WVU opens with 31-0 victory
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia scored twice in 65 seconds in the middle of the second half and quarterback Geno Smith passed for 216 yards and two touchdowns in his first start as the 25th-ranked Mountaineers defeated Coastal Carolina, 31-0, before 57,862 at Mountaineer Field Saturday.
The crowd was the smallest for a home-opener since 2005 when the Mountaineers defeated Wofford, 35-7, before 54,360. WVU's last shutout came later that season, a 38-0 win at Cincinnati. The last shutout at home was a 48-0 win against Rutgers in 1997.
"I was very pleased with the way our defense adjusted, reacted and took control of the football game," Coach Bill Stewart said.
The Mountaineers finished with 400 yards and held the Chanticleers, from the Football Championship Subdivision's Big South Conference, to 186. WVU converted 9 of 17 third downs -- 9 of 14 with the starters. Eight players caught a pass and seven had at least one carry.
WVU took control on the first drive of the second half, even though it kicked off to CCU. Safety Robert Sands forced a fumble on the kickoff and Darwin Cook recovered at the 19-yard line. Smith completed a 17-yard pass to Jock Sanders on third-and-8 to go up 17-0.
It was a quick change for the Chanticleers, who thought they'd forced a turnover on second down when defensive end Chris Thomas stripped Noel Devine. The officials ruled Devine's forward progress had been stopped and said the play could not be reviewed.
Devine eventually fumbled away possession, but in between missed CCU field goals. WVU followed the second with a 75-yard drive. Smith completed passes for 19 yards to Sanders and 33 yards to Tavon Austin on the drive and fullback Ryan Clarke's 1-yard run put the Mountaineers ahead 24-0 with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter.
The Chanticleers promptly punted and Devine covered the final 55 yards of another touchdown drive on three carries - one yard fewer than he had in the first three quarters. A 39-yard run put him over 100 for the 16th time in his career. His 4-yard touchdown made it 31-0 with 14:11 left.
Smith sat the rest of the way as freshman Barry Brunetti finished. Smith completed 20 of 27 passes and was intercepted once.
"I never feel satisfied," Smith said. "I feel like we could have done a lot of things better on offense, so I'm not satisfied with the effort we gave. We have to be focused on every play. That's something we have to do in order to be great."
Devine carried 23 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Sanders had a 31-yard run and caught eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Both declined interview requests after the game. Austin had 90 yards on five receptions and carried twice for 11 yards.
The Mountaineers led 10-0 at the half and while impressive at the beginning, they were probably fortunate to be ahead by that margin.
WVU opened with a 16-play, 76-yard drive that took up the game's first eight minutes. The offense converted three third downs before losing three yards on a third-and-goal from the CCU 1 . WVU went for it and Smith connected with J.D. Woods for a touchdown.
WVU's longest scoring drive in 2009 lasted 14 plays.
It was Woods' first career catch. Teammate Tyler Urban was the last Mountaineers player to get a touchdown on his first reception. Urban scored against Rutgers in 2008.
The lead grew to be 10-0 after Sanders ran 31 yards around the right side on a reverse play to set up a first and goal at the 6. WVU then ran three times and gained just two yards before Tyler Bitancurt kicked a 21-yard field goal with 8:18 to go in the first half.
The Mountaineers used two timeouts late in the half to take back possession with 1:21 to go. On first down from CCU's 42, Smith threw left and into the path of CCU safety Dominique Davenport, who returned the interception 37 yards. Austin recovered to make the tackle at WVU's 21.
WVU cornerback Brandon Hogan bailed Smith out on the very next play with an interception on a pass into the end zone.
"That turned the game," Stewart said. "(CCU Coach David Bennett) and I have been friends a long time. He said to me, 'Stew, the Hogan play broke us.' That's what turned the game. They had a chance to jump us there."
The Mountaineers outgained CCU 224-71 in the half and had the ball 9:00 in the first quarter and 10:12 in the second while building a 41-24 edge in snaps. They had six plays in goal-to-go situations and ran six times for four yards.
Five of the runs went to the right side, where WVU is breaking in Jeff Braun at tackle and rotating Eric Jobe and Cole Bowers at guard. In the first half, WVU ran right eight times and lost three yards.