PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Geno Smith threw two second-half touchdowns and scored a go-ahead TD on a fourth-down, 1-yard run with 6:18 to play as No. 25 West Virginia rallied for a 41-31 victory against Rutgers on Saturday in a game played in a wet, snowy pre-Halloween storm.
Smith sandwiched touchdown passes of 19-yards to Stedman Bailey and 20-yards to Tavon Austin around his clutch, dive into the end zone in rallying the Mountaineers (6-2, 2-1 Big East) from a 10-point halftime deficit to their 17th straight win over Rutgers (5-3, 2-2)
Austin also scored on an 80-yard run and Shawne Alston scored on runs of 52 and 2 yards for West Virginia, which earlier this week announced its intention to leave the Big East and join the Big 12 next season.
Freshman Gary Nova threw two touchdown passes for the Scarlet Knights and Jawan Jamison scored on run of 1 and 18 yards for the Scarlet Knights, who were blanked in the second half after putting up a season-high for points in the opening half.
Smith finished 20 of 31 for 218 yards, with Austin making eight catches for 67 yards. Alston had 14 carries for 110 yards.
Photos: WVU vs. Rutgers
Nova finished 18 of 46 for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Scarlet Knights lost their second straight.
The game turned on a fake field goal by Rutgers early in the fourth quarter.
Leading 31-28, the Scarlet Knights drove to the West Virginia 11. On fourth-and-7, coach Greg Schiano decided to fake a 28-yard field goal attempt. Holder Pat Kivlehan had receiver Brandon Coleman open in the end zone for a split second but Darwin Cook hustled back and broke up the pass as it hit Coleman’s hands.
On the ensuing series, Smith led the Mountaineers on an 89-yard touchdown drive, hitting Bailey for 32 yards to get the drive going and Brad Starks for 23 to get a first-and-goal at the 8.
Dustin Garrison gained 3 yards on first down and Alston got 4 on second to put the ball at the 1. Alston was stuffed on a third-down run and then Smith took the snap in the shotgun, looked for a receiver and then took off around right end, diving headfirst for the score and a 34-31 lead. West Virginia missed the extra point.
The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving Rutgers the ball at its own 40. However, Nova lost control of the ball on a second down pass attempt and Julian Miller recovered his second fumble of the game at the Rutgers 37.
Three plays later, Smith found Austin along the left sideline and the Mountaineers continued their dominance of Rutgers, a team that the Scarlet Knights won’t be sad to see leave the conference.
Before the game paralyzed former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand lead the Scarlet Knights on the field. He was hurt last October in a game against Army and this was his first time back on the sideline for a game.
The contest was played in horrible conditions as a nor’easter caused strong winds and a mixture of rain and blowing snow. Trucks with snow plows cleaned the field every chance they got, but there were times the yard-line numbers were not visible.
Footing was treacherous and the inclement conditions forced many fans to stay at home. As night fell in the second half there seemed to be no more than 5,000 people in the stands, with the biggest contingent being the Rutgers band.
Those who stayed home missed a lot of excitement as the teams turned in big play after big play on both sides of the ball in the first half. It led to six lead changes and Rutgers left the field ahead 31-21.
Nova threw touchdown passes of 14 yards to Mohamed Sanu and 45 yards to Mark Harrison. Jamison closed out the scoring in the half on touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards.
The Mountaineers had two big scoring runs. Alston scoring on a 52-yard sweep around the left side and Austin scampered 80 yards untouched after lining up in the slot on the left side and taking an end-around handoff.