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Smith leads WVU to 43-16 win over UConn

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Geno Smith threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns as West Virginia overcame another slow start to beat UConn 43-16 in their Big East opener Saturday. WVU struggled to a 10-9 halftime lead before erupting for 23 points in a 7:35 span of the third quarter to pull away.

HEAR FROM GENO SMITH

Morgantown — Simply put, 15 minutes was an agonizing eternity to Connecticut.

Leading by just one point to start the second half, West Virginia went on an unmerciful tear in the third quarter, posting 23 points—three touchdowns and a safety—en-route to a 43-16 drudging over the Huskies to open Big East play for both teams at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Ignited by a Connecticut fumble returned by Jewone Snow for 83-yards, with 7:54 left in the third quarter, the Mountaineers tallied up a phenomenal 171 yards on 20 plays, while using 6:29 of the clock in the 15-minute span.

Geno Smith, who threw for 173 yards in the quarter, went 27-of-45 for an outstanding 450 yards and four touchdowns on the day, including an 84-yard pass to Stedman Bailey with 5:49 left in the third quarter, leading WVU to a commanding 24-9 lead.

Bailey, who recorded his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game, finished as the leading Mountaineers receiver with 178 yards, 7 catches and 2 touchdowns.

“You can't win a championship unless you have three sides to the equation, and the thing I like about this team right now is that all three sides of the ball understand how important they are, and what their jobs are. We got that huge spark on defense, and the offense continued to answer,” said coach Dana Holgorsen.

West Virginia began the game lackadaisical at best, making it to the break with just 10 points, with their lone touchdown— a Dustin Garrison 13-yard shifty shuffle to the end zone, capping a 7 play- 45-yard drive with 2:44 left in the half—helped keep the Mountaineers up by just one point.

The Huskies scored their only points of the half on three David Teggart field goals.

Thanks to persistent pressure and solid secondary play, the Mountaineers were able to contain Connecticut for much of the game, holding them to just 275 total yards, including 82 yards rushing. West Virginia had just 72 in the ground game.

“It's the best it was all year,” said Holgorsen about the defensive unit. “I'm not sure how many sacks we had, but I thought the defense played fantastic. We gave up 275 yards, and they had most of those yards in the first half.”

“We had to come strong today and that's what we did, we came strong and we finished strong and we got a big win today,” said defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had a four tackles on the day, including a shared sack with Jewone Snow in the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety with just 2:31 left in the third quarter.

Connecticut failed to get past the WVU 40-yard line in the entire second half, getting their only touchdown of the game off of a Ty-Meer Brown (McKeesport HS) 48-yard interception return of a pass thrown by back-up quarterback Paul Millard.

“I give West Virginia credit,” said Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni. “They made a big play on the first possession of the third quarter. We had the ball in the tight red, and it looked like we were going to at least be able to kick a field goal and go ahead. We had a bad miscue, and a penalty on the play when the ball got snapped. They got it down inside the tight red, and we couldn't keep them out of the end zone. So they made that play, and then they came back.”

Play of the Game
Defensive end Jewone Snow may have in fact made the play of the year, picking up a Julian Miller forced fumble, and returning it 83-yards to set up a Smith to Tavon Austin 12-yard hookup, and giving West Virginia a 17-9 advantage with 7:44 left in the 3rd quarter.

“I just picked it up and ran as fast as I could,” said Snow, who had seven tackles in the game. “I was happy to see that the offense answered the call after that, and we all really got it into motion after that (play.)”

“I just made the hit and I heard that the ball came out, and I was thinking we better get that ball back,” said Miller about making the initial hit that forced the fumble.

From that point on, West Virginia went on a 33-7 run to end the game.

“In college football, those things happen and that's something that turns the game,” said Smith about the play. “You saw the momentum shift. They started driving, and it was like, here we go again. The guy fumbles, (Snow) makes the play and runs it down the field and that gives us the energy to go down the field and score.”

The West Virginia offense scored once more in the third quarter, on a 22-yard pass from Smith to Brad Starks, capping a 6-play, 50-yard drive with nine seconds left, and lifting the Mountaineers to a 33-9 lead.

Smith Traveling Career Road
Geno Smith once again just how valuable his arm is, throwing for 450 yards in Saturday's game. The junior play-caller now has a remarkable 2,159 yards and a ratio of 16 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions through six games this season.

“I guess it feels good, but I know I could have done a lot more things better,” said Smith. “Obviously I'm happy with what I've done so far, but I also want to progress so I can even get better.”

Holgorsen had some criticism for his star quarterback after the game.

“He's as good as quarterback as there is in college football,” said Holgorsen about Smith. “He still tries to hard at times. There was a point in that second quarter where he thought that he had some answers, which he did some things that we'll address and make sure he never does again. He tried to take over the game and he doesn't need to take over the game. Once he understands that, he's got a chance to be pretty good.”

Holgorsen was referring to a botched play on a 4th and 1 down, in which Smith “ad-libbed” a quarterback sneak to try and get the first down, in which the he failed and forked the ball back over to Connecticut with under two minutes left, leading to a Huskies field goal right at the end of the half.

“We never worked on that play,” said Smith. “It was something I totally ad-libbed and it didn't work for us, it backfired. It was something that I shouldn't have done in that situation, but my competitiveness took over. Nobody else really knew what was going on, and we had our guards standing around not knowing what the play was.”

Despite his one miscue, however, Smith's teammates believe the hype and know that Smith can lead this team to victory on any day.

“He makes my job easy,” said Austin, who had 74 yards on 7 receptions. “He puts the ball on your numbers and lets you do the rest. We've always had a good report with each other, and I think we're getting better and better.”

Bailey continued on Austin's thoughts.

“Geno does a great job leading us and he really spreads the ball around,” the receiver said. “We just go out there and have fun as an offense and do the things we know we are capable of doing.”

Smith now ranks third in the NCAA with an average of 355 yards per game in six games this season.

Listen to Smith's postgame press conference here.

Calling Out the Fans
After coach Dana Holgorsen called out the West Virginia fans for a lame showing (46,603 which fanned out quickly due to inclement weather) against Bowling Green last Saturday at Mountaineer Field, the response was overwhelming, with an announced 56,179 at the game.  

The stadium remained packed until the final whistle blew.

No More Reviews
Saturday afternoon's game turned into a long one—nearly four hours—due to five reviews being called. Not one reviewed play was overturned in the game.

Next Up
The Mountaineers have a bye for the upcoming week. They will look to continue where they left off in Big East play, as they travel to Syracuse in a road date with the Orange on Friday Oct. 21st. The game will kickoff at 8 PM, and will be nationally televised by ESPN.

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