WVU has easy time with James Madison
LANDOVER, Md. — When he first explored the potential of West Virginia's offense, star receiver Stedman Bailey appeared to speak too soon when he predicted that scoring 50 points a game was a reachable goal.
It appears Bailey might not have been bold enough.
The Mountaineers walloped their second consecutive opponent Saturday. This time it was FCS member James Madison that was unable to keep pace with the Mountaineers' attack, much less slow them down.
Led by senior quarterback Geno Smith, No. 9 West Virginia (2-0) scored on its first four possessions in a methodical 42-12 drubbing before 45,511 fans at FedEx Field.
“We came out and ran the offense to perfection,” receiver Tavon Austin said. “The linemen blocked, the wide receivers were running our routes hard, and Geno was delivering the ball.”
Smith and Bailey combined for a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter and three overall. Smith also threw touchdown strikes to Austin and Dante Campbell before being lifted early in the fourth quarter.
“It's good to have both those guys out there,” coach Dana Holgorsen said of Bailey and Austin, who became the first receivers at WVU to each record at least 10 receptions in a game since 1981.
Bailey had a school-record 13 receptions for 173 yards. Austin finished with 11 catches for 113 yards.
“Tavon played faster than he did a week ago,” Holgorsen said. “Stedman did this last year; we're aware of what he can do.”
It also doesn't hurt to have Smith playing quarterback. He's directing an attack that entered the game ranked second nationally in total offense and now averages 55 points per game. The Mountaineers host Maryland on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Smith passed for more than 300 yards for the second straight game to surpass Marc Bulger (8,153) as WVU's career passing leader with 8,191 yards. He was 34 of 39 for 411 yards and five touchdowns. Smith was pulled from the game after tossing his final touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Asked whether he could have done anything better against James Madison (2-1), Smith smiled and replied he wanted to take back those five incompletions.
“The point (in) the second and third quarter, we kind of stalled as an offense,” Smith said. “A lot of that was just me. I could have made some better checks, put us in a better situation. Overall I think I did a pretty good job.
“Obviously we want to go back and look the things we didn't do so well and just improve on it.”
Holgorsen said Smith simply makes everyone around him better.
“He is doing a great job of making checks,” Holgorsen said. “He's getting us in the right plays. His completion percentage is off the charts, and he's not taking sacks.”
There was one glitch in the 30-point victory: WVU's short-yardage ground game needs work.
Senior running back Shawne Alston was stopped on fourth-and-2 in the third quarter. Alston was later dropped for a safety on first-and-10 from the WVU 1 after the Mountaineers held James Madison on downs at the goal line.
Two weeks earlier, in a 69-34 win over Marshall, Smith was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 3.
“Same thing as (before),” Holgorsen said about WVU's lack of short-yardage success. “I should have kicked a field goal. This week I should have punted.”
Defensively, the Mountaineers improved upon their opening-game performance, when they allowed Marshall to gash them for 545 total yards. They held James Madison to 300 total yards and 4.2 yards per play. The Mountaineers turned back James Madison twice inside the Mountaineers' 10-yard line in the third quarter.
After Alston's 2-yard run opened the scoring, Smith threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Bailey on the next drive to make it 14-0. On WVU's next possession, Smith tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to Bailey to make it 21-0.
Smith's 4-yard scoring toss to Campbell made it 28-0 with still 10:15 left in the second quarter.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.