ORLANDO, Fla. – Five West Virginia turnovers and a pair of Russell Wilson touchdown passes powered NC State to a 23-7 victory over the 22nd-ranked Mountaineers in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl played at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
West Virginia’s inability to hold on to the football and blown scoring opportunities (two missed Tyler Bitancurt field goals) made this game very similar to the Mountaineers’ two Big East losses to Syracuse and Connecticut that sent them to Orlando instead of a BCS bowl. In those two conference losses, WVU turned the ball over a combined seven times and 14 times overall in its four defeats this season.
Wilson completed 28 of 45 passes for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also ran 14 times for 41 yards to earn game MVP honors.
Wilson got State on the scoreboard on its second possession of the game, leading it on a 10-play, 86-yard scoring drive - most of that yardage coming through the air. Wilson completed passes of 11, 22, 5, 14, 4 and 16 yards on the drive, and also scrambled twice for 14 yards.
The Wolfpack (9-4) had a chance to expand their lead to 10 early in the second quarter, but Corey Tedder’s fake field goal pitch over his shoulder to kicker Josh Czajkowski was recovered by West Virginia’s Terence Garvin at the 32.
Two possessions later, West Virginia (9-4) scored its only touchdown when Smith hooked up with high school teammate Stedman Bailey for a 32-yard score. A Smith 14-yard pass along the far sideline to Tavon Austin kept the chains moving on third and nine, and a 9-yard pass to Shawne Alston out of the backfield on third and eight got the ball to the Wolfpack 38.
After West Virginia’s TD, T.J. Graham’s 46-yard kickoff return gave State great field position at the Mountaineer 47. Wilson then found Owen Spencer for 19 yards to the WVU 30 to set up Czajkowski’s 45-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining in the half.
Smith made two first down runs before the first half clock ran out with West Virginia at the Wolfpack 43 and still possessing a timeout.
Two third quarter field goals by Czajkowski of 38 and 40 yards gave State a 16-7 lead, the second with 1:50 left coming as a result of Tavon Austin’s fumble at the WVU 26. Czajkowski’s fourth field goal try from the West Virginia 17 was pulled wide left early in the fourth quarter.
After Czajkowski’s first field goal of the second half it looked like West Virginia was in business when Sanders returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Wolfpack 34. But the drive ended there, Smith misfiring on his first pass to Starks and then two short completions to Sanders and Austin setting up a fourth down pass to Sanders that was complete along the far sideline for first down yardage, but Sanders couldn’t keep his foot in bounds.
It was indicative of the way West Virginia’s offense played the entire evening.
A Sanders fumbled punt at the seven allowed the Wolfpack to score their second touchdown with 3:55 remaining in the game. Wilson showed his tremendous athleticism on the TD, evading West Virginia’s rush to flip a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Williams in the back of the end zone.
WVU’s defense did its best to keep the Mountaineers in the game, sacking Wilson five times and limiting the Wolfpack to only two touchdowns despite spending most of the second half on their side of the field.
Smith, under constant pressure, finished the game completing 22 of 39 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown. He also led West Virginia with 59 rushing yards.
Devine, playing his final game for the Mountaineers, added 50 yards on eight carries. He finished the season with 934 yards, falling short of his third straight 1,000-yard season. Sanders caught five passes for 58 yards while Bailey added four catches for 61 yards.
NC State’s Williams was the game’s top receiver with six catches for 77 yards.