12:00 PM ET, September 22, 2012
Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's Tavon Austin just can't get enough of Maryland.
Austin caught three touchdown passes in another remarkable game against his home-state Terrapins and No. 8 West Virginia outlasted Maryland 31-21 on Saturday.
A Baltimore native, Austin accounted for half of West Virginia's offense, catching 13 passes for 179 yards and setting a school record for career receptions.
"It was my last time playing Maryland," said Austin, a senior. "So there was a little bit on the line for me."
Starting His Campaign Early
West Virginia QB Geno Smith is stating his case for the Heisman Trophy early. Since Robert Griffin III won the Heisman last year, Smith has been on fire, throwing for more than 1,400 yards with a sparkling 18-0 TD-to-INT ratio. Here's a look:
|vs. James Madison||411||5-0|
|vs. Clemson *||407||6-0|
|* In 2012 Orange Bowl|
-- ESPN Stats & Information
It's a good thing for the Mountaineers he felt that way.
Despite scoring two early touchdowns, West Virginia (3-0) looked flat at times, after averaging 56 points and 612 yards in its first two games against non-BCS conference opponents.
The Mountaineers punted on four of their first five possessions of the second half but wouldn't let Maryland (2-2) cut into a double-digit lead in beating the Terrapins for the seventh straight time.
"We didn't play our best offensively," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "But it was enough."
Leading rusher Shawne Alston was limited by a thigh bruise and didn't get a carry. West Virginia was held to 25 yards on the ground.
Geno Smith often threw into tough coverage and had as many incompletions in the first half (nine) as he did in the first two games combined. He spent a lot of time getting knocked on his backside and finished 30 of 43 for 338 yards.
"I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be," Smith said. "That's a credit to Maryland. They did a great job of mixing things up and giving us different looks."
Smith found a groove just before halftime, throwing for 64 yards on a drive capped by a 24-yard pass to Austin alone in the end zone for a 24-14 lead.
Hills had some success moving the Maryland offense with misdirection plays and screen passes. Maryland had more yards at halftime (212) than it did all of last week in a home loss to Connecticut.
But Hills was sacked five times and had little luck in the second half. With Maryland facing fourth-and-21 from its 32 with four minutes left in the game, Hills was intercepted by Wes Tonkery at the West Virginia 28 and the Mountaineers ran out the clock.
"I'm disappointed that we made some of the errors that we made that didn't allow us to have an opportunity to win toward the end of the game," said Maryland coach Randy Edsall. "I thought our defense played pretty well. Definitely thought we played well versus the run."
The game was billed as a matchup of all-purpose talent, and Austin and Diggs didn't disappoint.
Austin now has 208 career receptions, breaking the mark of 206 set by Jock Sanders from 2007-10. In three games against Maryland, he had 31 catches for 407 yards.
"This was Tavon's best game," Holgorsen said. "He played fast. His energy on the sidelines was tremendous. He was the one guy offensively who played his best game. I can't say that about the rest of them."
Diggs had a 42-yard scoring catch in the first quarter and a 56-yarder midway through the fourth. He caught three passes for 113 yards and had 63 yards on kick returns and 25 yards on punt returns.
"I went to him at the end of the game and told him that he was a good player -- but I couldn't let a young guy outshine me," Austin said.
On Maryland's second series of the game, West Virginia safety Darwin Cook slipped through the middle of the line unblocked and knocked the ball from Hills. Linebacker Doug Rigg scooped up the loose ball and went 51 yards for West Virginia's second defensive touchdown of the season.
It was a role reversal of the key play of January's Orange Bowl, when Rigg forced a fumble that Cook returned for a TD -- and famously knocked over the Orange Bowl mascot -- in a rout of Clemson.
Late in the first quarter, Austin caught a pass up the middle, bounced off a defender and went 44 yards up the right sideline to put the Mountaineers ahead 14-0. Austin capped West Virginia's scoring with a 34-yard reception midway through the fourth.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... West Virginia intercepted Perry Hills on fourth-and-long to allow the Eers to run out the clock.
Gameball goes to... Tavon Austin. He caught 13 passes from Geno Smith, racking up 179 yards and three TDs.
Stat of the game... 13. Austin has had at least 10 catches in each of WVU's three games this season.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-14||7-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-0|
|TD||07:14||Doug Rigg 51 Yd Fumble Return (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||0||7|
|TD||04:24||Tavon Austin 44 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||0||14|
|TD||01:54||Stefon Diggs 42 Yd Pass From Perry Hills (Brad Craddock Kick)||7||14|
|TD||12:16||Marcus Leak 12 Yd Pass From Perry Hills (Brad Craddock Kick)||14||14|
|FG||07:40||Tyler Bitancurt 37 Yd||14||17|
|TD||00:52||Tavon Austin 24 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||14||24|
|TD||08:18||Tavon Austin 34 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||14||31|
|TD||07:25||Stefon Diggs 56 Yd Pass From Perry Hills (Brad Craddock Kick)||21||31|
Geno Smith started his Heisman campaign early. In his four games since RG3 won last year's Heisman, Geno has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and has a sparkling 18 TD to 0 interceptions. Started His Campaign Early Since Last Year's Heisman Trophy Announcement Pass Yds TD-Int vs Maryland 338 3-0 vs James Madison 411 5-0 vs Marshall 323 4-0 vs Clemson<< 407 6-0 >>In 2012 Discover Orange Bowl
Tavon Austin hauled in 13 passes today, a single-game record for West Virginia. He passes Jock Sanders for the most receptions in school history and his 2,469 career receiving yards are the 2nd-most of any Mountaineer (David Saunders: 2,608).[+]
Most Career Receptions - West Virginia History
Tavon Austin hauled in 13 passes today, a single-game record for West Virginia. He passes Jock Sanders for the most receptions in school history and his 2,469 career receiving yards are the second-most of any Mountaineer (David Saunders: 2,608).[+]
Most Career Receptions - West Virginia History
ESPN Stats & Information