James Madison’s exhausted defensive players had their backs to the goal line again late in the first quarter, trailing 14-0 and looking to make a substitution in the secondary to cover West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey. By the time a confused Dukes sideline sent a tardy defender onto the field, Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith had already flipped a three-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Bailey.
James Madison simply couldn’t keep up on Saturday.
Smith threw for 411 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the school’s all-time passing leader, and Bailey caught a team-record 13 passes for 173 yards and three scores as No. 8 West Virginia crushed James Madison, 42-12, at FedEx Field.
Using a hurry-up offense, West Virginia (2-0) scored on its first four possessions. Moreover, the Mountaineers showed a penchant for backyard football, using speedy misdirection, quick screens and unique touch passes to bewilder the James Madison defense.
“We got a lot of good work into our offense. We got to compete with each other,” Smith said. “I think it makes us better on both sides of the ball.”
On the Mountaineers’ second drive, Smith found Stedman on a slant that turned into a 36-yard race into the red zone. Smith then hurried his team down the field so West Virginia could get off a quick snap near the goal line. Moments later, before James Madison could get fully set, Smith went back to Stedman on a quick screen, and the fourth-year junior broke a tackle to score from nine yards out.
A mostly pro-West Virginia crowd sarcastically cheered late in the second quarter when the Mountaineers finally had to punt, and the resulting 24-yard shank by punter Corey Smith gave James Madison its first possession inside West Virginia territory. That is how one-sided the first two quarters were, and on a field emblazoned by the Redskins logo at midfield, a litter of West Virginia stars proved Saturday why they are serious NFL prospects.
Smith completed 34 of 39 passes, and his best toss came in the middle of the third quarter to put away the Dukes (2-1). He sidestepped the rush and dropped a high-arching ball over Stedman’s shoulder near the front-left pylon. The touchdown pass — into double coverage, no less — made the score 35-5. Smith came back on the next series with a seven-yard touchdown throw to Tavon Austin, who finished with 11 catches for 113 yards.
“He needs to keep making everyone around him better,” West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen said of Smith.
After completing a 30-yard pass to Andrew Buie in the third quarter, Smith broke Marc Bulger’s all-time school passing record of 8,153 yards.
James Madison, an FCS power that shocked the college football world two seasons ago when it upset Virginia Tech, never really found an offensive rhythm. The Dukes missed on two goal-line chances in the second half. Early in the third quarter, running back Jordan Anderson was stuffed four consecutive times at the plane, and Dukes quarterback Justin Thorpe was intercepted in the end zone by West Virginia linebacker Tyler Anderson two drives later.
“One thing we haven’t faced going back to last year is adversity,” said Holgorsen, whose team hosts Maryland next Saturday. “As a team we overcame some adversity early in the third quarter and we have to get used to that.”