No. 19 West Virginia downs Norfolk State
Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - Geno Smith tossed four touchdowns, including two in a big third quarter, as No. 19 West Virginia rallied from a poor first half to take a 55-12 win over Norfolk State.
Smith went 20-for-34 for 371 yards while Devon Brown caught four passes for 109 yards and a score for the Mountaineers (2-0), who were down by two points at the half, but scored 45 points in the final 30 minutes to take the victory.
Chris Walley went 16-for-27 for 136 yards while Ryan Estep hit three of the four field goals for the Spartans (1-1), an FCS team that routed Virginia State, 37-3, last week.
The Mountaineers came into the third quarter trailing by two points, but after the 15 minutes they held a 26-point lead.
The first possession of the half went to West Virginia and an 18-yard run by Vernard Roberts followed by a 40-yard catch from Stedman Dailey set up a 1st- and-goal that saw Roberts take it in from three yards out just 69 seconds in.
West Virginia never looked back as the team got a three-yard touchdown catch from Tavon Austin less than four minutes later and a one-yard touchdown run from Dustin Garrison with 4:52 to play in the third.
After holding Norfolk State to another three-and-out, Smith found Tyler Urban in the end zone from 12 yards out for a 38-12 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
"We came out in the second half and played better," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. "I was not very pleased with the way we played in the first half."
Smith's 39-yard scoring strike to Ivan McCartney early in the fourth quarter made it a 45-12 game and Tyler Bitancurt hit a 21-yard field goal later in the frame after a three-and-out from Norfolk State.
A 30-yard TD catch by Brad Starks from Paul Millard with just over three minutes to play capped the scoring.
The Spartans started the game with the ball and were impressive on a 42-yard drive that saw the team put three points of the board thanks to a 50-yard field goal from Everett Goldberg just over four minutes in.
The Mountaineers were in field goal position after a failed onsides kick attempt from Norfolk State, but Bitancurt missed the 35-yard attempt.
Later in the first, Austin fielded a bouncing punt and took it 64 yards down to the Norfolk 12, but Andrew Buie was stopped on 4th-and-3 at the five-yard line and the Spartans got the ball back.
A 29-yard catch and run by Victor Hairston on the first play gave the Spartans some breathing room and Derrick Demps caught a 38-yard pass four plays later to get the ball into the red zone. The drive stalled and a 39-yard field goal from Estep made it a 6-0 game.
The Mountaineers again threatened as a short pass to Austin at the left side saw him shake a few defenders and race down to the one-yard line. After getting stuffed on the previous two plays, a defensive pass interference call on third down gave the team a fresh set of downs, but they failed on their next three tries and had to settle for a 17-yard field goal from Bitancurt with 11:20 left in the second.
West Virginia then took the lead after holding Norfolk State to a quick possession as an 11-play, 81-yard drive ended when Brown caught a pass over the middle in the end zone from 18 yards out with 5:53 left in the second for a 10-6 lead.
Norfolk State, though, countered on its next drive with a 39-yard field goal from Estep and, thanks to a shanked punt after a West Virginia three-and-out, took a 12-10 lead into the locker room when Estep hit a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
West Virginia's 34-13 win last week against Marshall was cut short due to a severe storm...This was the first-ever meeting between West Virginia and Norfolk State...Norfolk State controlled the ball for over 34 minutes, but was outgained 533-285...Roberts finished the game with 64 yards on 17 carries...Xavier Boyce had eight catches for 100 yards.
09/10 19:42:54 ET