by Jim Buzzerd
West Virginia University will open its football season this Saturday against Maryland in College Park. But first, there is some basketball news to report from last Friday. West Virginia University Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said a contract extension for coach Bob Huggins will allow the Mountaineer men’s basketball head coach to remain in that position through the 2023-2024 season. Huggins will then have the option to continue coaching or extend his relationship with his alma mater to June 30, 2027.
Huggins, who became WVU’s head coach in April 2007, will accumulate an annual salary of $4,150,000 for each of his remaining seasons with that title. He is eligible for annual performance incentives as well. The agreement says Huggins will assume an Emeritus status within the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics when he is no longer the head coach. Wow!
On to Maryland. On a personal note, this Saturday’s game between the two border state rivals will bring to an end a personal streak of mine. I have been in attendance every time WVU and Maryland have played since 1970. It will be strange sitting at home (actually someone else’s home) for this one, but I will enjoy the short lines for beer and bathroom breaks.
West Virginia has been anywhere from a 3 ½ to a 2 ½ point favorite depending on when and where I have looked. As with any opener it is hard to get a handle on who has advantages and where. The vibe coming from the WVU camp has been quite positive. Make no mistake, with head coach Neal Brown entering his third season many will be scrutinizing his every decision. If this team has taken a step forward like some are saying, Saturday is nearly a must win.
That doesn’t mean I think Brown needs to have a great season this year to keep his job, but if WVU loses Saturday the negative Nancies will be out in force to try and convince us that he’s a bad coach. This matchup has often been a barometer for the regular season, and I suspect that will be the case once again. West Virginia owns a 28-22-2 advantage in the series that dates back to 1919. The teams last met in 2015.
One thing to watch is the WVU run game against the Maryland defense. Maryland was 115 out of 127 teams in run defense last year. Leddie Brown was a 1,000-yard rusher last season, and with an improved line, the senior should have a good day Saturday.
The Maryland secondary is the strength of the defense, so that will give quarterback Jarret Doege and his group of talented receivers, albeit slippery handed a season ago, a chance to see just how far they have come in the off season.
The consensus out of camp is the Mountaineer defensive line will be stout, so there is a good chance Maryland will take to the air. That might be trouble for the Mountaineers as the Terrapin passing game, with Taulia Tagovailoa at quarterback, is its offensive strength and there are some new faces in the WVU secondary, including two true freshmen who could be in the rotation.
Game time is 3:30 p.m. Saturday and will be televised by ESPN. Next Saturday’s home opener against FCS Long Island University will begin at 5 p.m. and will be on ESPN+. You may have to check your subscription status to see this one.