No. 5 West Virginia 45, Maryland 24

Friday, September 15th 2006, 8:51 am
By: News On 6

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) _ Steve Slaton and No. 5 West Virginia are making a habit out of putting opponents away early.

The Mountaineers scored 28 unanswered points in the first quarter and breezed to a 45-24 win over Maryland on Thursday night, leaving Terps coach Ralph Friedgen to wonder whether his players were in awe of playing a Top 5 opponent on a national stage.

Slaton ran for 195 yards, including 167 yards and two touchdowns in the first half when the Mountaineers surged to a 38-10 halftime lead.

West Virginia (3-0) has outscored opponents 139-37, including 94-20 in the first half.

``We have to jump on a team early to let them know that they are in a fight,'' Slaton said. ``It was supposed to be a big test and I think I did well.''

Maryland, which had wins over Division I-AA William & Mary and unheralded Middle Tennessee State, watched the Mountaineers compile more than 300 yards rushing for the third straight game.

With scouts from the Orange and Fiesta bowls and 15 NFL teams in attendance, West Virginia beat Maryland (2-1) for the third straight year, the first time that has happened since 1996-98. The teams have met every year since 1980.

``A lot of the kids were star struck between the hype and the national television. It happens,'' Friedgen said. ``They need to get over that.''

Slaton scored twice in the opening quarter of his first career action against Maryland, the school that offered him a scholarship, then withdrew it because Friedgen felt he already had enough running backs.

``He's a great player. What more can I say?'' Friedgen said. ``He's got great speed. He's a fine young man and I hope he wins the Heisman.''

Slaton, who has 503 yards this season, used Maryland's snub as incentive.

He had 149 yards against the Terrapins in the first quarter when West Virginia scored on all four possessions.

``I had a lot of motivation to get positive yards every carry. I think I came out and made a statement,'' said Slaton, who has exceeded 100 yards in the first half in all three games this season, the first two against Marshall and Eastern Washington.

Slaton had early TD runs of 38 and 37 yards Thursday night.

Pat White threw for a TD and ran for another while Darius Reynaud scored twice, including a 96-yard kickoff return, for the Mountaineers, who extended their winning streak to 10 games, second in the nation to TCU's 12 in a row.

West Virginia's young defense, pressed to force more turnovers, also delivered, finishing with five takeaways. Maryland's Sam Hollenbach was intercepted twice and the Terrapins fumbled the ball away three times, twice by Josh Wilson on kickoffs.

After Slaton's early TD runs, a fumble recovery on a kickoff set up Reynaud's 5-yard scoring catch from White and Jay Henry's interception led to another first-quarter score.

Slaton ran 52 yards to the Maryland 2. He fumbled on the next play, but tight end Brad Palmer pounced on the rolling ball just before it went out of the end zone for his first career touchdown and a 28-0 lead.

The 28 points were the most allowed in a quarter under Friedgen, the Terps' sixth-year coach.

``That's not the greatest way to start the game off,'' Friedgen said. ``Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.''

Including letting Slaton slip away.

``It's frustrating. We prepared all week and we know what's going to happen and we just couldn't get it done,'' Friedgen said.

West Virginia now heads on the road for four of its next five games.

``I just want to win,'' West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. ``Everybody's worried about scores, but if you get the wins, the rest will take care of itself.''