WVU vs. Norfolk State Game Recap - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU vs. Norfolk State Game Recap

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A slow start didn't hurt No. 19 West Virginia on its way to a 55-12 defeat over the visiting Norfolk State Spartans Saturday afternoon.

West Virginia found itself trailing at halftime, but head coach Dana Holgorsen rallied the team for an impressive second half performance in front of a crowd of 51,911 at Milan Puskar Stadium.

"Obviously, I'm not really pleased with the first half, but I was pleased with the second half," West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We're a young football team and inexperienced."

Norfolk State placekick Everett Goldberg nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Spartans an early 3-0 lead.

West Virginia's first drive of the game began at Norfolk State's 26-yard line after an unsuccessful onside kick. Following a three-and-out, West Virginia placekicker Tyler Bitancurt missed a 35-yard field attempt wide left. The score remained 3-0.

After Bitancurt's missed field goal, both teams posted scoreless possessions before Tavon Austin seemed to have the Mountaineers in business. Austin returned a punt 64 yards to the Norfolk State 12-yard line. However, West Virginia failed to record a first down, only to turn the ball over on fourth down.

At the end of the first quarter, West Virginia had found itself deep into Spartan territory two separate occasions, but had no points to show for it. In fact, the home team didn't record a first down until the 13:58 mark of the second quarter. Norfolk State added a 39-yard field goal to begin the second quarter giving the Spartans a 6-0 lead.

But, Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith began to find his rhythm on the next drive. He found Tavon Austin for 25 yards that led to first-and-goal at the one-yard line for WVU. Once again, the Mountaineers were unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 17-yard field goal by Bitancurt that cut the lead in half, 6-3.

The West Virginia defense and special teams unit held strong throughout the first half, and gave the offense great opportunities. Wide Receiver Devon Brown, a transfer from Wake Forest, gave West Virginia its first lead of the game on an 18-yard pass from Geno Smith with 5:53 remaining until halftime. However, the Spartans responded by adding two field goals to take a 12-10 lead into the locker room.

"The team came out and played pretty lackadaisical in the first half," Smith said. "Norfolk State came out and played us hard."

Dana Holgorsen's offense made four appearances in the red zone throughout the first half, but was only able to manufacture 10 points.

Were the Mountaineers focused on their counterparts?

"We don't overlook anyone around here," Smith said. "I just think we didn't come out and play our game in the first half. For whatever reason, I don't know."

The second half was a different story for West Virginia. Geno Smith got the scoring started by marching the Mountaineers down the field in three plays. Freshman running back Vernard Roberts capped off the impressive drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, his second of the season. And, in a blink of an eye, the home team was leading 17-12. The drive proved to be the turning point in the game, as West Virginia seized the momentum and scored a touchdown on their next five possessions.

Much like his team, Geno Smith started slowly but finished strong on his way to another impressive offensive performance. Smith finished 19-33 for 372 yards and four touchdowns.

His 372 passing yards was the seventh-best single game performance in school history.

Smith was also able to spread the wealth to a variety of receivers, with four different receivers catching a touchdown pass from Smith on Saturday.

The rushing attack was a bit improved this week, but not much. Running backs Vernard Roberts, Dustin Garrison Trey Johnson and Andrew Buie all saw action on Saturday. The four combined for 99 yards rushing and two touchdowns

"Our run game was not good," Holgorsen said. "It's not what we want right now and we have to get better. I'd say Vernard (Roberts) ran the hardest."

Backup quarterback Paul Millard saw his first collegiate action against the Spartans. He entered the game midway through the fourth quarter. Millard led the Mountaineers on a 10 play 67-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bradley Starks.

The touchdown was the final score of the game for both teams.

Following the 55-12 victory for West Virginia, Geno Smith wasted no time to recognize the play by Norfolk State.

 "My credit goes to Norfolk State for coming in with a good gameplan and playing hard," Smith said.

West Virginia outscored Norfolk State 45-0 in the second half.

 

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