By Cam Huffman
Deon Long was supposed to be the next great Mountaineer. When the Washington, D.C., native was committed to West Virginia University out of Dunbar High School, the home of Tavon Austin, WVU fans had huge expectations.
Long, though, never played for former WVU head coach Bill Stewart during the 2008 season and eventually left the program. He transferred to New Mexico, where he caught 47 passes for 809 yards and four touchdowns in 2001.
Long again decided he needed a change, though and transferred again to Iowa Western Community College. He caught 100 balls for 1,625 yards and 25 touchdowns and was rated as the No. 1 JUCO player in the country by Rivals.com.
After another recruiting process, Long decided to return home and signed with Maryland.
Through the Terrapins 3-0 start, Long has caught 15 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, and on Saturday he’ll have a chance to get some revenge on his former team when WVU (2-1) visits M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., to take on the Terps in a 3:30 p.m. contest that will air live on ESPNU.
Long clearly has motivation to perform at the top of his game when the teams meet for the 50th time on Saturday, but he’s not the first to try to make a statement in the rivalry between the Terps and Mountaineers.
Scott McBrien — Recruited by former head coach Don Nehlen, the Rockville, Md., native played one season with the Mountaineers, Nehlen’s last in 2000. He played in eight games that year and started one, completing 42 of 99 passes for 755 yards and three touchdowns.
“The Little Lefty,” as Nehlen called him, didn’t exactly fit into the plans when Rich Rodriguez arrived prior to the 2001 season. McBrien eventually decided to leave WVU, and he even considered giving up the game.
He eventually decided to transfer back to his home state, where head coach Ralph Friedgen gave him an opportunity, initially as a walk-on. McBrien sat out the 2001 season, but in 2002 he started all 14 games for the Terps, including a 48-17 thrashing of WVU.
In 2003, McBrien again led the Terps over the Mountaineers, this one 34-7 at Maryland, and, in a twist of fate, the teams met again at the end of the season in the 2004 Gator Bowl.
McBrien again got revenge on Rodriguez and his former school in his final collegiate game, throwing for 351 yards in a 41-7 win and earning Gator Bowl MVP honors in the process.
In 27 games at Maryland, McBrien threw for 5,169 yards and 34 touchdowns, while rushing for 543 more and 13 scores.
WVU never won in four tries with McBrien on the Maryland sidelines.
Owen Schmitt — When Schmitt decided to leave Division III Wisconsin-River Falls to try his hand at a bigger level, one of the first stops he made, with game film in hand, was the University of Maryland. The coaches there, though, showed little interest, so Schmitt eventually took his tape to WVU.
The Mountaineers liked what they saw and gave the Fairfax, Va., a spot as a walk-on.
Schmitt ended up playing three seasons at fullback for the Mountaineers and became a fan favorite. He rushed for 1,008 yards on 160 carries, caught 32 passes for 288 yards and was one of the most hard-hitting WVU players ever.
Some of his best games came against the Terps. The 2005 game in College Park, Md., was his breakout game. He rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on just six carries. The next year in Morgantown, he shredded Maryland for 55 yards on eight carries, and in his final meeting with the Terps he went for 46 yards on just four totes. WVU won all three games.
Steve Slaton — A dynamic high school player in Pennsylvania, Slaton received a scholarship offer from the Terps early in the recruiting process, and he eventually committed to the Terps. After getting commitments from some other running backs, though, Friedgen and his assistants rescinded their offer.
Slaton eventually ended up in Morgantown and spent the next three years making the Terps regret their decision.
Slaton didn’t play against the Terps in 2005, his freshman season, but he became a starter six games into the year and ended up rushing for 1,128 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The next season, he got his shot at the Terps in Morgantown. All he did was rush for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the way to another Mountaineer victory.
Slaton’s final shot at payback, before leaving for the NFL, came at Maryland in 2007. In that game, he rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns as WVU defeated UM for the fourth straight time.
WVU hasn’t lost to Maryland since, and many Terp fans blame “The Curse of Steve Slaton.”
There are others that have ties to both schools. Brian King, a standout defensive back for the Mountaineers, was also recruited by his home state Terps before deciding on WVU. After a Maryland win over the Mountaineers in Morgantown, Friedgen commented that King “obviously picked the wrong school.” Austin grew up in the shadow of Maryland’s Byrd stadium but spent his four collegiate years breaking records in Morgantown.
Stories like these truly make a rivalry. Saturday’s game matters in recruiting. It matters to fans looking for bragging rights and it certainly matters to Long, looking to make a statement to the Mountaineers.
Will Long become the next Scott McBrien? Will McBrien, who’s now the sideline reporter for the Maryland radio broadcast, have the same effect on the sidelines if he’s not wearing the uniform? Or will “The Curse of Steve Slaton” continue and the Mountaineers win their eighth straight against the Terps?