COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Unbeaten after three games for the first time since 2001, Maryland can match its win total of last season with a victory over West Virginia on Saturday in Baltimore.
It won't be easy. The Mountaineers (2-1) have won seven straight in this border rivalry and should provide the Terrapins their toughest challenge to date.
"They're a good team, they're going to come out and make plays," Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said. "They're a force."
Maryland, however, is playing with a confidence befitting the only 3-0 team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"The players believe in themselves, they believe in the all the things that we're doing," coach Randy Edsall said. "It's a good confidence we have; it's not one that's overinflated because they're mature enough to see that we still haven't even come close to playing our best game."
Last week against Connecticut, the Terrapins were good enough to win despite committing three turnovers and twice failing to convert fourth-down tries in the first quarter.
Maryland rallied to win 32-21 behind Brown, who ran for 122 yards and a touchdown and also passed for 277 yards and a score.
"The biggest thing is we didn't get rattled as a team," Brown said. "We didn't play our best, but to go out there the way we did and bounce back after those turnovers, it was huge."
The Terrapins must play the rest of the season without senior cornerback Dexter McDougle, who had two interceptions against Connecticut and returning one for a touchdown. But he injured his shoulder in the game and underwent surgery Monday.
Maryland is poised to push ahead without him. After losing four quarterbacks to injury last season, the Terrapins can probably deal with anything.
This is Edsall's third season at Maryland, and it appears he's finally got a team capable of making noise in the ACC. Coming off 2-10 and 4-8 seasons, the Terrapins brushed aside Florida International and Old Dominion before taking care of business at UConn in their first road game of the season.
The last time Maryland started 3-0, it won the ACC title. No one is predicting such success just yet for this team, but a victory over West Virginia would go a long way toward proving this squad is at least bowl worthy.
"It's definitely going to take away some doubts," linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil said.
Maryland's fast start has created a buzz that usually doesn't take hold until basketball season.
"There's a lot of excitement on this campus," Cudjoe-Virgil said. "Previously things weren't going so well, but now we're 3-0 there's a lot of talk. I go to class and people are saying, 'Good game. You guys are doing well.' So I think the school is kind of coming together a little bit."
There's no telling how elated the players and fans would be if the Terrapins top the Mountaineers.
"Anytime you go 4-0 and undefeated in the first third of the season, it's good for the team and the program," tight end Dave Stinebaugh said. "It's not like we're playing perfect games, but we're working on things and getting better."
After two straight miserable seasons, the players are finally seeing the results in the form of victories.
"It's definitely nice to know the blood, sweat and tears have paid off in the first three games," Stinebaugh said. "But we're not happy or satisfied with where we're at. We're trying to get better and get that next win."