West Virginia got the spark it needed in the third quarter when Pat Miller nailed quarterback Johnny McEntee, and linebacker Jewone Snow hauled in the loose ball and returned it to the UCONN 12. From there, the wheels fell off UCONN, and WVU started to roll.
West Virginia scored 23 unanswered points in the third quarter to defeat Connecticut 43-16 Saturday afternoon in Morgantown in the Big East opener for both teams. It was the Miller hit, and Snow return that sparked the Mountaineers.
“That was a huge spark for us,” said Holgorsen
Two plays after the return, Geno Smith hit Tavon Austin for a 12 yard touchdown pass. The scored moved the Mountaineers ahead 17-9. Geno then came back and hit Stedman Bailey in the flat, Bailey took it 84 yards for another touchdown.
Bailey wasn’t finished. Geno hooked up with him again for a 27 yard touchdown pass.
The catch of the day came from Brad Starks. Geno threw it up from 27 yards out, Starks jumped over his defender and brought it down. The play was reviewed, but it stood. (Also made the Top 10 on ESPN.. I know, it’s ESPN)
Dustin Garrison continued his solid play rushing for 80 yards on 14 carries, and 1 touchdown.
The Mountaineers played sound in all three phases. It looks like WVU found a punter.
Michael Molinari averaged 43 yards per punt, and more importantly, pinned Connecticut inside its 20 twice. Bitancurt was also outstanding on kickoffs, the coverage unit limiting the Huskies to an average of just 19.8 yards per return.
Connecticut was just 4 of 16 on third down and didn’t have an offensive play longer than 20 yards for the game.
“The defense was the best it’s been all year,” said Holgorsen. “That was a heck of a second half. That was a dominating performance from our defense.”
West Virginia’s D finished the game with seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a season high five sacks. The Mountaineers came into the game with just three sacks through its first five games.
WVU has a much needed week off before heading to Syracuse. WVU is now 5-1 and 1-0 in Big East play.
****News & Notes****
*Stedman Bailey had his school-record fourth 100-yard receiving game. Bailey’s streak of 100-yard games have come against Maryland (113), LSU (115), Bowling Green (112) and now Connecticut (178) . On the season, Bailey has 34 catches for 634 yards and four touchdowns.
*Geno Smith was 27 of 45 for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns. Smith’s 450 yards passing pushes his career total to 5,231 to move him past Major Harris (5,173) into sixth place on West Virginia’s all-time passing yardage list. Smith also tied Harris for sixth in career touchdown passes with 41; Smith already shows 2,159 yards through the air at the halfway mark this season.
*Ivan McCartney added six catches for 131 yards.
*The UConn secondary, torched for 479 yards last week by Western Michigan, gave up 469 yards against West Virginia and has now surrendered 1,048 yards in its last two games.