PoG: WVU - Maryland

Most Mountaineer backers already knew Tavon Austin was a special talent. Many Maryland natives likely had an idea of Austin's skill, since the sophomore hails from Baltimore. But if he didn't already, Terrapins head coach Ralph Friedgen now surely regrets ever letting Austin leave the confines of the Free State to play his college football.


  • Tavon Austin.

    Austin was simply electrifying in the first half. He caught six passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes, helping put the game away early.

    West Virginia fans likely thought they would never see a player with a quicker acceleration than running back Noel Devine. They could not have hoped to have a player with shiftier moves than former quarterback Pat White.

    In Austin, they have both. Time and time again, he makes big plays out of simple crossing routes that end up with him catching the ball in the middle of the field, about 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. He does the rest, making defenders whiff on tackle after tackle.

    But Austin has grown into more than just another athlete. He has become a skilled receiver.

    On one 29-yard catch early, he made a great move to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage, leaving the opposing cornerback with little chance to get a hand on Austin in what was supposed to be "bump-and-run" coverage.

    On an offense with several weapons, Austin may be the biggest. And considering Devine is in the backfield taking carries, that is saying something.


  • Chris Neild.

    His statistical line, as it almost always does, paled in comparison to some of his teammates. The senior was tied for third in total tackles, and while he had a sack, that was almost pedestrian compared to Bruce Irvin's three.

    But those who know the way nose guards like Neild are asked to plug running lanes in Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense know that the statistics could never show just how well he played on Saturday.

    Chris Neild
    Neild's play was a big reason Maryland's two running backs combined to gain only 36 yards on the ground. He simply made sure there was no room between the tackles.

    It was, for the senior, a banner day a statistically as well. He had four total tackles (three solo, one assisted). He had the Mountaineers' first sack of the season.

    Neild was more pleased with team statistics than his own afterwards. That's a testament to his unselfish nature, but it also is par for the course for a Casteel nose guard -- an unglamorous position if there ever was one.


  • Geno Smith.

    The second half wasn't pretty. But Smith's first half performance showed that he carried some real momentum and confidence from his heroic performance in the final minutes of regulation at Marshall last week.

    Smith was a perfect "10" to start the game, hitting his first 10 pass attempts. He was 14-of-18 passing for 226 yards and three touchdowns at halftime. Two of those incompletions were credits to the sophomore's decision-making ability, as he wisely threw the ball away on a pair of occasions when receivers were covered.

    The connection Smith is building with high school teammate Stedman Bailey, who caught four passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns could continue to pay big dividends for the WVU offense. And everyone already knows what receivers Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders are capable of.

    Opposing defenses, wisely, are still setting out to limit the production of star running back Noel Devine. They may have to re-evaluate that game plan, as Smith's arm has been the West Virginia offense's biggest weapon in the last two weeks.

  • Defensive pressure and third down defense.

    There had been plenty of hype about the Mountaineer defense in the offseason. Heck, junior college transfer Bruce Irvin alone was supposed to average multiple sacks per game, to hear some fans tell it.

    So you could understand the players' frustration that, through two games, they had been unable to pull an opposing quarterback down to the ground with the ball still in his hands.

    That changed Saturday in a big, big way.

    Irvin got three sacks of his own, defensive lineman Scooter Berry added two more, and Neild, linebacker Anthony Leonard and defensive lineman Julian Miller each added one more to give WVU its most sacks in a game (eight) since a 2006 game against Pitt.

    Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said afterwards that his players were aided by the early lead their teammates on offense forged. Casteel knew Maryland would have to pass to try to get back in the game. And so the Mountaineers brought heat.

    It worked. The Terps were unable to convert on five third down opportunities in the first half and ended the contest only 2-of-13 on third downs.

    It was just part of what was a solid day for the defense overall. Take away the two bombs Maryland QB Jamarr Robinson completed to Torrey Smith, and the visitors had only 87 yards of total offense.

    That defensive performance included holding what was, coming into Saturday's game, the No. 19 rushing offense in the nation to negative-10 yards on the ground.

  • The Mountaineer Field crowd.

    The aforementioned Berry said this was the loudest crowd in Morgantown since 2007, bar none. And after Maryland's players said the atmosphere would not intimidate them, they quickly set about proving themselves wrong.

    The Terrapins' first drive was a failure of monumental proportions. There were four penalties against the visitors before the team had legally gotten three snaps away from center.

    That was directly attributable to crowd noise. There were 60,122 in the stands officially, but the number that mattered was "12." West Virginia fans were like a 12th man on the field on Maryland's first drive, getting loud enough to make communication almost impossible.

    That led to a delay of game on second-and-10. Then a 1-yard loss made it third-and-16. But what head coach Bill Stewart called "the Mountaineer nation" wasn't done yet.

    A timeout called by Maryland. A false start penalty after that. Then two delay-of-game flags on back to back trips to the line of scrimmage. It was third-and-28. The Terrapins were embarrassed and the home crowd was fired up.

    "The people of West Virginia that were here today ... need to be so proud, because they got those guys out of rhythm," Stewart said afterwards. "I compliment our fans."

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