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Reflections on South Florida, looking forward to West Virginia

Maryland stands at 2-0 entering West Virginia Hate Week.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Turtle Soup, a weekly outlook piece that will run through the duration of football season on Mondays of game weeks. The purpose of this feature, broadly speaking, is to run down some review items from previous games and look ahead to the next weekend. Let's get to it.

Maryland faces what is sure to be its stiffest test thus far on Saturday, when a sharp-looking West Virginia team visits Byrd Stadium. The Terps had struggled against West Virginia for several years but beat the Mountaineers 37-0 at M&T Bank Stadium last fall. Randy Edsall's team, of course, is coming off off an uninspiring road win against South Florida. Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers, after a 10-point loss to Alabama in Week 1 that nearly turned into a shocking upset, obliterated Towson last weekend.

What we saw last week:

  • Special teams mattered a great deal. Andre Powell's unit quite literally won the game for Maryland when fullback Kenneth Goins Jr. blocked a fourth-quarter punt and linebacker Avery Thompson fell on it in the South Florida end zone. That play turned the game on its head, lifting Maryland from behind to ahead for good. On top of the block, the punt coverage unit allowed just one return of 22 yards. On kickoffs, Brad Craddock and his coverage unit allowed returns of 14, 24, 20 and 23 yards and forced two touchbacks. Stefon Diggs ripped off a 49-yard kickoff return, too. Nathan Renfro hit a few poor punts, but it was a genuinely outstanding game for Maryland's special teams.
  • Marcus Leak announced his return in style. Leak was an important part of the offense as the No. 2 wideout behind Diggs two years ago, and the entire team missed him in 2013. Leak seems eager to make up for lost time, as he made a nice grab in the end zone and scored another exciting touchdown from 44 yards out. Diggs and Deon Long haven't looked quite themselves yet, and with Maryland's tight ends yet to figure into the passing offense at all, Leak seems primed for a huge role going forward.
  • Turnovers, times six. C.J. Brown was picked off twice and Maryland lost a whole handful of fumbles to South Florida. The Terps need to be more diligent with the ball in a number of ways -- a topic Randy Edsall will almost certainly address during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
  • Maryland's defense was stout. Brian Stewart's unit has now allowed 24 points in two games. Impressively, the Maryland front seven limited South Florida tailback Marlon Mack to a 3.3-yard average on 22 carries after his 275-yard performance in Week 1.
What we're watching for this week:
  • Better quarterbacking. C.J. Brown had an all-run, no-pass success kind of afternoon in week 1, and he turned the ball over three times against South Florida. It's been a rocky start for Brown, but he clearly remains Maryland's man under center. As it gets into major-conference play, Maryland needs its sixth-year senior to be better and lift his offense up with him. And yet ...
  • An emphasis on the run. West Virginia often deploys a 3-3-5 defensive set heavy on defensive backs. Given Maryland's stable of dangerous receivers, it makes sense for the Mountaineers to stick with that or a similar approach in College Park. Of course, that turns the defense's front seven into a front six, which means fewer men for Maryland's offensive linemen to block and, in theory, more holes for Wes Brown, Brandon Ross and Albert Reid.
  • An improved West Virginia team. The Mountaineers that Maryland demolished in Baltimore last year were less experienced and less skilled than the ones Maryland will see on Saturday. The wholly incapable Ford Childress (3.3 QBR vs. Maryland last year) has given way to the talented Clint Trickett, who was 35/40 for 350 yards against Towson last weekend. Pitt transplant Rushel Shell has given Holgorsen's team a talented new option at running back, and the 'Eers have a lot of pass-catchers. Trickett spread his completions around to 11 different recipients against the Tigers.