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September 14, 2013

'Built Ford Tough': WVU defeats Panthers 41-7

After two weeks of lackluster offensive performances to open up the season, the West Virginia offense received an "ecoboost" Saturday against Georgia State in the form of quarterback Ford Childress.

Making his first career start for the Mountaineers, Childress put on an impressive show on offense, completing 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 41-7 West Virginia victory.

It would take a couple series, however, for Childress and the offense to find a rhythm as the Mountaineers could not find the endzone early in the contest. A strong opening drive, highlighted by a 24-yard reverse handoff to Mario Alford, ended abruptly deep in Georgia State territory. The Mountaineers settled for a 42-yard field goal attempt by Josh Lambert to crack the scoreboard on the opening drive.

West Virginia managed to find pay dirt on their second offensive series, with Childress leading his troops on an 11 play, 93-yard drive, ending with a 21-yard touchdown toss to Daikiel Shorts - the first of their careers. Childress proved to be rather efficient in the pocket, extending the play on numerous occasions and only throwing one incompletion - an overthrown deep ball to Kevin White.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineer defense continued to put on a strong performance against their foe, holding the Panthers to 79-yards in the first quarter, 31 of which coming on a desperation heave by quarterback Ronnie Bell near the end of the quarter.

But the focus would continue to be squarely on Childress and the West Virginia offense throughout the first half. After hearing numerous reports about his accurate arm strength, Childress put it on full display during his fourth drive, connecting with Ronald Carswell on a laser 43-yard completion into Panther territory. Although the ball was slightly underthrown, forcing Carswell to adjust in stride, the completion was excited those in attendance.

However, the good vibes would be short-lived, as Childress crossed off another career first three plays later - his first interception. With Georgia State bringing a full blitz on third-and-11, Childress quickly dumped the ball off across the middle to a waiting Panther defender for his first career pick, and West Virginia's sixth turnover in three games.

From there, the Mountaineers struggled to find offensive consistency for the remainder of the half. On the ensuing drive, the Mountaineers utilized the run game more so than any previous drive, with Charles Sims nearly breaking through the second level on a 25-yard run.

But the drive would again stall at the Georgia State 36-yard line with West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert missing a 53-yard field goal attempt short.

The Mountaineers would again find their rhythm on offense as the half neared its conclusion, with a two play, 60-yard drive, ending with a 45-yard touchdown reception by Ivan McCartney. The score allowed the Mountaineers to extend the lead heading into halftime at 17-0.

Frustration began to build for the Mountaineers as the second half opened up, as a number of dropped passes kept the offense stagnant in Panther territory. Following a 15-yard chop block penalty, West Virginia was backed up into an almost impossible situation, looking at third-and-22 beyond the 50-yard line. However, Childress would connect with K.J. Myers across the middle for a 22-yard gain, leaving the offense with a fourth-and-two attempt at the Georgia State 25.

The Mountaineers would go for it on fourth-and-short, but unfortunately for the offense, a breakdown in blocking led to a quick sack on Childress, turning the ball over on downs.

With the fourth down stop, momentum quickly shifted in favor of Georgia State; something the Panthers would take full advantage of in short order.

On the first play of the drive, Bell would hand the ball off to running back Travis Evans up the middle who proceeded to take it 65-yards to the house, giving Georgia State its first rushing touchdown of the season, longest in program history, and putting them on the board. The Mountaineers still maintained a 17-7 advantage.

In an effort to regain some offensive identity, the Mountaineers took to the ground for a bulk of the ensuing drive, with decent success. West Virginia moved the ball efficiently down the field, finding themselves deep within the shadow of the end zone.

However, the drive stalled once again at the 6-yard line, forcing the Mountaineers to kick a short field goal. Lambert would return to the field and connect from 26-yards out to extend the West Virginia lead, 20-7.

West Virginia would again return to its ground on the following drive, but this time with more breakthrough success. Eight plays in, Childress handed the ball off to running back Sims off the left tackle. With breakaway speed, and blocking help from Carswell on the outside, Sims blew past the Georgia State defenders for a 32-yard touchdown. The score pushed West Virginia's lead further out of Georgia State's hands, putting the Mountaineers on top 27-7.

The Mountaineer's defense would continue to hold the Panthers at bay thanks in part to strong play from linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. The redshirt sophomore linebacker ended the game leading the team in tackles, but it was a forced fumble early in the fourth quarter that really helped secure his status as defensive MVP. The fumble was recovered by Karl Joseph, putting the Mountaineers at the Georgia State 33-yard line to start the drive.

It would not take Childress long to capitalize on the strong field position. The quarterback connected with his fellow freshman Shorts for their second touchdown pairing of the game. The 23-yard touchdown again extended the Mountaineer's lead to 34-7.

West Virginia would put together one final scoring drive - a 10-yard touchdown run by Dreamius Smith - just prior to time expiring, sealing the win for the Mountaineers.

Final score: West Virginia 41, Georgia State 7.

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