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West Virginia able to move ball through air

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By Josh Sickles
Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia is still struggling to run the ball, but there's no trouble moving the ball through the air.

The Mountaineers racked up 431 passing yards in Saturday's victory.

It's the most since Dec. 26, 1998, when the Marc Bulger-led Mountaineers tallied 452 yards against Missouri in a 34-31 Insight Bowl loss. Most of those yards came in the second half, as West Virginia started moving the ball effectively.

"I think we got into a groove," quarterback Geno Smith said. "I think we started to move the ball well, and our confidence started to pick up."

Backup quarterback Paul Millard also was involved in the effort. The true freshman from Flower Mound, Texas, made his college football debut, completing 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards and a 30-yard touchdown to Brad Starks.

"It's a great feeling," Millard said. "You find the college you want to go to, come here, get in the game as a freshman and throw your first touchdown. It's a great feeling."

They can't hear you

With all the offensive struggles in the first half, WVU fans let their frustration known just before halftime.

Boos filled Milan Puskar Stadium toward the end of the second quarter. Most notably, the noise increased following the Mountaineers' six consecutive failed attempts to score a touchdown from their opponents' 1-yard line.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said that he ignores that stuff while the game is going on but doesn't blame the fans for expressing their feelings.

"They probably had some good reasons," he said. "I would boo, too."

First-half dominance

Norfolk State dominated in the first half despite holding just a 12-10 lead at the break.

The Spartans held a 242-143 advantage in total yards and controlled the ball for more than eight minutes longer than West Virginia in the first half. Still, Norfolk State couldn't put the ball in the end zone, converting only four field goals.

Norfolk State has never scored a touchdown against an FBS opponent in four tries. Its best chance came on its opening possession, when quarterback Nico Flores hit Xavier Boyce on a 56-yard post down to the West Virginia 8. However, 30 yards of penalties forced the Spartans to settle for a 50-yard field goal.

Honoring 9/11

A day before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, West Virginia honored those lost in terrorist attacks a decade ago.

Former West Virginia quarterback Chris Gray was honored before the game. Gray, who played from 1987-91, was a victim of the attacks at the World Trade Center. He was an honorary captain for the game and represented by his brother, Tim.

The Gathering of Mountain Eagles wounded veterans group also took part in the coin toss.

There also was a moment of silence after the first quarter in remembrance of those lost on 9/11, followed by the singing of God Bless America.

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