Fumble Return Ignites WVU
Sickles, Josh, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Just when it seemed like West Virginia had no momentum, the defense came up big.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jewone Snow's 83-yard fumble return turned the tide and propelled the Mountaineers to a 43-16 victory over Connecticut in the Big East opener for both teams Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
"It was a game-changer," Snow said. "The momentum completely shifted over to our side."
Coach Dana Holgorsen told his team it was one play away from breaking open the game, and the defense took it to heart.
Trailing 10-9, the Huskies drove to the West Virginia 13-yard line. As quarterback Johnny McEntee dropped back to pass, the pocket collapsed, forcing him to scramble left.
As he spun to pick up an extra yard, cornerback Pat Miller put his helmet on the ball, sending it into the air. Snow caught it and sprinted down the sideline to the Connecticut 12 before being caught from behind.
"I didn't even know Snow had the ball until he was 30 yards down field," Miller said.
It was the longest fumble return for West Virginia since 1993, when Mike Collins returned one for 97 yards for a touchdown against Missouri.
"By the time I got to the other 40 or 30, they caught up with me," Snow laughed. "I tightened up, but I tried to keep going though."
Two plays later, quarterback Geno Smith connected with Tavon Austin for a 12-yard touchdown to put West Virginia up, 17-9. Smith said the turnover provided a boost for the sideline.
"In college football, those things happen," Smith said. "That's something that turned the game. You could tell just the momentum shift that happened."
Smith finished with another big statistical day, completing 27 of 45 passes for 450 yards and four touchdowns. …