CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The return of Maryland to West Virginia's football schedule last season after a two-year absence was a very good turn of events.
The fact the series is under contract through 2017 is a plus, as is the Maryland decision to play its 2013 home date with WVU up I-95 at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL Ravens.
To call what some label the "Border Series" a competitive one would be a major understatement, and with a deeper reference than the slim wagering spread on the 2011 meeting.
The Mountaineers lead the series 24-21-2 entering Saturday's 48th meeting - but only because WVU has won the last five dates ... after Maryland had won four in a row, including a Gator Bowl thumping to end the 2003 season.
West Virginia (2-0) has won 62 games in the last six-plus seasons, and you could make a good argument that the tone setter for the big success by the Mountaineers under Coach Rich Rodriguez started six years ago (tomorrow) at Byrd Stadium, at noon.
WVU was coming off an 8-4 finish in 2004, but had lost its last three that season. The '05 season began with offensive struggles in a 15-7 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, then a 35-7 win over Division I-AA Wofford in Morgantown.
Rodriguez's team headed to College Park having uneasily ended then-Terps Coach Ralph Friedgen's "ownership" of WVU with a 19-16 win - in overtime - in 2004 at Mountaineer Field. However, WVU hadn't won at Byrd Stadium since 1997.
What happened that Sept. 17 was an eye-opener and it became a statement game for Rodriguez's program. WVU ran roughshod over the Terps for 301 yards in a 31-19 victory.
Quarterback Pat White - making his own personal statement in his first big game in relief of injured Adam Bednarik - came off the bench to direct three fourth-quarter scoring drives for the Mountaineers.
Freshman running back Jason Gwaltney - who knew then what was to befall him not long after? - scored WVU's first and last touchdowns. The Mountaineers let a 21-16 lead become a 21-19 game in the fourth quarter, but an 11-minute bulge in time of possession wore down the Terps.
And Rodriguez saw the future.
"I think our best football is still ahead," the former WVU coach said afterward. "We messed around and made some mistakes here and there, but you're going to expect that with a young team. Thankfully, it was a lesson learned and we still got a win."
In a phone call with me earlier this week, Rodriguez recalled that WVU had beaten Maryland in overtime at home in 2004, "but before that, we'd gotten absolutely killed every time (four games from 2001-03).
"I remember we had to run the football to win, and we did, really controlled the clock. It was a big, big confidence builder, and it was important because we had a lot of young guys, too."
He recalled the steamy afternoon and the fact that Maryland's band was seated in the stands "way over in the corner by our locker room. How could they see the game? What's up with that?