Led by freshman QB, West Virginia eases past Georgia State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Redshirt freshman Ford Childress made his debut at quarterback a winning one, throwing for 359 yards and three touchdowns in West Virginia's 41-7 victory over winless Georgia State on Saturday before 57,440 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“That was pretty good for the first game he has ever played in college football,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Childress threw touchdown passes of 21 and 23 yards to Daikiel Shorts and 45 yards to Ivan McCartney while having another potential scoring toss dropped.
But there were other things that pleased Holgorsen that aren't seen in the stats.
“I look for different things than you do in completion percentage and yards,” he said. “I thought his body language was good and that he handled everything well. He was communicating well with the running backs, receivers, in the huddle and with (offensive coordinator Shannon) Dawson.”
Running back Charles Sims rushed 18 times for 116 yards and a touchdown for WVU (2-1), which entered the game as a 38-point favorite over a team that had dropped decisions to a pair of FCS schools.
Childress was the center of attention as he took over for Paul Millard, who had started WVU's first two games.
The Mountaineers scored only seven points in their last game, at Oklahoma, and ranked near the bottom in the FBS in scoring offense. It was quickly apparent Childress had a stronger arm and more big-play potential.
“I was a little nervous, but after the first play, it went away,” Childress said.
His first collegiate possession resulted in Josh Lambert's 42-yard field goal set up by a 24-yard reverse from receiver Mario Alford, but it wasn't until the second possession that Childress found the passing range.
The tall Texan's first completion was a 10-yard screen to Sims, which ignited a 93-yard scoring drive and a 10-0 lead.
Childress completed 6 of 7 on the drive, keyed by a 21-yard connection to McCartney to put the ball at the Panthers' 21.
Childress latched up with Shorts, another freshman, for a 21-yard score and his first career TD.
The offense was stagnant through most of the second quarter, and it appeared the Mountaineers might go into halftime with a 10-0 lead.
But Childress and McCartney took care of that. McCartney faked a move to the inside then broke free downfield as Childress laid the ball up for him. McCartney gathered it in and trotted into the end zone for a 45-yard score and a 17-0 lead.
“When a guy is that wide open, you just want to make sure you don't underthrow him or overthrow him, so you get kind of rattled,” Childress said.
Childress completed 11 of 17 passes for 178 yards and two scores in the first half while throwing an interception and being sacked once.
Early in the second half, the Mountaineers lost the ball on downs, and on the next play, Panthers running back Travis Evans streaked down the left sideline 65 yards for the longest touchdown run in the fourth-year program's history to narrow the lead to 17-7.
WVU stretched its advantage to 20-7 on Lambert's 23-yard field goal late in the quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, WVU finally established its superiority. Sims took a handoff and broke left against the formation and sprinted to the corner, diving into the end zone to give WVU a 27-7 lead.
WVU added two more fourth-quarter scores when Shorts made a diving catch in the end zone of a 23-yard pass from Childress and Dreamius Smith ran in from 10 yards out.
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.