It was the most points the program has scored in any game in the three seasons Stewart has patrolled the West Virginia sideline.
WVU scored more than 35 points for the first time since Stewart's first game as the squad's head coach, a 48-21 victory over Villanova in the 2008 season-opener. The team had 319 yards of offense by halftime on only 24 snaps -- a staggering 13.3 yards-per-play average.
"I told the offense, ‘I want you to score quick, [commit] no turnovers and [make] big plays," said Stewart, whose team concluded non-conference play with a 4-1 record. "But to get a big play, you have to have small plays turn into big plays. We did that today."
Indeed, big plays abounded, as UNLV's defense seemed to have no answer for its opposition's speedy options at running back and receiver. West Virginia had six plays that went for 20 or more yards by halftime.
Running back Noel Devine, whose playing status was not determined until game time due to the bone bruise he sustained to a toe in the Mountaineers' 20-14 loss at LSU two weeks ago, brought two of his three carries home for touchdowns of 28 and 48 yards.
Quarterback Geno Smith bookended the half with touchdown passes. The first, a 38-yarder to Brad Starks, came on the third play of the game. The second, a 48-yarder to Starks, came only 23 seconds before the intermission.
Meanwhile, WVU's defense intercepted Rebels quarterback Omar Clayton once, held the visitors short on a pair of fourth down conversion attempts and allowed only 3.8 yards per play despite being on the field for 72 snaps, compared to 53 for its opposition.
Cornerback Keith Tandy, the man who picked off Clayton in the first half, got his second interception of the contest when he grabbed a pass from UNLV backup signal-caller Caleb Herring on the first possession of the third quarter and returned it to the Rebels' 34-yard line. Linebacker J.T. Thomas had tipped the pass, altering its flight just enough to allow Tandy to easily cradle the pick.
Six plays later, Smith found Starks again. That 4-yard touchdown pass, which made it 42-0 in the earliest stages of the second half, was the last play most of the offensive starters would see on the field.
|This game recap presented by The Book Exchange|
"Their speed advantage at the skill positions is very evident, and they did a good job in getting those guys the ball," said UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck.
That advantage also applied to the defensive side of the ball. The Rebels only scored points once West Virginia inserted several backups.
Clayton was hit so often and so hard by Mountaineer defenders that he was forced out of action in the second half. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 79 yards and an interception and was sacked twice.
His replacement, Herring, fared little better, going 8-of-14 passing for 101 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He played much of the second half against the WVU reserves.
"They did a good job, and West Virginia has a good team," said Hauck, the first-year Rebels coach who fell to 1-5 with the loss. "Bill just does a great job, and he had them ready coming off their bye week. Frankly, they made us look like a not very fast and pretty banged up team, which we are."
For the Mountaineers, Smith was 12-of-16 through the air for 220 yards and three touchdowns (all of which went to Starks).
His backup, Barry Brunetti, led a scoring drive of 11 plays and 46 yards in the fourth quarter, which ended with a 1-yard plunge by fullback Matt Lindamood. Brunetti, a true freshman completed one of his four passes for six yards.
Devine had 84 yards on only three carries before Stewart decided he had seen enough of the senior, opting to give him a chance to further rest his injured toe before the squad hosts South Florida to open Big East Conference play on Thursday.
"He didn't look too bad. I don't know if we tackled him," Hauck said.
With what he called "the preseason" over, Stewart's focus quickly flipped to what will be a quick turnaround before opening conference play.
"South Florida is when the real season begins," he said. "It's been a really good ‘learning' preseason, so to speak, for us."
"Now we have five days to get ready, which will be a tough chore."