Holding on after fast start, West Virginia keeps focus on field

West Virginia's Tavon Austin (formerly of Dunbar) fumbles the ball out of bounds as he's tackled by Maryland's Kerry Boykins during a kick return in the first quarter.
West Virginia's Tavon Austin (formerly of Dunbar) fumbles the ball out of bounds as he's tackled by Maryland's Kerry Boykins during a kick return in the first quarter. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

COLLEGE PARK — A few hours before kickoff, Pat Garvin told her son he would have an interception return for a touchdown Saturday against Maryland, the school she wanted him to play for three years ago out of Loyola.

Terence Garvin, West Virginia's junior safety, didn't hear anything his mother — or anyone else — was saying. It only got worse when walked onto the field at Byrd Stadium.

"I was too amped up. The first five plays, I was talking to everyone," Garvin recalled a few hours later, after helping the 18th-ranked Mountaineers hold off the Terps, 37-31. "The coaches were telling me to calm down."

Garvin's interception and 37-yard return for a touchdown late in the first quarter — his first pick as a Mountaineer and his touchdown return of one since he did it against McDonogh — gave the Mountaineers a 14-3 lead that would grow to 34-10.

If it helped settle down Garvin, it also fired up the hundreds of Mountaineers fans who made their way here. In a rivalry that was renewed last year and will be played annually through 2017, West Virginia won its sixth straight over Maryland.

It came amid reports that the Atlantic Coast Conference was on the brink of expansion.

Two other Big East schools, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, were said to be in serious discussions with the ACC. Big East commissioner John Marinatto was in attendance Saturday at Byrd Stadium but was not available for comment.

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck declined to discuss speculation about the move by the two schools out of the Big East or the possibility of the Mountaineers joining the exodus.

At least one longtime West Virginia fan didn't seem too excited about the idea of the Mountaineers' moving to the ACC. Jim Wilcox, who grew up in Fairmont, W.Va., but has lived in Annapolis since 1964, said he would prefer West Virginia going further south — to the Southeastern Conference.

"They have a top-notch football program, and they've had it for years," Miller said as he watched the Mountaineers come out of their locker room. "They're only going to improve with the type of players they're getting. I've seen some of them here in Maryland — my golly, they're outstanding."

Miller said the ACC has "become mediocre. In basketball, it's Duke and North Carolina; in football, it's Florida State and Virginia Tech. Right now, there's not that big a challenge in the Big East. Overall, it would be quite an honor for the state of West Virginia" to join the SEC.

First-year West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he was too busy to notice the blue and yellow in a sea of red inside the stadium Saturday, saying he puts "blinders" on the minute the game starts and blocks out everything that happens off the field.

All Horgorsen could see was an offense that seemed unstoppable for a little more than two quarters, building a 27-10 lead at halftime that grew when junior quarterback Geno Smith hit Stedman Bailey for a 34-yard touchdown pass early in the second half.

"We had obviously been talking all week about starting fast," Holgorsen said a week after West Virginia (3-0) trailed Norfolk State at halftime before scoring 45 straight points. "We did that, and other than the last drive, I guess we forgot to finish. … I'm happy with the fact that we were able to get the game done."

Smith was brilliant for a little more than a half, and wound up outplaying his counterpart, Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien. Smith finished 36 of 49 for 388 yards. Three West Virginia receivers each had more than 100 yards, led by former Dunbar star Tavon Austin's 11 catches for 122 yards.

Austin, a junior who also had 121 yards on kickoff returns, did not make himself available to the media after the game.

As Garvin made his way up to a makeshift press tent, he walked slowly and stiffly. He had hurt his left knee on Maryland's last-ditch drive that ended with O'Brien's being intercepted for the third time.

Someone asked Garvin how he felt after he fell into the end zone after the first one.

"Tired," he said.

Garvin said players don't pay much attention to any of the rumors about expansion.

"We really don't look at any of that. Right now we're just looking at LSU [West Virginia's next opponent]; we just go game by game," Garvin said. "We don't pay attention to conference jumping or anything. At the end of the day, there's nothing we can do about it."


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