MORGANTOWN - It was roughly 20 minutes after West Virginia had dispatched Connecticut Saturday afternoon, winning 43-16 at Mountaineer Field, and Dana Holgorsen was talking about how difficult this four-touchdown win was.
It was hard to argue with him, at least to a point.
"It just seemed like everything was so hard out there today,'' West Virginia's first-year coach said. "You look at the final score and it was harder than that.''
True. For about 21/2 quarters, West Virginia's Big East opener was like pulling teeth. To that point the Mountaineers had essentially watched UConn control the football, make field goals and keep WVU's offense in check. Eight minutes remained in the third quarter and somehow West Virginia led 10-9, but it was a chore.
Then the whole afternoon changed in a heartbeat. Well, a heartbeat and then a slow-motion lumber down a sideline.
With Connecticut driving to take the lead and seemingly assured of doing so, quarterback Johnny McEntee ran a keeper through the left side of the line. He gained good yardage and the Huskies would have had second-and-5 inside the WVU 10.
But at the end of the play, West Virginia quarterback Pat Miller stuck his helmet into McEntee and the ball squirted up. Linebacker Jewone Snow scooped it up, turned around, got his bearings and took off down the sideline. Eighty-three yards later WVU had the ball at the Huskies' 12-yard line.
Nothing after that was hard at all.
The Mountaineers scored 10 seconds later on the first of Geno Smith's three touchdown passes, they added a safety for good measure and before those eight minutes had elapsed and the quarter ended, WVU led 33-9. The Mountaineers wound up scoring 33 points in less than 14 minutes, and this one wound up being anything but hard.
All because of one play.
"In college football those things happen and that turned the game,'' said Smith, whose own passing numbers did an about-face after that defensive play. "You could tell the momentum shift that happened.''
Indeed, after struggling in the first half and leading 10-9 only because a UConn interception was wiped out by a penalty (opening the door for Dustin Garrison's 14-yard scoring run), West Virginia opened the second half no differently and was forced to punt after a personal-foul penalty put the offense in a hole.
"Everyone was like, 'Here we go again,''' Smith said. "But then the guy fumbles and Jewone runs it back and everyone had an extra boost of energy.''
What happened after that was, quite frankly, what most had expected all along. West Virginia's offense dominated and the defense held.