West Virginia wakes up in second half to win easily

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Coach Dana Holgorsen experienced his first halftime deficit at West Virginia and got a taste of the home crowd's boos.

He also saw one heck of a second-half outburst from the Mountaineers.

Geno Smith threw for 371 yards and four scores and No. 19 West Virginia overcame a rough start to beat Norfolk State 55-12 on Saturday.

The Mountaineers (2-0) piled up 533 total yards and scored on their first seven possessions of the second half to erase a 12-10 halftime deficit against an FCS opponent.

"Obviously, I'm not really pleased with the first half, but I was pleased with the second half," Holgorsen said. "We're a young football team and inexperienced. I don't know if we're trying too hard or if it was a coaching error. Either way I'm proud of the way we came out in the second half."

Asked to divulge Holgorsen's halftime speech, Smith said, "I think he's a laid-back guy to the media, but us, we kind of see Jekyll and Hyde. He was kind of irate, but he stayed positive and that's what a great leader does."

This game may be remembered for the early scare the Spartans put into West Virginia, which had a short week to prepare after beating cross-state foe Marshall in a lightning-shortened opener last Sunday.

Holgorsen declared he was pleased with no player's performance heading into tougher tests at Maryland next Saturday and at home Sept. 24 against No. 2 LSU.

"We are going to keep them accountable for what they do wrong," Holgorsen said.

West Virginia got little run production for the second straight game. Four different running backs got carries, with Vernard Roberts leading the way with 64 yards on 17 carries.

Smith held the ball too long at times and even got sacked once by Norfolk State's three-man rush.

West Virginia didn't get its initial first down until there were 2 minutes gone in the second quarter. The Mountaineers couldn't get into the end zone on three trips inside the Norfolk State 20 in the first half. Fans booed after West Virginia took six plays on first-and-goal from the 1 without punching it in and settled for a short field goal.

Things finally started clicking for the Mountaineers when they made five first downs on an 81-yard drive that ended with Smith's 18-yard scoring toss to Devon Brown midway through the second quarter.

But Corey Smith shanked a 15-yard punt to give Norfolk State the ball at the West Virginia 37 with 29 seconds left. A roughing the passer call on Bruce Irvin put the Spartans in field-goal range and Ryan Estep's 40-yarder put Norfolk State ahead at halftime.

It was the Spartans' fourth field goal of the half. Everett Goldberg hit from 50 yards in the first quarter and Estep also had a pair of 39-yarders.

Norfolk State's offense exposed some weaknesses in West Virginia's secondary and the Mountaineers were outgained 242-143 by halftime.

Spartans coach Pete Adrian, making his first trip to Morgantown since graduating from WVU in 1970, said his players were fired up in the locker room.

"We outplayed them in the first half. There's no question about that," Adrian said. "You can sugar coat it anyway that you want. We did, and then we got blistered in the second half. It was a tale of two halves I guess."

West Virginia needed just three plays to find the end zone after halftime, and after Smith hit Ivan McCartney with a 39-yard TD toss early in the fourth, the Mountaineers had scored five touchdowns in a 15-minute span.

"We ran the same plays the second half that we did in the first half," Holgorsen said. "It was all about effort and playing up to tempo. We probably didn't respect our opponent all week."

Smith finished 20 of 34 passing after going 8 of 18 in the first half.

"Hats off to those guys," Smith said of Norfolk State, "because they really came in here to win the game."

West Virginia's defense woke up, too, limiting Norfolk State (1-1) to two first downs in the second half. The Mountaineers have yet to allow an offensive touchdown in their first two games.

Smith also had scoring tosses of 3 yards to Tavon Austin and 12 yards to Tyler Urban. Backup Paul Millard finished the game and threw a 30-yard scoring strike to Brad Starks with 3:18 remaining.

West Virginia's 431 passing yards were the most since a school-record 452 against Missouri in 1998. Brown led WVU receivers with 109 yards on four catches.

Norfolk State's Chris Walley went 16 of 27 for 136 yards. Xavier Boyce caught eight passes for 100 yards.

The Spartans also were penalized 19 times for 177 yards.