"The Backyard Brawl" against Pitt has broken up, and the "Friends of Coal" series against Marshall seems buried, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen says the Maryland rivalry will continue.
"It’s neighboring states that go way back, and it’s the one existing (nonleague) game that’s going to continue to be played," Holgorsen said Monday.
Maryland (2-1), is coming off a 24-21 home loss to UConn, visits WVU on Saturday. The Terps’ wins came over FCE member William & Mary (7-6) and Temple (36-27).
"We’re wanting to play regional games, so this is one that’s going to remain on the schedule because it does have so much meaning," Holgorsen said. "We go up against Maryland in recruiting a lot, so there’s a lot of familiarity between the two programs and it’s going to continue to exist."
West Virginia leads the series 25-21-2, including six straight wins dating back to 2004. The teams have met every season since 1980 with the two-year exception of 2008-09.
Holgorsen’s offensive system seems to be meshing incredibly well with Geno Smith’s skills. The senior has completed 66-of-75 passes for nine touchdowns and no interceptions through the Mountaineers’ 2-0 start.
"I haven’t personally been around a guy who’s had those stats after the first two games, but it’s obviously going to get harder," Holgorsen said.
"It’s going to get tougher this week. If he can continue to play like that against better competition … then, yeah, it’s something special."
The nuances of Smith’s development within the scheme have enthused Holgorsen as much as his quarterback’s astronomical completion percentage.
"He’s obviously doing a good job taking care of the ball, which is what we stress more than anything," Holgorsen said. "He’s making good decisions in the pass game.
"He’s preventing some sacks, which (means) we’ve got to do a little better job upfront protecting him, because he’s getting us out of some situations that are going to be harder to get out of (later in the season)."
Because Smith has 83 rushing yards on 10 carries so far, there’s an inevitable rush to label him with a dual-threat tag — something the WVU staff, and Smith himself, lovingly mock.
"He’s getting rushing yards because he’s doing a good job of getting out of bad situations in the pocket and extending the play," the coach said. "The best I’ve ever seen at that was Casey Keenum — he had eyes in the back of his head.
"Geno’s not getting caught with the ball. He has gotten out of five or six situations that were potential sacks. Sometimes he extends it by dumping it to the backs in the flat, but if there’s nobody there, he’s doing a good job of tucking the ball and getting upfield to get us the first down."