MORGANTOWN - Geno Smith completed 12 of his 16 passes in the second half Saturday for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
He provided a pace that accelerated the time between the end of one play and the start of the next to revitalize an offense that embarrassed its coach in the first half.
In summary, West Virginia's quarterback was the key to everything the offense did to start the second half with five touchdown drives as the Mountaineers raced away from the Norfolk State, 55-12 - then moved up to 18th in this week's Associated Press media poll and 20th in the USA Today coaches' poll.
Yet it was what Smith did prior to that which mattered most.
"That one person we needed to step up to be a leader stepped up," receiver Ivan McCartney said. "Then it was up to us to buy into what he was saying."
WVU (2-0) was trailing 12-10 at the half to a Football Championship Subdivision team that had never led in any of its previous three games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams and was outscored 128-3. Smith let his teammates have it in the locker room and introduced a rude reality.
This wasn't the generic sort of halftime lecture about playing harder and wanting it more in the second half. This was personal.
Coach Dana Holgorsen's prodigious offense that had worked through the years at Texas Tech and Houston and Oklahoma State wasn't working with WVU and Smith told the players they were the reason why.
"The one thing that he said that stuck out most to everyone was when he said this system has been successful for 10 years and we're the team that is not being successful," McCartney said.
"We have the same system, so it's not the system. It's us. We looked at it like if this system has been successful for 10 years, then we need to make the changes and make the system successful."
The Mountaineers scored on their first seven drives in the second half before running out the clock on the eighth. They managed five touchdowns in 20 plays in the third and fourth quarters and needed just 6 minutes, 47 seconds off the clock to do it.
"The truth hurts," McCartney said, "but we needed to hear it to get past what happened in the first half."
Smith finished 20-for-34 for a career-high 376 yards. The Mountaineers take a hot quarterback into Saturday's noon game against Maryland at Byrd Stadium (ESPNU telecast).
"He was very good," quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said. "He operated with a high tempo, which I was very pleased with. Maryland, if he keeps operating with a good tempo, I think he'll continue to get the kids to rally around him."