West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey, right, had a huge game with 13 reception for 173 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 42-12 rout of James Madison in Landover, Md.
By Jenn Menendez Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
LANDOVER, Md. -- Geno Smith jogged off the field Saturday with more than 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Behind him was another special game.
Smith threw for 411 yards, and into the West Virginia record books, as the No. 9 Mountaineers trounced Division I-AA James Madison, 42-12, in front of 45,511 at FedEx Field.
Smith became West Virginia's all-time passing leader with 8,191 career yards, surpassing Marc Bulger, who held the previous record of 8,153.
He completed 34 of 39 passes, threw five touchdowns, and did it all with incredible touch and accuracy.
His longtime receiver, Stedman Bailey, had a program-record 13 receptions for 173 yards, and scored three touchdowns.
"I pretty much expect Geno to have a big game just about every time we step on the field," Bailey said. "We talk a lot before the games and talk about going out and having a great day. It's something we expect of ourselves."
More important than the passing game perhaps -- for the longterm prognosis of the team -- was an improved performance by the defense.
Linebacker Tyler Anderson had a third-quarter interception, the defense registered four sacks and came up with a key third-quarter, goal-line stand, all while holding JMU to 300 total yards.
But truly, it was a mismatch from the start.
West Virginia scored three first-quarter touchdowns, a 2-yard rush by Shawne Alston and two receiving touchdowns by Bailey of 9 yards and 3 yards.
He was uncovered in the end zone for the second one when the snap got off quickly and Smith connected with ease.
"Tempo had everyone out there running around like a chicken with the head cut off. I think they had 12 or 13 guys on the field," Bailey said. "I saw the corner who was covering me run off the field, but I never saw anybody come back replacing him. Geno did a good job of recognizing that and hitting me."
Smith found Dante Campbell for a 4-yard touchdown pass and the Mountaineers took a 28-3 lead into halftime.
Smith absorbed a few hits but was never sacked.
"We were trying to get pressure with four [up front] but we just couldn't do it," James Madison coach Mickey Matthews said. "[Smith] just stood back there forever and passed. Because of that we had to blitz and play man the whole game to make it competitive."
As prolific as the offense was, it wasn't all perfectly executed.
The offense faltered on two notable occasions to open the second half: first when a run play came up inches short on fourth-and-2 to start the half, then when the offense gave up a safety when Alston was tackled in the end zone after the goal-line stand by the defense.
That started the Mountaineers drive on their 2.
"As a team we overcame some adversity early in the third quarter and we have to get used to that," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Offensively we didn't do very well when we got stopped there on fourth down. Then we took a safety but scored three or four more times after that which was good to get back on track."
Bailey and Smith connected again, though, scoring on a 30-yard pass to take a 35-5 lead.
Then Smith struck again, finding Tavon Austin for a 7-yarder to open the fourth quarter.
James Madison kicked a second-quarter field goal, scored on the safety in the third, and scored a touchdown and point after with 49 seconds left in the game.
Quarterback Justin Thorpe was rendered just about one-dimensional.
He rushed 14 times for 56 yards and completed just 6 of 13 passes for 71 yards.
He will not be the most mobile quarterback this team sees, said defensive coordinator Joe DeForest.
"Oh, they're on the horizon," DeForest said. "It was good practice for us and will be a good teaching tool."