MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Ford Childress wore a wide smile as he trotted off the turf and up the tunnel at Milan Puskar Stadium. Saturday marked the birth of the Childress era at West Virginia and, as those watching quickly learned, the kid is one cool customer.
Childress, a redshirt freshman, wrestled the starting quarterback job from juniors Paul Millard and Clint Trickett this week and shined in his debut, guiding the Mountaineers (2-1) to a 41-7 victory against Georgia State (0-3).
The rookie lit up the dismal Panthers defense for 359 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-41 passing. West Virginia had 604 yards of total offense to Georgia State's 220.
"It went pretty well," Childress said. "Had some balls that I wanted to take back, but I thought overall we did pretty well."
It didn't take long for Childress to make a mark in Morgantown. After an opening-drive field goal from kicker Josh Lambert, Childress extended the lead on the next drive, an 11-play, 93-yard march, with a 21-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Daikiel Shorts -- the first career touchdown for both players.
The freshman-to-freshman connection returned early in the fourth quarter, when Childress came back to the 6-foot, 201-pound receiver for a 23-yard touchdown.
Shorts finished with a game-high five catches for 88 yards and two scores.
"It felt great," Shorts said, adding that he and Childress had built solid chemistry since the spring.
"Ford just had a great day. The offensive line gave him time, and he made some great plays."
Childress bounced back from a second-quarter interception and kept his eyes downfield. He registered seven completions of more than 20 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Ivan McCartney later in the quarter to give the Mountaineers a 17-0 halftime lead.
"I got my first touchdown, got my first pick -- everything's open now," Childress said with a grin.
The West Virginia defense had another strong showing. The Panthers managed just 84 passing yards, the fewest allowed by the Mountaineers since Nov. 7, 2009, when they held Louisville to 55 passing yards.
The only chink in the defense's armor was a 65-yard touchdown run by Georgia State running back Travis Evans -- the longest rushing play in the three-year history of the Georgia State football program. The run cut the West Virginia lead to 17-7 just four minutes into the second half.
From that point, the Mountaineers rumbled for 24 unanswered points.
After another Lambert field goal, redshirt senior running back Charles Sims scored on a 32-yard scamper, Shorts registered his second score and junior running back Dreamius Smith burst into the end zone from 10 yards out to effectively bury Georgia State, 41-7.
"I thought we played with a lot of energy," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We've been focused on that all week, getting guys playing that are positive with their body language."
Next weekend, the Mountaineers travel to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to face Maryland (2-0), their final non-conference game of the season.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published September 14, 2013 7:45 PM