LANDOVER, Md. – Ninth-ranked West Virginia scored the first four times it had the ball and rolled to a 42-12 victory over James Madison Saturday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Geno Smith completed 34-of-39 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns, and in the process, became West Virginia’s all-time career passing leader. Smith now shows 8,191 yards, topping the 8,153 yards Marc Bulger produced from 1996-99.
It was also Smith’s fifth career 400-yard passing performance before his day was finished early in the fourth quarter following his fifth touchdown pass.
"It was the second week in a row that Geno played really good," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "He got us out of some bad situations."
"My hat is off to them," said James Madison coach Mickey Matthews. "I mean it wasn't surprising how well they played. I think they are terrific on offense - specifically those three guys (Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey).
"Defensively, I think they are solid and they played much better tonight than they did against Marshall."
Today’s game featured offensive football that must have seemed foreign to Washington Redskins Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff, honored during the first quarter for his many accomplishments on the gridiron.
The only real suspense leading into this one was whether or not the Pittsburgh Pirates-Chicago Cubs baseball game was going to go into overtime, causing Mountaineer football fans watching the game on ROOT Sports to miss the opening kickoff.
But the Buccos held on for a rare win these days and the TV broadcast got off without a hitch.
However, the same couldn’t be said for the James Madison defense, which had great difficulty handling the speed of West Virginia’s offense, particularly in the first half.
"I'm proud of our guys," said Holgorsen. "I think we got better on all three sides of the ball."
The Mountaineers were four-for-four in touchdowns on their first four possessions before eventually being forced to punt late in the second quarter.
Corey Smith’s short rugby kick set up the Dukes at the Mountaineer 43, and James Madison eventually was able to turn that into a Cameron Starke 33-yard field goal that hit the left upright and bounced through with 1:02 remaining in the first half.
West Virginia’s final possession of the second quarter ended at the James Madison 22 when linebacker Jamie Veney pulled Andrew Buie down on a pass reception coming out of the backfield.
The Dukes stuffed West Virginia on its opening possession of the third quarter, and after the Mountaineer defense made an impressive goal line stand at the 1, James Madison’s defense was able to get on the board when safety Dean Marlowe tackled Shawne Alston in the end zone for a safety, making the score 28-5.
West Virginia immediately responded with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that once again ended up in the end zone. Smith completed six passes on the drive, including a 30-yard pass to Bailey for his fourth touchdown pass of the day.
Touchdown pass No. 5 for Smith came early in the fourth quarter when he found Austin for a 7-yard score in the corner of the end zone.
"We were trying to get pressure with four, but we just couldn't do it," Matthews said. "(Smith) just stood back there forever and passed. Because of that, we had to blitz and play man the whole game to make it competitive. We got some shots on them, but we could never get there."
Bailey finished the day with 13 catches for 173 yards and three touchdowns while Austin had 11 catches for 113 yards.
On the ground, Shawne Alston contributed 62 yards on 14 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run to begin the game.
Backup quarterback Paul Millard and the No. 2s played almost the entire fourth quarter.
Jauan Latney concluded the scoring with a 20-yard touchdown run with 49 seconds remaining for the Dukes.
"We still didn't get to the quarterback as much as we wanted to and still didn't tackle as well as we wanted to, but when you have that many bodies out there, that stuff is going to look bad," said Holgorsen.
James Madison (2-1) finished the game with 300 yards of offense, most of those coming in the second half when the outcome was already decided.
"I give a lot of credit to James Madison," said Holgorsen, now 12-3 as a Mountaineer coach. "A lot of the stuff that I said throughout the week was very evident when it comes to a very disciplined football team that plays very hard and it's important to them. They are smart on all three sides of the ball."
West Virginia (2-0) completes the non-conference portion of its schedule next Saturday in a noon game at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Terps lost 24-21 to Connecticut earlier today in College Park.