2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 2 - Norfolk State at WVU
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Sept. 10 at West Virginia 55 ... Norfolk State 12
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Coach Dana Holgorsen experienced his first halftime deficit at West Virginia and got a taste of the home crowd's boos.
He also saw one heck of a second-half outburst from the Mountaineers.
Geno Smith threw for 371 yards and four scores and No. 19 West Virginia overcame a rough start to beat Norfolk State 55-12 on Saturday.
The Mountaineers (2-0) piled up 533 total yards and scored on their first seven possessions of the second half to erase a 12-10 halftime deficit against an FCS opponent.
"Obviously, I'm not really pleased with the first half, but I was pleased with the second half," Holgorsen said. "We're a young football team and inexperienced. I don't know if we're trying too hard or if it was a coaching error. Either way I'm proud of the way we came out in the second half."
Asked to divulge Holgorsen's halftime speech, Smith said, "I think he's a laid-back guy to the media, but us, we kind of see Jekyll and Hyde. He was kind of irate, but he stayed positive and that's what a great leader does."
This game may be remembered for the early scare the Spartans put into West Virginia, which had a short week to prepare after beating cross-state foe Marshall in a lightning-shortened opener last Sunday.
Holgorsen declared he was pleased with no player's performance heading into tougher tests at Maryland next Saturday and at home Sept. 24 against No. 2 LSU.
"We are going to keep them accountable for what they do wrong," Holgorsen said.
West Virginia got little run production for the second straight game. Four different running backs got carries, with Vernard Roberts leading the way with 64 yards on 17 carries.
Smith held the ball too long at times and even got sacked once by Norfolk State's three-man rush.
West Virginia didn't get its initial first down until there were 2 minutes gone in the second quarter. The Mountaineers couldn't get into the end zone on three trips inside the Norfolk State 20 in the first half. Fans booed after West Virginia took six plays on first-and-goal from the 1 without punching it in and settled for a short field goal.
Things finally started clicking for the Mountaineers when they made five first downs on an 81-yard drive that ended with Smith's 18-yard scoring toss to Devon Brown midway through the second quarter.
But Corey Smith shanked a 15-yard punt to give Norfolk State the ball at the West Virginia 37 with 29 seconds left. A roughing the passer call on Bruce Irvin put the Spartans in field-goal range and Ryan Estep's 40-yarder put Norfolk State ahead at halftime.
It was the Spartans' fourth field goal of the half. Everett Goldberg hit from 50 yards in the first quarter and Estep also had a pair of 39-yarders.
Norfolk State's offense exposed some weaknesses in West Virginia's secondary and the Mountaineers were outgained 242-143 by halftime.
Spartans coach Pete Adrian, making his first trip to Morgantown since graduating from WVU in 1970, said his players were fired up in the locker room.
"We outplayed them in the first half. There's no question about that," Adrian said. "You can sugar coat it anyway that you want. We did, and then we got blistered in the second half. It was a tale of two halves I guess."
West Virginia needed just three plays to find the end zone after halftime, and after Smith hit Ivan McCartney with a 39-yard TD toss early in the fourth, the Mountaineers had scored five touchdowns in a 15-minute span.
"We ran the same plays the second half that we did in the first half," Holgorsen said. "It was all about effort and playing up to tempo. We probably didn't respect our opponent all week."
Smith finished 20 of 34 passing after going 8 of 18 in the first half.
"Hats off to those guys," Smith said of Norfolk State, "because they really came in here to win the game."
West Virginia's defense woke up, too, limiting Norfolk State (1-1) to two first downs in the second half. The Mountaineers have yet to allow an offensive touchdown in their first two games.
Smith also had scoring tosses of 3 yards to Tavon Austin and 12 yards to Tyler Urban. Backup Paul Millard finished the game and threw a 30-yard scoring strike to Brad Starks with 3:18 remaining.
West Virginia's 431 passing yards were the most since a school-record 452 against Missouri in 1998. Brown led WVU receivers with 109 yards on four catches.
Norfolk State's Chris Walley went 16 of 27 for 136 yards. Xavier Boyce caught eight passes for 100 yards.
The Spartans also were penalized 19 times for 177 yards.
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Norfolk State (1-0) at West Virginia (1-0) Sept. 10, 1:00
Here’s The Deal … Last Sunday’s debut for West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was not highlighted by the spectacular plays fans have come to know and love from the offensive guru; unfortunately, the weather stole the highlight reel. With that said, West Virginia fans will be looking for Saturday’s matchup against Norfolk State as the full debut of the new offense, weather permitting. The Mountaineers enter this game riding an 8-0 record against FCS schools, dating back to 1978. This includes victories over Liberty in 2009 and James Madison in 2004, a pair of schools from Virginia, home of Norfolk State. The Mountaineers historically have no problem besting FCS schools, winning by an average margin of 29 points.
Norfolk State, on the other hand, is 0-3 in the same span against FBS schools, including a 31-0 loss at Rutgers last season. However, the Spartans have experience on their side in the coaching ranks. Head man Pete Adrian enters his fifth season at the helm, and brings 42 years of experience to the sidelines, including a stint at West Virginia as the defensive line coach in the late 1960s. Saturday’s game will be Adrian’s first appearance in Morgantown since leaving the university in 1970.
Why Norfolk State Might Win: While conventional wisdom says West Virginia will run Norfolk State through the gauntlet Saturday, the Spartans may have enough returning talent to hold their own in Morgantown. With 15 returning starters from the 2010 season, including a slew of defensive talent, the Spartans have the tools available to disrupt West Virginia’s offensive attack. Led by the anchor of the line, two-time All-MEAC selection Josh Turner, and preseason FCS Linebacker of the Year Corwin Hammond, the Spartans defense is the key to success in this game. If Norfolk State wants to pull off the upset of the year in college football, its defense will have to be on the absolute top of its game.
Why West Virginia Might Win: West Virginia fans only got a small preview of the new offense last Sunday. This week, they are hoping for an all-out display. The rain-shortened adventure against Marshall showed glimpses of brilliance for the Mountaineers, but will we see the same against an FCS opponent? With the offensive talent on the West Virginia sideline, led by quarterback Geno Smith, the gap between the Mountaineers and Spartans is apparent. In a little over three quarters last week, Smith accounted for 249 passing yards with two touchdowns, while still trying to find his groove in the system. With an extra week of practice under his belt, it’s hard to believe these numbers will not improve. Defensively, Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 set gave Marshall fits last week, and the same is likely against Norfolk State, as the Mountaineers continue to work new players into the system. This week’s game will give Casteel a chance to play with the lineup and try to find the perfect set heading into two tough games at Maryland and at home against LSU.
What To Watch Out For: In last week’s 35-13 victory over Marshall, West Virginia WR Tavon Austin was singled out as the player of the game, in part for his 100-yard kickoff return prior to the first lightning delay. This week, the West Virginia faithful will be expecting the same explosive abilities they have come to admire from the junior. Austin has been described by some as the fastest player West Virginia has ever had, and in an offensive system where speed is king, it is just a matter of time until he breaks through on the national stage. However, don’t expect Austin to be the only explosive offensive star on the field. Norfolk State quarterback Chris Walley enters the game coming off an impressive showing in the Spartans’ opener against Virginia State, completing 25-of-29 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, good enough to earn MEAC Offensive Player of the Week honors. While it might be a tall order to repeat that performance, Walley is a confident, accurate quarterback who can’t be overlooked by the West Virginia staff.
What Will Happen: While Mother Nature may have halted a full exposition of Holgersen’s historically-prolific offense on Sunday, she will need to come in full force yet again to prevent what should be a blowout. Expect West Virginia to unleash the passing attack early and often, taking the lead and not relenting. Look for West Virginia’s starters to pad the lead, and their stats, enough in the first half to give the second and third-stringers plenty of reps after halftime. While it might not be much of a game on paper, expect the ‘neers to try and find a nice rhythm in preparation for a deadly two-game stretch against Maryland and LSU.
CFN Prediction: West Virginia 62 … Norfolk State 10
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