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Maryland makes West Virginia work for 31-21 victory

The SportsXchange

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. --- Wide receiver Tavon Austin, who spurned a full-court recruiting blitz by Maryland after setting nearly all the state offensive rushing and scoring records as a high school player at Baltimore Dunbar High, continued to torment the Terps as he caught three touchdown passes in West Virginia's a hard-fought 31-21 Mountaineer victory.

Austin caught 13 passes from quarterback Geno Smith, who had his toughest game of the season, for 179 yards. The final touchdown, a 34-yard pass which broke the game open in the fourth quarter, was the 206th catch of his career, tying the school record set by Jock Sanders. Austin later broke the record.

Against Maryland, which actually flew coach Ralph Friedgen to one of Austin's high school games in a helicopter trying to recruit him, he has caught 30 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns in his career.

"He's a guy from that area and he always wants to stick it to them," Smith said. "He put on his back and got us that victory."

Smith, one of the leading early-season candidates in the Heisman Trophy race, completed 30-of-43 passes for 338 yards and the three touchdowns to Austin.

Maryland's freshman combination of quarterback Perry Hills and wide receiver Sheldon Diggs combined on two touchdowns, one of 42 yards and another of 56.

"They told me he was from Maryland, but I had never heard of him because I was up here," Austin said of Diggs. "I went to him and told him he was a good player, but I couldn't let that young boy outshine me so I had to pick it up."

West Virginia found itself involved in a battle for the first time this season in the first half, as Maryland controlled the ball and the clock.

In fact, the vaunted West Virginia offense was having problems and it took the defense to give them a lead, with safety Darwin Cook timing a blitz perfectly, hitting Hills from behind and jarring the ball loose.

Linebacker Doug Rigg was in the right spot at the right time, scooped up the ball up and ran it 51 yards for a touchdown. It was his second long return of the year, as he returned a pass interception 46 yards to the one-yard-line in the opener against Marshall.

The Mountaineers' second score came when Smith hit Austin on a crossing pattern, with a defender bouncing off him before he went down the sideline 44 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

But Maryland wasn't about to give up, coming right back on a 42-yard pass from Hills to Diggs to make it 14-7.

When Hill hit receiver Marcus Leak with another touchdown pass, this from the 12, it was 14-14, the first time anyone had been even with West Virginia this season other than at 0-0.

The Mountaineers regained the lead when Tyler Bitancurt hit his first field goal attempt of the season from 37 yards to make it 17-14, and Smith added a 24-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Austin to make it 24-14 at the half.

Maryland hung in but could not overcome its mistakes.

"I'm disappointed that we made some of the errors that we made that didn't allow us to have an opportunity to win toward the end of the game," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said.

"One of the things we have to do is we just have to do a better job of securing the ball offensively and make sure we cut down on the penalties and the sacks."

Maryland threw an interception and fumbled five times, losing two of them.

NOTES: Quarterback Geno Smith broke Marc Bulger's school record for career passes with his second pass of the day, giving him 1,024 at that time. ... Running back Dustin Garrison, recovering from a knee injury, made his first appearance of the season for the Mountaineers. ... Maryland came into the game allowing only 2.58 yards per rush to rank 14th nationally and West Virginia did nothing to hurt that mark, gaining only 29 yards on the ground. ... Maryland held West Virginia scoreless in the third quarter, the first time the Mountaineers failed to score in a quarter this season. ... West Virginia inducted seven people into its Sports Hall of Fame including former football greats Bo Orlando from the 1988 team that played for a national championship and offensive lineman Ben Dunkerley from the early 1950s. Also inducted was long-time athletic director Ed Pastilong. ... The Mountaineers wore gray uniforms for the first time ever.
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