COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) _ There is an air of uncertainty surrounding Maryland, which thus far has provided no evidence that it's capable of defeating an elite opponent on the road.
The Terrapins are 2-0, but their victories _ neither of which was particularly impressive _ were at home against Division I-AA William & Mary and unheralded Middle Tennessee State.
``It's two wins,'' coach Ralph Friedgen asserted Tuesday, ``and I haven't seen a bad one yet.''
The competition gets a whole lot harder Thursday night, when the Terrapins face No. 5 West Virginia on the road. The Mountaineers haven't played anyone of significance either, but they've beaten Marshall and Eastern Washington by a collective 94-13 score.
``I'm (eager) to see where our maturity is, how we handle the environment, handle the situation, how hard we play the game,'' Friedgen said. ``If we could win, it would do tremendous things for our confidence. This team is going to have to win a game like this to develop.''
Although the Terrapins beat William & Mary by 13 points, they were outscored in the second half. Middle Tennessee gained more yards than Maryland and dominated the clock before losing 24-10.
Suffice to say the Terrapins are going to have to lift their level of play if they hope to spring an upset against a West Virginia team that is averaging 538 yards per game, including 353 on the ground.
``We'll find out Thursday night just where we're at,'' Friedgen said. ``Did we play to the level of our opponent, or are we better? I think we're better. In fact, I know we're better. I think sometimes we're tentative. We have to be aggressive, go after it and play the game the way it's meant to be played.''
Can the Terrapins be competitive against some of the finest teams in the nation? The answer could come as soon as Thursday night.
``Going into a game of this magnitude, on a stage of this magnitude, it doesn't get any bigger than this. If you can go on ESPN Thursday Night Football and play against a top-five school and play a (heck) of a game, what can't you do?'' Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson said. ``If we can win, this would mean a lot for our team, which is young. It would be a confidence boost. Then, we would know we can really compete in this nation.''
Wilson shudders to think of the alternative.
``If we don't show any signs of life and go in there scared like a deer in the headlights, then what have we accomplished? Nothing,'' he said. ``It would be a step back from those two games that we won before. We need to go in there with confidence, and play like we know we can play.''
Friedgen has yet to see the Terrapins dominate the opposition, so he has no idea what to expect on Thursday night.
``That's part of coaching,'' he said. ``One of the nice parts of coaching is you see the kids perform, see them grow, and you know you had a part of that. Of course, the disappointing part is when they don't do that.''
Keon Lattimore, Maryland's leading rusher, believes the Terrapins benefited from their first two games and will be in top form against the Mountaineers.
``We didn't open up the whole offensive playbook, but we got some things done,'' he said. ``It's definitely going to test how good we are. If we can come out with this victory, it will definitely show the college football world we can play with a top-ranked team.''