MORGANTOWN--The Norfolk State Spartans struck first, but the No. 19 West Virginia Mountaineers finished strong, scoring 45 points on their first eight second-half possessions, winning 55-12. The Spartans scored led 12-10 at halftime before that Mountaineer spurt.
In fact, the Spartans totaled 179 yards in that first period, 23 yards more than their game total in a 31-0 loss to Rutgers last season.
Norfolk State received the pigskin first, quickly gaining 56 yards on a play-action jet sweep pass to Xavier Boyce. Cornerback Keith Tandy bit on the double-fake, similarly to the senior's miscue against Aaron Dobson and Marshall during last year's Friends of Coal Bowl.
But the Spartans would settle for a 50-yard field goal by long-distance specialist Everett Goldberg. Norfolk State would rack up 20 penalty yards during this drive, a precursor to their 19 penalties for 169 yards at game's end.
A failed State onside provided WVU with possession at their own 26-yard line, but Tyler Bitancurt would hook his 35-yard attempt left.
Both teams traded two punts, with West Virginia surrounding possession on three plays during three consecutive downs.
Norfolk State would add a 39-yard conversion by Ryan Estep to attain a 6-0 lead.
The Mountaineers would get on the board next, orchestrating a 10-play, 60-yard drive ending with a Bitancurt goal-line field goal. But the team's malaise would be discouraging once again.
Tavon Austin's 45-yard catch-and-run pushed the ball to the one. Geno Smith would throw incomplete on a fade to Stedman Bailey, then Vance Roberts failed to gain yardage. The officials called a pass interference charge against a Spartan defender on Smith's next try to Bailey on a comeback route.
Roberts would again be stopped on first down. Ivan McCartney ran another comeback for Smith, but the ball never crossed the goal-line as he fell out of bounds. A deep out for Tavon Austin would sail out of bounds before Holgorsen sent in the field goal unit.
Another Spartan punt led to an 11-play, 81-yard Mountaineer excursion, resulting in a 18-yard post from Smith to Wake Forest transfer Devon Brown.
But State responded, driving to earn Estep's second 39-yarder of the day, and draw the game within 1, 10-9.
The Mountaineers sputtered for the fourth time of the day, punting after three plays resulted in seven lost yards. Punter Corey Smith would accentuate that inefficiency with a 15-yard push right off his foot.
An overzealous Bruce Irvin, who totaled three tackles, hit Spartan quarterback Chris Walley high, drawing a roughing penalty. That miscue provided Estep with a 40-yard attempt. The kick was good as the half ended with the FCS Spartans up 12-10 on the Mountaineers.
State held 242 yards to WVU's 143, while controlling 19:08 of game clock in contrast to the Mountaineers' 10:52. Smith was 8-of-18 for 108 yards at the juncture, while Spartan wideout Xavier Boyce snagged seven balls for 95 yards. Tavon Austin's three catches totaled 69 yards, and the mercurial slot added a 64-yard punt return.
The good news? Norfolk State would only gain 43 yards the rest of the game.
West Virginia? The Mountaineers would bounce their 33 plays for 143 yard performance to a healthy 390 yards on 40 plays.
The Blue-and-Gold started with an 18-yard Vance Roberts rush, followed by a 40-yard streak to Stedman Bailey. Roberts would punch the score in from three yards out next play. WVU had recaptured the lead in 1:09, and would not look back.
Norfolk punted five plays later. Smith found Dustin Garrison on a 36-yard seam route to begin the drive. The freshman rusher jittered 13-yards on the next play before a Spartan tacked on a 15-yard personal foul. Smith found Austin on a three-yard inside slant three plays later,
Again, another five Spartan plays culminated in a punt. Six plays, 60 yards later, Garrison went off-tackle for his first career score.
Next, Norfolk took just three plays before relenting. A poor punt gave West Virginia possession at the 49, where Trey Johnson began the drive with a pair of two-yard carries. Smith converted the third down, finding McCartney on a 29-yard sideline streak right in the heart of the Cover-2 defense.
Tyler Urban scored on a 12-yard short post two plays later, closing the quarter at 38-12 WVU.
The Spartans would punt after three more tries, allowing Smith to strike Ivan McCartney for a 39-yard scoring bomb two plays later.
Another three-and-out let Smith direct his last drive of the day, allowing Bitancurt to notch a 21-yard field goal and a 48-12 lead.
Smith finished 19-for-33, totaling 372 yards and four scores. Vernard Roberts led all rushers with 64 yards on 17 carries, including his second score in as many weeks. Devon Brown was the high-yardage receiver, with 109 yards on four touches.
Austin finished with five catches for 83 yards and two rushes losing one yard. McCartney matched Brown in snares but had 30 fewer yards at 79. Garrison's three rushes totaled 19 yards, while Andrew Buie looked indecisive again this week during a four-rush, seven-yard performance.
+ Geno Smith was 10-for-21 at one point, adding 180 yards and a touchdown. His next eight passes would all be complete for 137 yards and three scores.
+ Paul Millard replaced Smith after that Bitancurt field goal, completing 5-of-6 throws for 60 yards, including a 30-yard scoring toss to Brad Starks. Other than a scramble off a messed-up play on his first possession, Millard looked at ease.