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Smith leads WVU over Maryland

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Quarterback Geno Smith threw four touchdowns and Noel Devine added 131 rushing yards as No. 21 West Virginia stormed out to a 28-0 lead and held on to down Maryland 31-17 in Morgantown Saturday afternoon.

It was as furious of a start that you could expect from a football team.

A powerful 50-yard run from Noel Devine on the fourth play of the game opened up a flood gate that wouldn't shut throughout the first half. The run highlighted a 7-play, 77-yard drive with just three minutes expired in the first quarter, giving West Virginia (3-0) its first score of the game, and helping catapult them to a 31-17 win over Maryland (2-1) at Mountaineer Field Saturday afternoon.

The offense finished with an impressive 469 total yards, while holding the Terrapins to just 227.

“I liked our start,” said head coach Bill Stewart. “It was fast for both sides out of the gate.”

Despite missing arguably their best defender in cornerback Brandon Hogan, who was suspended earlier in the week due to a DUI charge, the Mountaineer defense didn't miss a step, blanking Maryland in the first half and holding their ground attack to an incredible -10 yards on 27 attempts on the day.

The awful rushing display from Maryland marked the first time the Mountaineers held a team to negative yardage on the ground since Nov. 16, 2006, when they held Pitt to -40 yards.

“It was a good day for the defense as a whole,” said defensive tackle Scooter Berry. “We did a great job and got after it today. We played hard, so we deserved to reap the benefits.”

Geno Smith continued his cool confidence in the pocket, stepping up and going 19-of-29 for 268 yards and four touchdowns, including a 3rd-and-17 pass to Stedman Bailey early in the second quarter. Bailey made a spectacular diving catch, dragging one foot in the back of the endzone to cap a 7-play, 64-yard drive and advancing the Mountaineer lead to 21.

Bailey tacked on two scores for the day with 4 catches and 60 yards. Receiver Tavon Austin led West Virginia with 106 yards receiving on 7 catches and a pair of touchdowns, both hitch routes in the corner of the end zone, which resulted in the first two scores of the game.

“It was the same route,” said Austin. “One of them the safety ran right off of me, so I was free and I just did my job.”

Punting just four times throughout the game, West Viginia had a total of 37:02 in time of possession, and converted on 11 -of -18 3rd down attempts. They also finished 5-of -6 in red-zone scoring chances.

“We had 469 yards on 85 plays, and held on to the ball for well over 30 minutes,” Stewart said. “To a lot of people that's a boring day on offense, but I thought we did a great job of keeping the ball and running clock management.”

The defining moment for the offense was a drive they only got three points out of.

A time-consuming 16 -play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a 23-yard Tyler Bitancurt field goal pushing the Mountaineer lead to 31-17 deep in the fourth quarter, ran 8:23 off of the clock, and left Maryland hardly any time to develop an offensive drive of their own.

“It shows out on the field that we're well conditioned,” said Smith about the offense staying composed. “We go out there and we play hard. Every snap you see guys getting tired, but they don't get down on their knees and they don't miss assignments. I think that's a key part of our game.”

Devine also had a “well conditioned” game, tallying up his third-consecutive 100-yard game with a quiet 141 yards on the ground on 27 attempts. 

It took Maryland all the way to the 10:25 mark in the 3rd quarter to find the endzone. Before the 60-yard hookup from Jamarr Robinson to Torrey Smith that brought the deficit down to three touchdowns, the Maryland offense was completely stuffed by the hard-hitting, smashmouth style the Mountaineers defensive unit displayed.

WVU had eight sacks on the day, including a blasting hit on a 4th-and-3 play in the fourth quarter by Scooter Berry, which forced a fumble.

“We got after them today,” said Berry. “Last week we hardly got to the quarterback, and it made it tough on the rest of the defense. Today, we did our job and we went hard throughout the game.”

Maryland was just 2-of-13 on third down conversions, and ran into 10 penalties for 77 yards, including two back-to-back false start calls on their very first drive of the game, which pushed the ball back to the three-yard line, eventually forcing a punt.

“I was pleased with our start.  I was not pleased with closing the door; I didn't think we closed the door,” said Stewart. “You don't let teams come back in, they work to get back in it. We gave up a couple big passes late and I didn't like that.”

Thanks to a devastating block by Ian Smith, Jock Sanders sprung loose for a career-best 66-yard punt return, leading to a Smith-to-Bailey 8-yard touchdown pass on West Virginia's first possession of the second half.  It was the longest punt return for a Mountaineer since Vaughn Rivers returned a 78-yard punt against Mississippi State on Oct. 20, 2007.

60,122 in attendance today made Mountaineer Field an extremely intense and hostile place to play at for Maryland. 

“Since '07, this is the loudest the crowd has been at home,” said Berry. “I think they made an impact in this game, because they were just so loud and so into it from start to finish.”

Stewart also felt the intensity of the crowd.

“Mountaineer Field was rocking today,” the coach said. “We did not hit the snooze button today.”

Despite being suspended from the team, Brandon Hogan was in street clothes on the sidelines for today's game.

West Virginia will travel to Baton Rouge in a nationally televised game against LSU (3-0).

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