By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia continued its free fall from college football’s elite Saturday as Maryland, a team the Mountaineers had dominated through seven straight victories, not only beat them but shut them out, 37-0.
It had been more than a decade since the Mountaineers had been shut out, that coming on Oct. 6, 2001, in Rich Rodriguez’s first year as coach, 35-0 to Virginia Tech. WVU had scored in 151 consecutive game until this game.
The loss was West Virginia’s ninth in its last 13 games with the victories coming only against Kansas, Iowa State, William & Mary and Georgia State.
Playing amateurishly on offense in a professional stadium in Baltimore behind redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress, WVU managed just 175 total yards while turning the ball over six times, the turnovers leading directly to 24 of Maryland’s points.
Childress’ numbers were difficult to imagine in a Dana Holgorsen offense, completing 11 of 22 passes, just one of them to a wide receiver, for just 62 passing yards.
“Obviously, we have to go back and try to figure out what we’re good at offensively,” Holgorsen said. “Obviously, today we’re not good at anything. It’s 100 percent on me.”
The offense was so bad that Holgorsen would not allow them to talk with the media following the game.
Childress will remain WVU’s quarterback.
“We made the decision he’s going to be our guy, and he is going to be our guy,” Holgorsen said.
This puts an end to non-conference play for the season, and now WVU dives into Big 12 play and it doesn’t get any tougher than next week, when Oklahoma State, the conference’s top team, comes to Milan Puskar Stadium for a noon game.
Oh, yeah, they come in after a week off to prepare.
It was obvious right from the start that West Virginia did not belong on the same field with Maryland.
Oh, the Mountaineer defense did some big-time hitting, banging around receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long through much of the half. Safety Darwin Cook made some big plays, corner Travis Bell crushed Long, linebacker Doug Rigg shook off the effects of concussion to make a huge hit on the goal line.
But when the half ended there were 30 Maryland points on the board, almost all of them at expense not of the WVU defense but of the offense.
Childress reverted to being a freshman, completing just seven of 16 passes, and tossed two interceptions, one of which was run back for a score and the second of which set up the Terps in the shadow of the WVU end zone.
In truth, this was almost like a freshman team facing a seasoned varsity, for the mistakes came one upon another.
It started with the defense stuffing Maryland early, forcing a punt, only to have Ronald Carswell, the return man, let it bounce off him with Maryland recovering.
Wasn’t long before Maryland was parlaying that into a TD, C.J. Brown to Dave Stinebaugh off a deflection. The deflection would tend you cuss WVU’s luck, except by this moment you already knew luck would have nothing to do with this outcome.
WVU took the kickoff and completed a quick touchdown pass … the touchdown, unfortunately, belonging to the Terps as cornerback A.J. Hendy laid in the bushes waiting for Childress to make a freshman mistake.
He obliged as Hendy stepped in and intercepted, going untouched 28 yards into the end zone, and it was 14-0.
There really isn’t much to say about the second quarter as Maryland just completely dominated, getting three field goals from steady Brad Craddock, one of them from 50 yards away.
That advanced Maryland’s advantage to 23-0, which would have been good enough, but Childress was in a most charitable mood in the closing seconds, Childress tried to come off his goal line flinging, only to have linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil not only bat the pass up into the air but then make an acrobatic interception as he was falling over backward.
Did we mention it was on the WVU 6?
A couple of plays later, one of them Rigg’s big-time goal line stop, Brown sneaked into the end zone to make it 30-0.
West Virginia would have like to have sneaked into the locker room but they had to parade off the field before a rather hostile crowd.
The second half turned into a comedy of errors as Maryland was content to be conservative and WVU kept fumbling the ball away, turning it over three times via fumble.
There was only one real flash of life and that came long after the issue was settled at 37-0, Dreamius Smith breaking loose for a 51-yard gain that looked like it might set up a score.
It didn’t take long to revert to what had been happening, Childress caught in a pass rush and trying to improvise by flipping to Charles Sims. Sims was not expecting the lateral, had it bounce off his chest and into the waiting arms of Hendy, who had his third turnover.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.