the contest on a down note, as they dropped a 34-13 decision at nationally-ranked Texas last weekend. The loss not only snapped the team's nine-game winning streak, but it also dropped it out of the top-25 rankings. TCU, however, now turns its focus to MWC play, where it has gone 14-2 in its opening two years of conference action. As for Air Force, it opened its MWC schedule last weekend, posting a 20-12 triumph at Utah. It was the eighth straight win in MWC openers by the Falcons, who are off to their first 2-0 start since 2005. The team, unfortunately, has not fared well in Thursday night games over the years, going just 2-8 all-time. As far as the all-time series is concerned, TCU owns a 4-1-1 advantage over Air Fore. The Frogs have won each of the past four meetings, including a 38-14 triumph last season.

TCU failed to score an offense touchdown last weekend and it was held to just 251 total yards by a stingy Texas defense. The offense, which posted 386 total yards in its opening win versus Baylor, also had trouble hanging onto the ball last weekend, committing four costly turnovers. Ryan Christian got the start at tailback, but he rushed for just 41 yards on 10 totes. Christian was replacing Aaron Brown, who missed the game with an injury suffered in the team's opener. Brown, the preseason MWC Offensive Player of the Year, is expected back in the lineup for this game and that is good news for this offense, which rushed for just 43 yards on 32 carries last weekend. Quarterback Andy Dalton was under heavy pressure by the Texas defense this past Saturday and he threw for 208 yards and an interception on 23-of-37 pass attempts. Dalton, a redshirt freshman, threw for 205 yards and a score in his first career start versus Baylor and big things are expected from this talented gun slinger despite last weekend's performance.

On the defensive side of the ball is where TCU's strength lies and although it was beat 34-13 last weekend, this unit actually played well. As a matter of fact, a pair of interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, is what gave TCU a 10-0 halftime lead over Texas. The Frogs, however, were eventually worn down by a bigger Texas team, which benefited from several turnovers by the TCU offense. Still, after surrendering just 282 yards to Baylor, the Frogs were burnt for 415 yards by Texas. On a positive note, TCU's two interceptions last weekend ran its season total to six. Brian Bonner paced the defense in defeat with 11 tackles, while Jason Phillips posted two TFLs.

The Falcons' option attack was on display this past weekend, as they racked up 334 of their 390 total yards on the ground in a 20-12 victory over Utah. It was a second straight solid showing by Air Force, which rushed for 279 yards in its season-opening win over South Carolina State. Quarterback Shaun Carney led the charge, as he rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries, while also throwing for 56 yards on 8-of-14 pass attempts. Carney, who threw for 176 yards and a score in the team's opener, is averaging 6.0 yards per carry this season. Chad Hall posted 74 rushing yards on 11 carries last weekend and that was a solid improvement from his 21-yard effort in the squad's first game. As a team, the Falcons are averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per carry through two games.

With an eight-point lead and just over a minute left to play, the Falcons' defense stepped up big time, stopping Utah twice on the one-yard line to preserve the 20-12 victory. The defense, which allowed just 160 total yards in its opener to South Carolina State, gave up 313 yards to Utah, but intercepted a couple of big passes. The squad also posted a pair of sacks and that gives it eight for the season. Drew Flower was tremendous in the victory, recording a team-best 14 stops.

Despite their performance last weekend, the Frogs are one of the better teams and they will surely display that as the season goes on. TCU, behind its stingy defense, should be able to slow down Air Force's ground attack while racking up its own yards on the ground en route to the victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: TCU 31, Air Force 17

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Re: Thursday Football

New Air Force? Horned Frogs know better
September 13, 2007

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -A new flight plan at Air Force? TCU coach Gary Patterson isn't buying it.

He's telling his Horned Frogs not to fall into the trap of believing that new Falcons coach Troy Calhoun abandoned the old triple option offense after he replaced Fisher DeBerry, who stepped down last winter after 23 years at the academy.

``For one thing, I don't think he was completely honest when he said that Air Force will throw the ball more this season,'' Patterson said. ``I think they ran the triple option as much as they ever have. They still run it, no matter what they say.''

After all, the Falcons (2-0) ran the ball 63 times for 334 yards in their 20-12 win over Utah last week and quarterback Shaun Carney passed just 14 times, completing eight of them for a mere 54 yards.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he saw absolutely no difference in this year's Air Force team.

``Different formations, same stuff. They're going to beat you with what they've always hung their hat on - the double and triple option. It's just coming from different formations, but it's the same attack,'' Whittingham said.

Preparing for the triple option on a short week is not a recipe Patterson relishes, either.

``If you ask any defensive coach, they'd like to have three months to prepare for the triple option,'' Patterson said. ``If you don't make it second-and-long, it's a long day against the triple option.''

Patterson, who is 9-0 against service academies at TCU with only one of those wins by fewer than two touchdowns, was scheming for Air Force even before the Horned Frogs' 34-13 loss at Texas on Saturday that got them knocked out of the Top 25.

Patterson called this the toughest task for TCU (1-1) in the last three years.

``They're actually more difficult to defend now than they used to be because they do everything else conventional, plus they do the triple option,'' Patterson said. ``To try to get ready for them on a short week is unbelievable.''

This doesn't sound like the coach of a team that harbored hopes only a week ago of catapulting itself into this season's ``BCS Busters'' role as the team that would force its way into a Bowl Championship Series game.

The Horned Frogs looked every bit the spoilers they fancied themselves when they took a 10-0 lead into the third quarter in Austin only to fall apart in a bitter loss that ended a five-game winning streak over Big 12 teams.

``It hurts real bad,'' TCU linebacker David Hawthorne said. ``When you have a chance to beat a team like Texas and let it slip away, it hurts a little harder.''

At least with the short turnaround with playing Air Force on Thursday night, the Horned Frogs didn't have much time to dwell on their disappointment.

The Horned Frogs, however, might be without starting tailback Aaron Brown (knee) for the second straight game.

``That's the other thing that's a problem with a Thursday game,'' Patterson said. ``I would have said yes if it was a Saturday. I don't know if it's a Thursday.''

If Brown can't go, Justin Watts and Ryan Christian will share the rushing duties.

The Falcons are preparing as if Brown will be in the backfield.

``You have to,'' Calhoun said. ``Whether that happens or not, you won't know until you watch pregame. You have to game plan for him.''

The Falcons' best rusher last year, Chad Hall, was moved to wide receiver when Calhoun installed his offense, but the senior has actually run 15 times for 95 yards and caught five passes for 45 yards so far.

That's a byproduct of senior Kip McCarthy's balky knee but maybe also serves as further evidence that Air Force is more of the same.

McCarthy started against Utah and gained 62 yards on 13 carries but didn't finish the game and suggested this week that maybe he should skip a game. Calhoun said senior Jim Ollis and freshman Savier Stephens would share most of the tailback load if McCarthy is out.

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Re: Thursday Football

Embarrassed Terps seek revenge against No. 4 West Virginia
September 12, 2007

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -Falling behind 28-0 in the first quarter and losing by double digits was bad enough. The repercussions from Maryland's humbling performance at West Virginia lasted all the way into January, and the Terrapins still haven't gotten over it.

Maryland beat Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl to finish 9-4 in 2006, but the Terps never could overcome the stigma of that 45-27 whipping the Mountaineers administered in September before a national television audience.

``That hurt us quite a bit at the end of last year. I really thought we were deserving of being at least in the Top 25,'' Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. ``That didn't happen.''

The rematch is Thursday night at Maryland. The teams won't meet again until 2010, so this will be the Terrapins' last chance this decade to get even with the fourth-ranked Mountaineers (2-0), who lead the series 22-21-2.

``I think we went up there, had some stage fright and then some bad things happened to us,'' Friedgen said. ``I'm hoping it's had an effect on our players. I'll tell you this: It's had an effect on me. I'm working as hard as I've ever worked to have our kids ready to play in this game.''

Friedgen, a Maryland alum, fondly remembers the Terrapins-Mountaineers rivalry from his playing days. As a coach, he won his first four games against West Virginia but has lost the last three.

``It's always been a very intense rivalry; a very physical ballgame,'' Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez said. ``I think it's been great for both fans because it's so close. It seems like it's always sold out whether we're at their place or they are at our place. I think it's been a great series.''

The difference last year was Maryland turnovers and the play of West Virginia running back Steve Slaton, who ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Friedgen had a chance to bring Slaton to Maryland a few years back, but the coach already had too many running backs and withdrew the scholarship offer.

Bad move. Slaton is the centerpiece of an offensive machine that enabled the Mountaineers to go 11-2 last year, and this season he's had two 100-yard rushing games and scored six touchdowns in leading West Virginia to lopsided wins over Western Michigan (62-24) and Marshall (48-23).

``He's had a great career, he's a great kid. I'm happy for him,'' Friedgen said. ``I just don't want to be happy for him Thursday night.''

Maryland (2-0) will seek to sustain the momentum created by early season victories over overmatched Villanova and Florida International. Keon Lattimore rushed for more than 100 yards in each game, and quarterback Jordan Steffy passed just enough to keep the opposing defenses from stacking the line to stop the run.

The defense is ranked first in the Atlantic Coast Conference and seventh nationally, yielding an average of only 175 yards.

``What they are doing is, they are controlling the game,'' Rodriguez said. ``I think their last two opponents had the ball for less than 60 plays. They are getting a lot of three-and-outs. Their offense is staying on the field, and it's hard to score when you don't have the ball.''

West Virginia needs a win to stay in the top five. Maryland is looking to break into the rankings for the first time this season.

``A win would hopefully jump us into the Top 25 and gets us some respect from other teams and other coaches,'' linebacker Erin Henderson said.

But what happens if the Mountaineers again embarrass the Terps?

``That definitely isn't going to happen this time around,'' junior receiver Danny Oquendo said. ``That was the first big game for a lot of us. We have a lot more experience, and we're going to be ready to go this year.''

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Re: Thursday Football

Thursday Night Throwdown

It's a battle of border rivals and between the Big East and ACC when West Virginia heads to Maryland.

West Virginia at Maryland

Time: 7:30
Line: West Virginia by 12.5.

Importance of the game to West Virginia: The Mountaineers did not look great in a nationally televised win over Marshall last Saturday. They could certainly use a nice win over a good Maryland team to cement their place near the top of the polls. Every game is critical for West Virginia, who is hoping to get into the beauty contest that is the race for the BCS National Championship Game. They have not looked great in the first half of either game, and this team may be judged based a lot on how they perform in the first half this week.

Importance of the game to Maryland: The Terrapins may be 2-0, but their wins are over Villanova and Florida International. This is clearly a big step up in competition for the Terps. Maryland was pounded last year by West Virginia, and can earn back a measure of respect for the ACC with a win over the highly ranked Mountaineers this year. If Maryland wants to think of itself as a serious contender in the ACC race, a win over a Big East power would go a long way to making them one of the favorites.

Quote from Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia’s head coach: “We had to do some things to equal the numbers in the run game. They (Marshall) were out-numbering us and we hit a few passes, but our execution was just very poor (in the first half). Some of it was them and some of it was us.”

Quote from Ralph Friedgen, Maryland’s head coach: “I know from when I played that it's always been a rivalry. We're very comparable over a long period of time. There have been some ups and downs, but when you look over a 45-year span, we're pretty even. It's a game I would like to continue playing. I think it's good for programs. It's a border state rivalry. They have tremendous fans and so do we and they like watching us play. I think it's a great game and I think that Rich [Rodriguez] would probably agree with that."

West Virginia offense vs. Maryland defense: West Virginia’s offense has been nearly unstoppable for three years now. Who has contained it? With Pat White at quarterback, this offense is very dangerous. He has completed 64 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions so far this season. He also runs the ball very well, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Steve Slaton also lights it up running the football, averaging 6.4 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns. The offensive line, which was a concern in the preseason, has certainly done the job. Darius Reynaud leads the team in receptions with fourteen, for 16.1 yards per catch and two touchdowns. Maryland’s opponents are averaging just 1.9 yards per rush, while completing less than 50 percent of their passes for 10.3 yards per catch. Those are excellent defensive numbers. Erin Henderson leads the team in tackles with 21. He is the clear leader on the defensive side of the ball. Dre Moore leads the team with two sacks. Kevin Barnes has two interceptions this year. They will have their hands full with Slaton and White, but this team may be the best equipped team to slow them down on their schedule.

West Virginia defense vs. Maryland offense: Jordan Steffy has done everything he has been asked to do so far as the Terps quarterback. He is completing over 75 percent of his passes, but is yet to throw a touchdown. That is largely due to the fact that he is averaging merely 8.3 yards per completion. Darrius Heyward-Bey leads the team with ten catches and 12.9 yards per catch. Keon Lattimore is second on the team in catches with eight, averaging just 4.6 yards per catch. Lattimore is also the team’s leading rusher. He is averaging 5.7 yards per rush and has five touchdowns rushing already this year. West Virginia’s defense has not been really controlling opposing offenses this year. Western Michigan and Marshall both have had some success. Opponents are only averaging 2.4 yards per rush. However, they are completing over 61 percent of their passes for 11.1 yards per catch. Reed Williams leads the team in tackled with 23 and also has one of the team’s two interceptions. Johnny Dingle and Morty Ivy lead the team with two sacks apiece. The Terps offense is not high octane, but merely does what it takes to move the ball and win football games. If West Virginia’s defense does not play well, they will put points on the board.

Prediction: This game could be a lot closer than people are expecting. It is a rivalry game and it at Maryland. West Virginia has the offensive weapons, but they have struggled coming out of the gate each of the last two weeks. Maryland will slow West Virginia down as well as anyone, but the problem is that it is tough to imagine them scoring enough points to win this game. They will stay in it, and maybe even be ahead at halftime, before Slaton and White wear down that Terps defense. West Virginia 38, Maryland 27.

TCU at Air Force (8:00 CSTV): These two teams are both hoping to win the Mountain West, and Air Force got off to a good start by stunning Utah in Salt Lake City a week ago. The Falcons are still unbeaten under new coach, Troy Calhoun. Shaun Carney is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and rushing for 6.0 yards per carry. He is one of the best quarterbacks in Air Force history. Kip McCarthy has also been getting the tough yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Jake Paulson leads the team in sacks, while Drew Fowler leads the team in tackles. Opponents are averaging 2.1 yards per carry, and completing 46 percent of their passes for just 10.6 yards per completion. This is a solid Air Force squad. For TCU, Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback, and he is completing 61 percent of this passes. Ryan Christian leads the team in rushing with 4.3 yards per carry. The defense carries the Horned Frogs, though. David Hawthorne leads the team in tackles, and TCU has intercepted an unbelievable six passes already this season. This game will be won on the defensive side of the ball. It ought to be low scoring and a very close game. TCU wins it, if they can put the disappointing loss to Texas behind them. TCU 14, Air Force 10. 

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