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

WVU vs. Connecticut Game Recap

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Nick Arthur, Morgantown -

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No. 16 West Virginia defeated Connecticut 43-16 Saturday afternoon in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.

The Mountaineers have now won four consecutive Big East openers.

"It was a good win today," West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Defensively, we played very good, and offensively we played very good in the second half. It was a good team win and a good conference win."

Connecticut showed success on its first drive of the game. The Huskies were able to drive deep into West Virginia territory. However, Connecticut kicker Dave Teggart missed a 42-yard field goal.

West Virginia's first drive also marched into opponent's territory. But, just like Connecticut's first possession, the Mountaineers were forced to settle for a field goal attempt. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt nailed a 31-yard attempt to give the home team an early 3-0 lead.

Connecticut continued to be efficient on offense. Another long drive resulted in a Dave Teggart 40-yard field goal, tying the score at 3 apiece.

A fumble by West Virginia wide receiver Ivan McCartney on the ensuing drive gave Dave Teggart another opportunity. Teggart made a 53-yard field goal to give UConn its first lead of the game, 6-3. The kick was Teggart's career long.

The West Virginia offense struggled mightily in the first quarter of play. This allowed UConn to hold an 11:07 to 3:53 advantage in time of possession at the beginning of the second quarter.

Mountaineer punter Michael Molinari got his first start of the season, replacing ineffective Corey Smith. Molinari was impressive in his first career start. He was able to consistently pin the Huskies deep in their own territory.

"It was just amazing," Molinari said. "I had a little bit of nerves on that first punt. It was just an amazing feeling."

Quarterback Geno Smith finally got the offense clicking just before halftime. A 45-yard drive ended with a 14-yard touchdown run by running back Dustin Garrison. The Mountaineers led 10-6.

But, Teggart was able to add a 22-yard field goal as time expired. West Virginia took a 10-9 lead into the locker room.

UConn started the second half much like they began the first. Quarterback Johnny McEntee anchored an impressive drive that had the Huskies in the red zone. But, UConn committed its first turnover of the game, a fumble by McEntee.  West Virginia cornerback Pat Miller forced the fumble and linebacker Jewone Snow returned it 84 yards to the Huskies' 12 yard line.

The defense did a great job of complimenting the Mountaineer offense.

"The best it's (the defense) been all year," Holgorsen said. "That was a dominating performance from our defense. The run defense got after the passer and created turnovers."

Geno Smith found wide receiver Tavon Austin two plays after the fumble recovery for a 12-yard touchdown pass, extending the West Virginia lead to 17-9.

The fumbled proved to be the turning point in the game.

"The one that took the wind out of our sails was the 84-yard one," Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We came back from there but we never could regain field position."

The first play of West Virginia's next possession was an 84-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to wide receiver Stedman Bailey, giving the Mountaineers a 24-9 advantage.

The West Virginia defense made impressive plays all game.  On the Huskies' next drive, Jewone Snow sacked Johnny McEntee in the endzone for a safety.

West Virginia continued to extend the lead. Just before the end of the third quarter, Geno Smith hit a streaking Brad Starks for a 22-yard touchdown pass. West Virginia led, 33-9.

Tyler Bitancurt connected on his second field goal of the game with 10:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.

And, Geno Smith wasn't finished quite yet. He connected with Stedman Bailey for a 22-yard touchdown pass, extending the Mountaineers' lead to 43-9.

Despite an ordinary slow start, Geno Smith was able to finish 27-45 for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Coach Holgorsen was pleased with Smith's effort—particularly in the second half.

"He is capable of being as good as any quarterback in college football," Holgorsen said. "He still puts too much on his shoulders. "

Backup quarterback Paul Millard saw action in the fourth quarter, but his first pass was completed to UConn cornerback Ty-Meer Brown and returned for a touchdown.

Stedman Bailey led all West Virginia receivers with 178 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

West Virginia has scored forty or more points in consecutive games for the first time since 2007.

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