West Virginia offense fizzles in bowl loss
ORLANDO, Fla. — If the distractions didn't get to No. 23 West Virginia over the past two weeks, N.C. State sure did Tuesday.
The much-maligned WVU offense failed to score a touchdown in the second half of a 23-7 loss to the Wolfpack (9-4) in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl in front of 48,962 fans.
In offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson's last game at WVU, the Mountaineers had trouble moving the ball in their opponent's territory, couldn't stop the pressure from the N.C. State defense and turned the ball over five times in the second half.
"When you don't turn the ball over, things work," WVU coach Bill Stewart said. "When you turn it over, nothing works."
WVU (9-4) has failed to win 10 games in each season of Stewart's tenure as head coach.
Quarterback Geno Smith threw an interception with just more than 10 minutes to play, as safety Brandan Bishop dived and picked off the pass intended for slot receiver Jock Sanders.
Later in the fourth quarter, WVU kicker Tyler Bitancurt missed a 42-yard field goal that would've made it a one-possession game. He missed another earlier in the contest.
Still, the WVU defense gave WVU a shot to come back in the fourth quarter, but senior slot receiver Jock Sanders fumbled an N.C. State punt, which was recovered by fullback Travis Gentry at the WVU 7-yard line.
"You try to keep a positive attitude, but it's hard," defensive end Bruce Irvin said. "We could've won, but it wasn't our day."
Three plays later, N.C. State junior quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled and found receiver Jarvis Williams in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown to seal the victory.
Smith finished 22 of 39 and one touchdown, an interception and a fumble to finish of his first year as a starter.
N.C. State kicker Josh Czajkowski hit three straight field goals in the second and third quarters to take a two-possession lead into the fourth quarter, and the Mountaineers couldn't recover.
N.C. State junior quarterback Russell Wilson was an efficient 28 of 45 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 41 yards.
"We came in with a solid plan, but when it came down to it, we didn't execute," senior nose tackle Chris Neild said. "They came to play and played harder than us."
After nearly a quarter of scoreless action to start the game, the Wolfpack started their second drive of the game on their 14-yard line, and used their passing game to open up some holes in what was the second-ranked defense in the nation.
N.C. State passed on nine of 10 plays on the drive that covered 86 yards. It ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Mustafa Greene for a 7-0 lead.
Wilson was 7 of 9 for 79 yards on the drive.
Following an unsuccessful N.C. State fake field goal, WVU's Smith hit Sanders for 26 yards to get inside N.C. State territory. Later on the drive, Smith converted a third-and-4 on a scramble, but the drive stalled and Bitancurt missed a 43-yard field goal wide right midway through the second quarter.
After an N.C. State three-and-out, WVU went on a game-tying drive as the half came to a close. Smith converted two third-and-longs on the drive, which was capped by a 32-yard touchdown from Smith to wide receiver Stedman Bailey, who beat cornerback David Amerson one-on-one for the jump ball.
After the score, N.C. State's T.J. Graham returned the ensuing kickoff to the WVU 48 with two minutes to play. With 31 seconds in the half, Czajkowski hit a 45-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead into the half.
West Virginia senior running back Noel Devine fell short of 1,000 yards for the first time since he became the starter in 2008. He had just 50 yards rushing against N.C. State.