Slaton, No. 5 Mountaineers roll to win over Terps

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had already regretted his decision to withdraw a scholarship offer to Steve Slaton two years ago.

After seeing the sophomore running back play in person for No. 5 West Virginia, Friedgen now thinks he missed out on one of the nation's top players.

Slaton rushed for 167 of his 195 yards in the first half, and the Mountaineers forced two turnovers in a 28-0 first-quarter blitz on their way to a 45-24 victory over Maryland on Thursday night.

"It was supposed to be a big test, and I think I did well," Slaton said.

He scored twice in the opening quarter of his first game against Maryland, the school that offered him a scholarship, then withdrew it because Friedgen felt he 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.

"Steve looked like a human joy stick out there, like he was playing a video game," West Virginia center Dan Mozes said.

Pat White threw for a TD and ran for another while Darius Reynaud scored twice, including a 96-yard kickoff return, for the Mountaineers (3-0), who extended their winning streak to 10 games, second in the nation to TCU's 12 in a row.

With scouts from the Orange and Fiesta bowls and 15 NFL teams in attendance, West Virginia took a 38-10 halftime lead in beating 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.

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

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 for West Virginia.

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.

Maryland drove 80 yards to start the second quarter with Hollenbach throwing a 6-yard TD pass to tight end Joey Haynos in blown coverage. It was the first TD allowed by the Mountaineers in eight quarters.

After the teams traded field goals, Reynaud picked up his fumble at the 4-yard line in the final minute of the half, took off up the middle and scored West Virginia's first kickoff return for a touchdown in 31 games.

Lance Ball's 11-yard TD run early in the third quarter pulled Maryland within 38-17, but the Terrapins got no closer.

West Virginia has outscored opponents 139-37 in three home games and 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."