No. 8 West Virginia improved to 3-0 on Saturday with a 31-21 win over the Maryland Terrapins. It didn't come easy for the Mountaineers, as true freshman Perry Hills led the Terps and kept them close throughout. But the duo of Geno Smith and Tavon Austin were too much for Maryland, as the Mountaineers continued to rack up impressive numbers in Dana Holgorsen's offense.
WVU jumped in front by two touchdowns early, converting a score on the defensive side of the ball first. Darwin Cook came right through the center of the Maryland line and sacked Hills as he turned to hand off, forcing a fumble which the Mountaineers returned 51 yards for the touchdown. Three minutes later, Smith would connect with Austin for a 44-yard TD, their first of three scores.
But Hills and the Terps did not fold, charging back with two touchdowns of their own to even it up. At the end of the first quarter, Hills hit fellow true freshman Stefon Diggs and the heralded speedster took it down the left sideline for a 42-yard score. Diggs scored his second touchdown of the day in the fourth quarter, another big play strike from Hills that went for 56 yards and put Diggs over the century mark for the day. The Maryland freshman duo consistently responded when it appeared Holgorsen's offense would take control of the game.
With WVU holding a three-point lead, Smith and Austin would connect twice for 14 unanswered points that proved to be the difference. Their third touchdown came after a scoreless third quarter, the first one of the Mountaineers' season. Smith hit Austin in the middle of the field and speedy wideout took it in for a 34-yard score.
The Terps cut the lead back to 10 on the second big play by Diggs, but WVU's defense would dig in on the next possession and force a fourth and 20. The desperation situation resulted in a Hills heave that fell into the hands of WVU's Wes Tonkery.
Smith and the offense would salt the game away from there, moving the chains and killing the final four-plus minutes.
Box Score Hero: Tavon Austin finished the day with 13 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Austin set a school receptions record with his big day, passing Jock Sanders, who established the mark in 2010.
Rankings Ramifications: While it wasn't their most dominating performance of the season, West Virginia should remain in the top 10. They have an opportunity to move up with three teams (Oregon, Oklahoma, FSU) ahead of them playing ranked teams on Saturday night.
But Did They Cover? The Mountaineers entered the game as 27-point favorites and were not able to cover.
Next Week's Schedule: The Mountaineers will make their Big 12 debut, hosting Baylor in Morgantown. Maryland will be idle next week before starting their ACC schedule against Wake Forest in October.