On that end, Smith completed 20-of-34 passes, wasn't intercepted and tossed scoring passes of 18 yards to Devon Brown, 3 yards to Tavon Austin, 12 yards to Tyler Urban and 39 yards to Ivan McCartney. Combined with freshman Paul Millard's 30-yard scoring toss to Brad Starks, that's five TD passes - tied for the second-most in school history - and the two combined to throw for 431 yards. It's been 13 years since West Virginia threw for more (452 by Marc Bulger against Missouri in the 1998 Insight Bowl).
More impressively, in the second half alone the two were a combined 17-of-22 for 327 yards and four touchdowns. Holgorsen swears they were running the same plays as the first half, but his receivers were running into defenders instead of around them and the middle of the field was wide open and not being attacked.
"We did a better job in the second half of just getting around the defenders and getting into the open field,'' said Brown, the Wake Forest transfer who had 109 yards on four receptions, including a 55-yarder that set up a fourth-quarter field goal. "It's just a matter of doing what we were supposed to do.''
Ditto the WVU defense. In the first half the Mountaineers gave up 242 yards and Norfolk State had four scoring drives (although all were eventually stopped for field goals). In the second half, the Spartans gained 43 yards.
"The defense gave up way too many yards, but part of that is the offense's fault,'' Holgorsen said. "We put them on the field way too much.''
By game's end, most of the fans in the smallish crowd of 51,911 had managed to forget the first half. That was when Norfolk State outgained WVU 179-19 at one point, 242-143 by halftime and scored field goals on four of seven possessions. Things would have been much worse for the Mountaineers had the Spartans been able to punch one or two of those into the end zone.
But even with the lopsidedness of the first half, it still seemed only a matter of time, both to the fans and the players both.
"We didn't have our heads down,'' said McCartney, who caught four passes for 79 yards. "We didn't have a fear that we were going to lose the game or anything. We just had to play better.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.