Mountaineers Blank Chanticleers
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
September 4, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Geno Smith completed 20 of 27 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns to lead 25th-ranked West Virginia to a 31-0 victory over Coastal Carolina Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
Smith fired touchdown passes of 4 yards to J.D. Woods and 17 yards to Jock Sanders before giving way to backup Barry Brunetti early in the fourth quarter with the Mountaineers leading 31-0.
“I really liked the way our defense played,” said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. "I am really pleased with the way our defense adjusted and reacted during the football game."
West Virginia (1-0) scored on its opening possession of the game when Smith led it on a 16-play, 73-yard drive that ended with Smith hooking up with Woods on a fourth-down pass at the front of the Coastal goal line. West Virginia’s second score was set up by a 30-yard Smith-to-Tavon Austin pass and a Jock Sanders 31-yard run on a pretty reverse that took the ball to the Chanticleers 6. But three straight Devine runs totaled a loss of a yard, setting up Bitancurt’s 14th field goal in 16 career tries.
West Virginia appeared to be set up for another touchdown right before the end of the first half after a Smith to Johnson 18-yard pass moved the ball to the Coastal 18, but two plays later, Austin fumbled the ball out of the end zone trying to score from the 15.
The Mountaineers forced Coastal (0-1) to punt with 1:21 left in the half and had great field position at the 43, but Smith telegraphed a pass out in the flat to Austin that was picked off by Dominique Davenport and returned 37 yards to the West Virginia 21 where Austin made a touchdown-saving tackle.
Coastal Carolina’s Zach MacDowell’s went for six points, but his pass attempt was intercepted by Brandon Hogan in the back of the end zone. A review by the replay official confirmed Hogan’s pick.
The Mountaineers couldn’t move the sticks with the clock winding down and Gregg Pugnetti’s 72-yard punt was downed by West Virginia at the Coastal 1 with 0.6 seconds showing on the clock. MacDowell’s incomplete pass ended the first half.
“On offense I thought we misfired early,” said Stewart. "I think it is maybe Geno's sixth game and it was the first complete game he's played. He will learn, he will get better and he's my guy."
West Virginia’s kickoff team set up the Mountaineers second touchdown of the afternoon at the start of the second half when Robert Sands forced Adrian Sullivan to fumble at the Coastal 19, where Darwin Cook managed to recover it.
Three plays later, Smith hooked up with Sanders on a 17-yard touchdown with just 1:26 expired in the third quarter.
Three possessions after that, Smith engineered a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Ryan Clarke 1-yard touchdown plunge. Smith hit passes of 19 yards to Sanders and 33 yards to Austin – Austin’s play a thing of beauty when he changed direction in the middle of the field and out ran the Chanticleer defense up the near sideline.
Devine set up and then scored West Virginia’s fourth touchdown when he ran 39 yards to the Coastal 4, and then bounced off right tackle for his 24th career touchdown run. Devine needed his 22nd and 23rd carries to reach 100 yards for the 15th time in his career. Devine finished the afternoon running 23 times for 118 yards.
Tavon Austin caught five passes for 90 yards and Sanders had eight catches for 71 yards.
Smith’s 216 yards passing marked the second time in 15 years a Mountaineer starting quarterback has passed for more than 200 yards in his first career start. Jarrett Brown threw for 244 yards in West Virginia’s triple-overtime win over Rutgers in 2006.
West Virginia’s defense limited Coastal Carolina to 186 total yards on 60 plays to pitch its first shutout since blanking Cincinnati, 38-0 on Nov. 9, 2005. Coastal missed two chances to score when Justin Durham’s two second-half field goal attempts from 47 and 42 yards missed wide right.
"We have a lot of speed on our defense and I was pleased with the way we used it," said Stewart.
The biggest improvement from a year ago was West Virginia’s kickoff unit now coordinated by Steve Dunlap. It began with the team’s first kickoff when Corey Smith kicked the ball to the Coastal 9 and Pat Miller nailed Sullivan at the 19.
The Chanticleers’ five kickoff returns covered 10, 22, 19, 18 and 9 yards with the best starting field position at their own 27. That’s a far cry from last year when teams regularly began drives at midfield.
“Special teams I was really pleased with,” said Stewart. “I thought we were polished and I was really pleased with the way our kids bought in and I thought our coverage was excellent.”
Brunetti was in on West Virginia’s final three drives of the afternoon and finished the game completing 3 of 5 passes for no yards.
"We wanted to get some of the younger guys in there and I wanted to get Jeremy (Johnson) in there as well but we had a couple of turnovers and wasn't able to do it," Stewart said.
Coastal Carolina’s MacDowall completed 13 of 26 passes for 119 yards with four of those passes going to David Duran for 64 yards.
"I like the 71 plays, I like the way we controlled the clock and the fact that we had only three penalties, but we have a long, long way to go," said Stewart. "There is a lot of football to get better."
This is the third consecutive year West Virginia has started the season with an FCS opponent at home; WVU downed Villanova in 2008 and Liberty last year. The victory was West Virginia’s ninth straight at home under Stewart dating back to 2008 – the seventh longest in school history.
"You come out of a game like this with mixed feelings," said Coastal Carolina coach Dave Bennett. "You take the positives and you don't dwell on the negatives."
West Virginia has a quick turnaround, facing Marshall in six days next Friday night in Huntington in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN.
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