MORGANTOWN - Redshirt freshman Ford Childress threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, leading the Mountaineers to a 41-7 victory against Georgia State.
Childress was the third stringer only a week ago. But after a solid week of practice and with coach Dana Holgorsen in need of a spark for his offense after being limited to seven points in a loss at Oklahoma, he named Childress the starter over Paul Millard and Clint Trickett.
And Childress delivered in a way that Holgorsen said was more about mental preparation than statistics.
Quarterback Ford Childress set a single-game WVU freshman record with 359 passing yards Saturday.
"Pretty good for the first game he's ever played in college football," Holgorsen said. "He's poised. It doesn't matter how I talk to him. He doesn't let emotion get in the middle of that. And I saw that last week on the sideline when it was tight or it was a high-pressure situation."
Childress played the entire game. He completed 25 of 41 passes and appears to have a lock on the starting job for at least another week when West Virginia plays Maryland in Baltimore next Saturday.
Charles Sims rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers (2-1). But West Virginia was far from dominant on both sides of the ball against a team in its first year in the Football Bowl Subdivision and fourth year of existence.
Georgia State pulled within 17-7 after Travis Evans' 65-yard TD run early in the third quarter before West Virginia scored the final 24 points.
Evans finished with a career-high 118 yards rushing, but Georgia State (0-3) was limited to 220 yards of total offense.
After managing just 31 points in the first two games, Holgorsen made it a sense of urgency for his offense to improve, and that meant throwing the ball downfield more often. Georgia State allowed that to happen.
Childress completed passes to nine different receivers and connected on several long passes, including a 45-yard TD toss that Ivan McCartney waited on in the second quarter that put the Mountaineers ahead 17-0.
"They were stacking the box pretty good," Holgorsen said. "They wanted to take away the running game. It was the right thing to do in specific situations. We've got to be able to complete the ball downfield."
Childress made some typical rookie mistakes, consistently underthrowing his receivers and not seeing others who were open.
"He's going to have growing pains," Holgorsen said. "He's going to make mistakes. Everyone does."
Childress threw an interception against a blitzing defense inside the Georgia State 30 early in the second quarter to end one scoring threat. Kevin White also dropped two passes, one in the end zone in the third quarter.
Midway through the third quarter, West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski forced Jonathan Jean-Bart to fumble and safety Karl Joseph recovered for the Mountaineers at the Georgia State 33. Three plays later, Childress threw a 23-yard pass that Daikiel Shorts caught just off the turf in the end zone for a 34-7 lead. Shorts also had a 21-yard TD catch in the first quarter.
Dreamius Smith scored on a 10-yard run in the closing seconds for the Mountaineers.
"We put our defense on the field for a long period of time," said Georgia State coach Trent Miles. "I looked at total plays. They ran 83 plays. We ran 51. Anytime your guys are out there for 83 plays, they're going to get worn down, especially when you step up a level and you play a BCS team."
West Virginia's offense compiled 604 total yards while struggling to move the ball at times. The line had trouble consistently opening adequate holes against a defense that had allowed an average of 253 yards rushing in its first two games against FCS opponents.
After scoring on its first two drives, the Mountaineers failed to put up points in five of their next six possessions, giving Georgia State many chances for a comeback that didn't happen.
Georgia State was limited to 10 first downs. Quarterback Ronnie Bell went 5 of 13 for 63 yards before being replaced in the fourth quarter by Ben McLane.
Led by Evans, Georgia State compiled 136 yards on the ground - more than its first two games combined. Evans' TD run was the longest in the school's brief football history.
Evans found some room behind a retooled offensive line that saw two players quit after a loss to Chattanooga a week ago, when the Panthers were limited to 30 yards rushing.