MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Geno Smith is becoming the consistent passing threat West Virginia has been missing for most of the past decade.
The sophomore threw a career-high four touchdown passes, Noel Devine rushed for a season-high 131 yards and No. 21 West Virginia beat Maryland 31-17 on Saturday.
It's been only three games, but Smith is stirring up memories of Marc Bulger in 1998, the only time a West Virginia quarterback surpassed 3,000 yards through the air.
Jarrett Brown surpassed 200 yards passing five times a year ago and finished with 2,144, the sixth most in school history. Smith is on pace to eclipse that, with 800 already this season.
"I'm just going out there and reading the defenses and taking what they are giving me," Smith said. "A couple of years ago, we were a run-based offense and spread-option team. But now we're developing a great passing game and I think it's going to make it difficult for defensive coordinators to game plan against us."
Bruce Irvin had three sacks, Scooter Berry recorded two and West Virginia compiled eight overall after getting none in its first two games. It was the best performance since an eight-sack game against Pittsburgh in 2006, the last time West Virginia held an opponent to negative rushing yards. Maryland entered the game averaging 241 yards rushing but was held to minus-10.
Except for Geno Smith's 5-yard scoring toss to Bailey to start the third quarter, West Virginia struggled on offense after halftime as it tried to eat up clock time.
That cost Smith, who completed his first 10 passes and threw for 226 yards by halftime, the chance to become the first Mountaineer with back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Bulger in 1998. Smith finished 19 of 29 for 268 yards.
After two straight games of strong finishes that followed poor starts, West Virginia went in the other direction. The Mountaineers scored the first four TDs, then watched Maryland score 17 unanswered points to make the game interesting.
"I was pleased with our start," said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. "I don't think we closed the door. They worked real hard and got back in."
Torrey Smith caught three passes for 149 yards. His TD catches cut Maryland's deficit to 28-14, but he dropped a pass in the end zone behind double coverage that could've brought Maryland even closer, and the Terps settled for a field goal.
West Virginia then put the game out of reach behind fullback Ryan Clarke, who carried eight straight times on the ensuing 16-play drive that ate up nearly nine minutes of clock and ended with Tyler Bitancurt's 23-yard field goal with three minutes left.
Maryland was trying for its first 3-0 start since coach Ralph Friedgen's first season in 2001, when the Terrapins last won the ACC title. A defense that held Morgan State to 85 total yards in Maryland's 62-3 win a week earlier unraveled against the Mountaineers.
"I don't think we did a good job tackling at all," Friedgen said. "Our defense was on the field way too long."
Austin had a big day against his home-state Terrapins with seven catches for 106 yards.
"If I would have lost, a lot of people would have called me and said, 'I told you that you should have gone to Maryland," Austin said. "So I'm glad I made the right choice."
Maryland knew the scouting report on Austin. Fast. Shifty. Deceptively strong at 173 pounds. The Terrapins recruited him hard out of Baltimore's Dunbar High, where he set four career state records. They just couldn't land him in a black-and-red uniform.
On Saturday, they find it tough to match his speed.
Austin, who moved from backup running back to starting wide receiver this season, made his presence known on the game's opening series. He caught a 15-yard pass, threw a key block that sprang Devine on a 50-yard run, then caught a 6-yard scoring pass from Smith on a crossing route. He also was wide open for a 5-yard TD catch on West Virginia's next drive to lead 14-0.
Bailey took over from there, stretching high to snare a 26-yard scoring pass in the second and nicely catching the ball before it hit the turf for a 5-yard score in the third.
"They played a lot better than us in the first half and that's my fault," Friedgen said. "Crowd noise was a factor, but once we adapted to that, we came back and fought hard in the second half."
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