MORGANTOWN - As it turns out, perhaps none of this is quite as easy as West Virginia made it look the past three games.
Oh, the Mountaineers are still winning. Geno Smith is still breaking records and throwing touchdowns. Tavon Austin continues to amaze just about everyone. Shoot, even Darwin Cook and Doug Rigg are still at it, teaming up to score game-changing defensive touchdowns.
But after Maryland refused to roll over and play dead like Clemson and Marshall and James Madison before it, it's apparent that West Virginia is still going to have to work from start to finish to win games.
"Everything we were doing out there seemed hard,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Maybe we'd just been spoiled for the last three games with the success that we've had.''
There was certainly nothing easy about this one, a 31-21 win over Maryland Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer Field. A crowd of 58,504 watched the No. 8 Mountaineers jump out to a 14-0 lead and never trail, but they also saw a team that for the first time this season wasn't able to put an opponent away.
It wasn't until Smith and Austin combined on a 34-yard touchdown pass with 8:18 to play and gave WVU a 31-14 lead that the Mountaineers could breathe fairly easily. And even then, Maryland scored again in two quick plays and didn't completely run out of hope until failing to convert a fourth down with 41/2 minutes to play.
But perhaps that's a good thing. After all, West Virginia begins Big 12 play in a week and little figures to be easy there. So getting a taste of adversity now can only be good preparation.
"I'd rather have a game like this than a blowout,'' said Rigg, the junior linebacker whose 51-yard fumble return started Saturday's scoring. "It just shows what we're in for against BCS teams. And we needed that.''
How difficult was this? Well, consider that Smith, the presumed Heisman Trophy frontrunner, threw for 338 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and broke pretty much the only Marc Bulger record that was left on the WVU books - career passing attempts. Then factor in Austin, who zoomed past Jock Sanders' record for career receptions (206) with 13 for 179 yards and three scores.
And toss in this, too: West Virginia's defense reached its goal of creating three turnovers and scored when Cook sacked and stripped Maryland quarterback Perry Hills and Riggs scooped the ball up and ran it in - just the opposite of the game-changing play in the Orange Bowl when Rigg caused a fumble and Cook ran it back.