No. 7 West Virginia improves to 3-0 with win over Maryland

By Cody Schuler

Senior inside receiver Tavon Austin had a career day, the West Virginia defense forced three turnovers and the No. 7 Mountaineers escaped with a 31-21 victory over visiting Maryland.

Senior quarterback Geno Smith completed 70 percent of his passes, going 30-for-43 for 338 yards and three touchdowns – all of which were caught by Austin.

The Baltimore, Md., native finished with 13 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the win, passing Jock Sanders as the program’s all-time receptions leader in the process. Austin now has 208 career catches.

After the game, Austin called his performance one of the best of his career.

“It was probably one of my best games (aside from) the Orange Bowl,” he said. “I just have to thank the offense and thank the offensive line and Geno, the leader of the team. He trusted me and I trusted him.”

Austin said that despite the smaller margin of victory, he was happy with how the game turned out.

“I’m satisfied with every win; every win is not going to be a blowout so we definitely faced a challenge today,” he said.

“We had to fight through and we showed that we can.”

Before Austin found the end zone, the West Virginia defense found its way across the goal line.

With just more than seven minutes to play in the first quarter, redshirt junior safety Darwin Cook burst through the line of scrimmage and forced Maryland freshman quarterback Perry Hills to fumble, and junior linebacker Doug Rigg scooped the live ball up and took it 48 yards to the end zone.

West Virginia would jump ahead to a 24-14 lead at halftime but would only score once in the second half. The Mountaineers’ scoreless third quarter was the first quarter without any points since Dec. 1, 2011, when West Virginia had a scoreless first quarter against USF.

The Mountaineers forced five Maryland fumbles but were only able to recover two. West Virginia also conjured up five sacks.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said Maryland did what was expected and challenged the Mountaineers Saturday.

“I want to congratulate Maryland on a hard-fought game,” he said. “Coming into today’s game, we talked a lot about how good of a quality team Maryland was.”

“We knew they were going to come in and challenge us and we had to match that.”

The balance between both teams was a stark contrast from West Virginia’s previous two wins. West Virginia finished with 363 yards of total offense to Maryland’s 351 – and both teams averaged a little more than five yards per play.

The balance between the teams was something Holgorsen said he’d never seen before.

“In all my years of coaching, I’ve never seen a stat line as even as this,” he said. “It’s pretty much even across the board.”

Despite the return of sophomore running back Dustin Garrison, the Mountaineers’ ground game sputtered against Maryland’s defense.

Senior running back Shawne Alston suffered a thigh bruise in practice this week and as a result did not register a carry. Sophomore running back Andrew Buie led the way with 14 carries for 40 yards; Garrison finished with one yard on two carries.

The win was West Virginia’s first without a rushing touchdown since it defeated USF 20-6 on Oct. 14, 2010.

Smith continued his streak of no interceptions for the season and found six receivers on the day. Redshirt junior Stedman Bailey grabbed six catches for 55 yards and J.D. Woods finished with five catches for 44 yards.

Despite shoddy tackling throughout the afternoon, the West Virginia defense held Maryland to only 21 points.

Hills completed 20-of-29 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns for Maryland – a drastic improvement from the 148 yards the Terrapins were averaging through the air in its first three games this season.

Freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs only had three receptions, but he made them count – going for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Marcus Leak had five catches for 69 yards and a score.

Holgorsen said his team’s play was solid overall despite the spotty tackling.

“The one negative defensively, and I thought we played good defensively, is we didn’t tackle when they completed balls in space,” he said.

“We controlled the line of scrimmage, and they didn’t get very many rushing yards – but they got way too many yards after the catch; we’ll continue to keep working on it.”

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