One of these days, West Virginia will put together two good halves in the same afternoon.
For now, one outstanding half per game is good enough.
Geno Smith threw for a career-high 388 yards, and the 18th-ranked Mountaineers withstood a furious comeback by Maryland to pull out a 37-31 victory Saturday.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, center, throws to a receiver as he is protected by offensive linemen Joe Madsen (74) and Jeff Braun in the first half of an NCAA football game in College Park, Md., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. Smith threw for a career-high 388 yards in West Virginia' 37-31 win over Maryland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
One week earlier, West Virginia (3-0) trailed Norfolk State at halftime before pulling away. The Mountaineers addressed that deficiency and used what they learned to build a 27-10 lead at the break against the stunned Terrapins.
The margin swelled to 24 points before Maryland rallied, closing to 34-31 with 10:29 remaining.
"We kind of let off the gas, not intentionally, but I just think we came out fired up," Smith said. "We didn't put together four solid quarters. We did good in the first half. We moved the ball. They responded. They stopped us. We need to come back and show more effort and play harder."
Fortunately for the Mountaineers, Maryland never found a way to shut down Smith. He directed a 14-play, 65-yard drive that produced a field goal with 4:42 left, leaving the Terrapins no choice but to score a touchdown.
Maryland (1-1) moved to the West Virginia 35 before Eain Smith intercepted a Danny O'Brien pass with 1:13 remaining to saddle coach Randy Edsall with his first defeat at Maryland.
"I thought we made too many errors out there," Edsall said, referring to the Terrapins' three turnovers and seven penalties. "...We didn't get it done today because West Virginia is a good team and we made some mistakes."
Both teams used the no-huddle offense with uncanny efficiency. West Virginia finished with 480 yards and Maryland amassed 477.
Smith had 232 yards passing in the first half to help the Mountaineers take a 17-point lead. The junior then threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey on West Virginia's first possession of the third quarter to make it 34-10.
The Terrapins scored three straight touchdowns to cut the gap to 34-31, thrilling the sellout crowd of 53,627. But Maryland couldn't complete the comeback.
Smith went 36 for 49 with a touchdown, a suitable encore to a 371-yard, four TD performance against Norfolk State. Unlike that game, the Mountaineers' best half was the first.
"They played harder than we did for the majority of the second-half," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They got some momentum, and it's a game of momentum. We had all the momentum in the first-half and they had it for the majority of the second."
It was the first road game for West Virginia under Holgorsen, who successfully stamped his name on a rivalry that began in 1919. The Mountaineers have won the last six.
"I'm just real proud of the way the guys finished the game," he said.
Tavon Austin had 11 catches for 122 yards for West Virginia and Terence Garvin returned his first career interception 37 yards for a score. Austin and Garvin both played high school ball in Baltimore.
Next up for West Virginia: A marquee matchup at home against No. 3 LSU. Playing two good halves is imperative against the Tigers, who will be well rested after beating Mississippi State on Thursday night.
O'Brien completed 34 of 52 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown, but he threw three interceptions.
"I love Danny O'Brien. Danny played hard," Edsall said. "Danny isn't going to play fine all the time even though everyone, including myself, wants him to."
Davin Meggett rushed for 113 yards and a score, but the Terrapins came up short in their effort to build on their 32-24 win over Miami in the opener.
Down 34-10, Maryland failed on a fourth-down try from the West Virginia 7. The Terps then used a touchdown run by Meggett and two by D.J. Adams to get within a field goal.
Stopping Smith, however, proved too daunting a task.
The Mountaineers got to the Maryland 37 on their first possession before Andrew Buie lost a fumble. The Terrapins then kicked a field goal at the end of a 77-yard drive fueled by a pair of 15-yard penalties.
West Virginia responded by moving 88 yards. After Smith completed six straight passes for 63 yards, Vernard Roberts ran it in from the 9.
Just over a minute later, the Mountaineers made it 14-3 on Garvins interception return. A field goal and a 10-yard touchdown run by Buie made it 24-3.
Kevin Dorsey made an excellent grab in the end zone of an 18-yard pass from O'Brien to cut the gap to 24-10 at the break.