Despite three first half touchdowns from Leddie Brown, the West Virginia Mountaineers started the 2021 season exactly where they left off when we last saw them in the 2020 Liberty Bowl — in desperate need of a quarterback that can control the game.
The Mountaineers (0-1) fell to the Maryland Terrapins (1-0) in College Park on Saturday afternoon, 30-24, after a late fourth quarter touchdown pass by Taulia Tagovailoa put the Terps in control.
West Virginia won the toss but elected to defer to the second half, allowing Tagovailoa to engineer a nine play, 47-yard drive that ended with a 45-yard field goal attempt to put the Terps up 3-0 early.
The Mountaineers appeared to start hot, capping off their first drive of the game with a 20-yard reception by Leddie Brown, but the writing was on the wall on the ensuing drive as West Virginia struggled to contain Maryland’s up-tempo offense. Tagovailoa capitalized on the miscues as Dontay Demus blew past redshirt freshman cornerback Daryl Porter Jr. for a 66-yard touchdown to put Maryland up 10-7 midway through the first quarter.
Maryland would force the Mountaineers to punt on their next outing, and Tagovailoa made them pay one more time with another touchdown pass to go up 17-7.
West Virginia showed signs of life when Winston Wright returned the following kickoff 98-yards before getting knocked out of bounds, allowing Brown to take it in for his second touchdown of the afternoon on a two yard run up the middle to narrow the score to 17-14 as the first quarter came to a close.
The Mountaineer defense began to figure out how to slow down the Terps offense, and forced a punt in the opening minute of the second quarter. West Virginia took over on their own 45-yard line, and put together another drive that ended in a nine-yard touchdown by Brown to put the Mountaineers on top 21-17, but this is where things began to unravel for Neal Brown’s offense.
Jarret Doege threw his first of two interceptions on the very next Mountaineer drive, when he scrambled out of the pocket and threw a dart right into the waiting arms of Nick Cross. The Terps were unable to capitalize on the mistake, but would end up later cutting the score to 21-20 with a chip shot field goal in the closing minute of the half, a score that held through the entirety of the third quarter.
Maryland would go on to take a 23-21 lead with another field goal on their first drive of the fourth quarter.
Winston Wright nearly took another kickoff to the house, but stepped on the sideline at the 45-yard line to give the Mountaineers good field position and a shot to take the lead back. Doege followed up by finding Sam James open on the right side for a 39-yard pass, putting West Virginia in the redzone.
On the next play from scrimmage, Doege took a step back and threw a fade route intended for Sam James in the left side of the endzone, but Terrapins defensive back Jakorian Bennett saw the play developing and peeled off of Bryce Ford-Wheaton to intercept the pass.
Tagovailoa would go on to find Rakim Jarret five plays later on a 66-yard touchdown pass to extend the Terps lead to 30-21.
West Virginia had a chance to close the lead on the next drive, with six minutes remaining in the game, but several incomplete passes by Doege would force the Mountaineers to settle for a 23-yard chip shot from Casey Legg to give us our final score.
Doege finished his day 24-of-40 passing for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Winston Wright led the Mountaineers in receptions with six for 42 yards, while Sam James finished with five for 58 yards. Leddie Brown ended his day with 73 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on 17 attempts, and added 43 yards and one touchdown on four receptions.
West Virginia returns to action when they take on the Long Island Sharks (0-1) in Morgantown next Saturday. That game will kick off at 5:00PM ET and will be broadcast exclusively on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.