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Big second half lifts No. 16 West Virginia over Connecticut

Oct 8, 2011 - 10:27 PM Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - Geno Smith threw three of his four touchdown passes in the third quarter, and the 16th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers used a dominant second half to beat the Connecticut Huskies, 43-16, at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Smith finished with 450 yards while completing 27-of-45 tosses for West Virginia (5-1, 1-0 Big East), which held a narrow 10-9 lead at halftime.

A key play by the Mountaineers defense spurred the offensive surge. Quarterback Johnny McEntee fumbled on the Huskies' initial drive of the third quarter and West Virginia linebacker Jewone Snow returned the ball 83 yards down the right sideline to the UConn 12.

It took West Virginia just two plays to cash in on the turnover as Smith hit Tavon Austin for a touchdown. On the first play of the Mountaineers' next series, Smith and Stedman Bailey hooked up for an 84-yard scoring strike.

After McEntee was sacked in the end zone for a safety, Brad Starks made a leaping grab for a 22-yard touchdown.

The Mountaineers' lead ballooned to 43-9 in the fourth quarter on a Tyler Bitancurt 33-yard field goal and Bailey's second touchdown reception.

Paul Millard entered the game for West Virginia and was picked off by Ty-Meer Brown, who returned the ball 48 yards to the end zone, capping the scoring with 7:54 to play.

"It just seemed like everything was so hard out there. You look at the final score; it just seemed harder than that," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Bailey totaled 178 yards on seven catches for the Mountaineers, while Dustin Garrison gained 80 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown.

McEntee completed 21-of-37 passes for 193 yards as the Huskies (2-4, 0-1) suffered their second straight loss.

The opening drive of the contest ended with UConn's David Teggart missing a 42-yard field goal as the ball hit the left upright.

West Virginia took the lead when Bitancurt connected on a 31-yard kick, but the visiting Huskies tied the game on a 40-yarder by Teggart.

Ivan McCartney lost a fumble on West Virginia's second drive and Teggart drilled a career-long 53-yarder on the first play of the second quarter to put UConn in front.

The Mountaineers regained the lead when Garrison finished a seven-play drive that began in UConn territory with a 14-yard dash to the end zone. Teggart nailed a 22-yard field goal as the first half expired.

Game Notes

West Virginia leads the all-time series, 7-1...UConn had won its last five conference games...Lyle McCombs amassed 73 yards on 20 carries for the Huskies...McEntee was sacked five times.