“That’s a big win, right?” Holgorsen asked. “We talked all week about starting fast, and we did that. Other than the last drive, though, I guess we forgot to finish.”
The victory sets up a potential ESPN College GameDay visit to Morgantown next week for a nationally televised game vs. No. 3 LSU.
West Virginia scored 27 first-half points – including two rushing touchdowns and a defensive score – to take what would eventually become an insurmountable lead over the Terrapins.
In that half, the Mountaineers racked up a total of 315 yards and scored on all four possessions in the red zone. WVU didn’t punt in the first half.
“It’s always good to come out with a victory. We came out fired up,” said WVU quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith finished 39-of-49 for 388 yards and one touchdown – the team’s only one in the second half. Three receivers – Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney – had more than 100 yards receiving. It’s the first time that has happened at WVU since 1998.
“We pretty much have playmakers all over the field, and Geno was able to spread it out,” Bailey said. “A lot of our guys came up with big plays, which is great for our offense.”
The Terrapins made a furious comeback through the late part of the third quarter and early part of the fourth quarter. Maryland scored 21-straight points to take a 34-10 WVU advantage just a 34-31 lead for the Mountaineers.
“When you’re playing a good team, stuff like that is going to happen,” Holgorsen said. “You’ve got to be able to overcome that. And, if we didn’t have very good leadership, we could’ve caved. Offensively and defensively, we didn’t.”
Player of the Game
Maryland scored three straight rushing touchdowns in a less than nine minutes to completely swing the momentum toward the Terrapins in front of the fifth-largest crowd in Byrd Stadium history of 53,627.
WVU’s offense would not let the game go.
On a third-and-four play, Smith found Bailey, who juked a defender and ran for a 21-yard reception inside Maryland territory.
Smith was sacked on second and short inside the 40-yard line to make another third-and-long. This time, Smith found wide receiver Ryan Nehlen for a 13-yard completion to continue the drive.
Four plays and another first down later, the Mountaineers were inside the 5-yard line, but a fade pass on third-and-goal toward Bailey was underthrown and fell incomplete.
Kicker Tyler Bitancurt came out to hit a 21-yard field goal to make it 37-31 with 4:42 to play.
“My hat goes off to Maryland, because they came out in the second half and gave us everything we could take,” Smith said. “I think we fought just a little bit harder than those guys in the end to get the victory.”
After Maryland drove down the field, even converting a fourth-down play, Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien threw his third interception of the game – this one to senior safety Eain Smith – at the 13-yard line to seal the game for WVU.
“We came out flat in the second half, and quite frankly we made it a game,” Smith said. “When it comes down to it, the defense will make plays.”
After Maryland took a 3-0 lead following a fumble by WVU offense Andrew Buie, the Mountaineers offense put together a solid, four-minute drive capped off by a touchdown by freshman running back Vernard Roberts who sprinted through a wide-open hole created by the line.
Player of the Game
.5 tackles for loss
On the Terrapins’ ensuing kickoff, O’Brien threw an interception right into the arms of WVU safety Terence Garvin, who ran it back 37 yards for the score. It was the first turnover forced by the Mountaineers in 2011, and first defensive touchdown scored by the team since 2009. O’Brien would throw another interception in the half.
A 35-yard field goal by Bitancurt was followed up by a 10-yard rushing touchdown from freshman running back Andrew Buie, which gave the Mountaineers a 24-3 advantage.
Meanwhile, the Terrapins were only able to get one touchdown in the first half on a spectacular throw and catch from O’Brien to Kevin Dorsey. It was the first touchdown given up by the WVU defense this season, however.
Bitancurt added a 34-yard field goal at the end of the half to go into the half with a 27-10 lead.
Coming out in the second half, WVU hit what would be the decisive blow to Maryland’s spirits with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Smith to wide receiver Stedman Bailey to take a 34-10 lead that the Terrapins couldn’t claw back from.
WVU’s rushing attack and offensive line had perhaps their best games of the season. The Mountaineers finished with 92 yards on the ground led by Buie.
WVU’s defense gave up 477 yards to Maryland.
First-year Maryland head coach Randy Edsall loses his first game at the school in his second game.
Prior to the game, reports detailed that Pittsburgh and Syracuse had applied for membership with the ACC.
A nervous-looking, pacing Big East Conference commissioner John Marinatto talked on the phone prior to kickoff on the far side of the Maryland press box before being moved by WVU Associate Athletic Director Mike Parsons to a private room.
For weeks, West Virginia has been widely considered to be the 14th team in the SEC once Texas A&M enters the conference. But, the Mountaineers are reportedly not on the ACC’s resume.
Marinatto had no comment. Neither did West Virginia officials.