Big second half lifts WVU to rout of Norfolk
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — To the public, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is a pretty laid back guy, but his team saw something different when it was trailing, 12-10, at halftime.
"It's kind of like Jekyll and Hyde," junior quarterback Geno Smith said. "We see the bad side, and he gets on us. He was kind of irate (at halftime), but he stayed positive. That's what a good leader does."
The No. 19 Mountaineers scored touchdowns on their first five drives of the second half in a 55-12 win over Norfolk State on Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Field, overcoming a sluggish first-half effort.
"We're a young football team and inexperienced," Holgorsen said. "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."
Smith completed 12 of 16 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Smith and the offense found a groove after halftime, scoring 28 points in the third quarter. He finished with 371 passing yards, seventh most in school history, and four touchdowns.
"We didn't come out and play our game in the first half for whatever reasons, I don't know," Smith said. "The second half was a bit of night and day, but I think we did a good job of overcoming adversity."
West Virginia (2-0) struggled to consistently move the ball in the first half. The Mountaineers failed to make a first down until the 13:58 mark in the second quarter and came away with just three points on their first two trips inside the Norfolk State 5-yard line.
On their first attempt, West Virginia went for it on fourth down from the Norfolk State 5, but freshman running back Andrew Buie was stuffed at the line.
Their second try yielded only a field goal after the Mountaineers failed to score on six plays from the Spartans' 1. A Norfolk State pass interference call on third down gave West Virginia a fresh set of downs, but three more plays didn't yield a touchdown.
Still, the offense showed its potential in the second half. Holgorsen said the team didn't make any adjustments at halftime but came out with better effort and tempo in the second half.
Freshman running back Vernard Roberts started the scoring with a 3-yard plunge to regain the lead. Then, Smith hit Tavon Austin on a 3-yard slant in the end zone.
Another freshman running back, Dustin Garrison, then scored his first-career touchdown on a 1-yard run. Smith followed with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Urban, then a 39-yard scoring toss to Ivan McCartney, giving the Mountaineers a 45-12 lead.
"I think we just came out a little slow," said Austin, who finished with six catches for 82 yards. "We didn't take our opponent seriously in the first half, I don't think."
The final score wasn't indicative of the struggles the offense faced in the first half. Holgorsen knows his team still has room for improvement.
"We are going to keep them accountable for what they do wrong," he said. "For what the team does, what the unit does, there is not a whole lot of satisfaction. We have a long way to go."