Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

WVU’s Wendell Smallwood (4) scores the decisive touchdown from 2 yards out late in the fourth quarter, giving the Mountaineers a 24-17 win over William & Mary.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— Paul Millard threw a game-tying 69-yard touchdown pass, Charles Sims topped the 100-yard mark and freshman Wendell Smallwood scored the late go-ahead TD as West Virginia beat FCS member William & Mary 24-17.

The Mountaineers had to overcome a 10-point halftime, hardly the blowout many of the 56,350 in attendance expected. But less than 24 hours after Kansas State succumbed to FCS member North Dakota State, WVU felt relieved to merely get a victory, even one that seemed too close for comfort.

“Obviously we’ve got a long ways to go,” said coach Dana Holgorsen after the game. “But there are plenty of FCS teams out there that are happier right now than William & Mary are after beating an FBS team. It happens every week. We are fortunate it didn’t happen to us.”

Sims ran for 120 yards on 23 carries and Dreamius Smith added 40 yards on 12 attempts. But it was Smallwood getting the crucial handoff on WVU’s goal-line package with 3:22 left, powering through tacklers on a 2-yard run.

Darwin Cook promptly ended the underdogs’ comeback hopes by picking off Michael Graham.

“I told Cookie early in the week ‘You’re going to pick that pass off,'” said WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “And when he saw the under route, he knew exactly what was coming and sat all over it.”

MORE MOUNTAINEERS: Action ans postgame video from Saturday’s win

William & Mary, which upset Virginia in 2010 and lost to Maryland 7-6 last season, put up 309 yards of offense. But after being blanked in the second half, there was no talk of a moral victory.

“We’ve been there, done that,” said Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock. “When a player comes to William & Mary, he knows he’s going to have the opportunity once a year to line up in one of these big ballgames.”

Sims’ 11-yard touchdown run capped WVU’s opening drive, a 67-yard march that began with Millard taking the field and settling the preseason-long question of who would be the starting quarterback.

But those were the only points of the first half for West Virginia (1-0), which missed a 55-yard field goal on its next series and then punted on the ensuing three.

“When you have success early and you’re inexperienced, you start thinking this is easy,” said Mountaineers offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “I could sense a lull.”

Meanwhile, William & Mary (0-1) reeled off 17 unanswered points, aided by the big-play receiving of Tre McBride. His 40-yard catch over WVU cornerback Icky Banks set up the Tribe’s tying score—a 1-yard toss from Graham to Darnell Laws. And on the next possession, McBride hauled in a 28-yarder over safety Karl Joseph, setting up Graham’s 5-yard scoring scramble.

A Millard fumble on a sack led to the Tribe’s 29-yard field goal 23 seconds before halftime.

And into the lockerroom the Mountaineers went, trailing 17-7 to a team they were favored to beat by 33 points.

“I just wanted to stay calm and keep those guys on offense calm,” Millard said.

WVU appeared calm in opening the third quarter with a 15-play, 70-yard drive that nearly led to a touchdown. But Sims was barely tripped up at the 4 by safety Jerome Couplin, forcing Josh Lambert to come on for a 22-yard field goal that trimmed the gap to 17-10.

On their next drive, the Mountaineers tied it with Millard finding Ronald Carswell on a 69-yard post pattern. It was the flashiest throw of the day for Millard, who seemingly seized the job with a 19-of-25 passing performance for 237 yards.

West Virginia’s next two drives ended in punts, though they were boomers as Nick O’Toole struck for 56 and 60 yards. The latter came out of his own end zone midway through the fourth quarter and pinned William & Mary back at its own 25.

Four plays later, William & Mary punted and WVU took over at midfield, poised for its decisive drive.

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  • Toni Phillips

    Hey. I was at the game and I saw good and bad. Im not giving up on my eers. We will get better. Love my team.

    • James

      Tony, you can love your Team but face the facts.

    • Rock Solid

      Come on girls, you sound like a bunch of old biddies who talk a lot because you have no clue how to perform as real women anymore. The only intelligent comment I heard is that WVU is no longer playing the little sisters of the poor from the Little East and must now learn to play Big Boy football for Big Boy money. Thank God for Oliver getting us out of the loser Big Least or it would not make any difference about Bill and Mary. We would be stuck like Conn. and Cincinnati. No money and no more of a chance for a national title than the MAC after 2014 comes around. We'll know soon how competitive we are in Big Time football. Shut up until we see the results from the Maryland game. Right now you are doing what West Virginians are famous for, spouting off without their brains being in gear. Love the state, hate the stupidity!

  • big tom

    we will get better , just not this yr...LOL

    I mean, wm was 2-9 last yr. and 31 pts dogs.

    people who tell us we are going 8-4 or 7-5,, where are you now.
    all along I have tried to relate to some of you numb skulls that if we win 6 games will be a miracle... now, I readjust that, to 4 games.
    I think we be ga state... then ,, we could easily lose the next 10...sorry, but we are really really terrible...our def secondary is just as bad as last yr. and we played this cream puff who for 3 qts. has us on the ropes...LOL

    • DC

      How could we lose the next 10 using your logic that a close win over W&M is the worst thing that could happen when K ST lost to their cupcake....that means at least 1 more win.

  • Matt

    Still believe 8 wins out of this team, Holgs was going easy and of you "educated" knuckle draggers should have seen that. Not worried in the least.

    • James

      Holgorsen was going easy ! Yea, he was hoping for a Win....

    • Luke

      OK men here is the game plan. We are going to "hold back" on the "system" and let W & M take a 10 point lead at the half. Then after we tie it up but when things are looking bleak in the 4th quarter O'Toole here is going to uncork a 58 yard part from our end zone and put them back on the 25. We'll hold on defense and get the ball back on a bad punt at midfield for the winning drive. Then with about 8:00 minutes to go our guy will fumble but we'll recover and then go in for the winning score!

      You see that way we can sneak up on Oklahoma with the Gomer Pyle Game Plan "Surprise, Surprise" we don't suck after all!

      What do you think of our strategery men? Briliant huh?

      • Redford


    • c1

      Do you suppose someone else will start at qb against OK? Like today was a trick? As in Tricket.

    • bva24

      Cool story bro.

    • Magic Mike

      Your dreaming if Holgs did not want to smash William and Mary.

    • Mister Man

      Aight, Matt. Good comment.

  • bva24

    Holgorsen is in over his head.

    • 2019jones

      yes sir...

      • JimJim

        If you can't judge talent, and don't know who your starting QB will be you may have a problem...

        • wenkev

          Gee, seems like I remember a year when Nehlen had two quarterbacks. Remember, Kelchner and Studstill? We went to the Sugar Bowl that year. Rodriguez started with two quarterbacks. Remember Bednarik and White. We went to the Sugar Bowl that year too. I'm not saying I expect to go to the Sugar Bowl, but two quarterbacks is not the issue.

          • c1

            cushion in the secondary is the problem...

  • leroy j gibbs

    We will get better. We will grow. This is what we got to work with. It's like starting over rod days are over. Bill Stewart days are cupcake big east teams to play. It's time we grow up and accept reality. It's called growing pains

    • JimJim

      And you think that the other teams will not get better????

  • Yogi Wahoo

    1-0 beats 0-1

  • Maxxajay

    I saw a lot of good things today, and some bad. First let me say William and Mary is a very good football team. Before any or all cutdown West Virginia about William and Mary wait until the end of their season and see where they wind up at. William and Mary will be in a playoff somewhere. First let me say people we won the ball game . WVU has got the running backs they need. We have the players On all sides of the ball. Anybody knows football could see that it was going to be a run or a pass the way the quarterback lined up, William and Mary new every time we was going to run or pass, That's the play callers , not the plays ...WVU is 1and 0 week maybe 2 and 0

    • Magic Mike

      William and Mary were 2 and 9 last year. They are not a good football team.

      • Bobby M

        HAHA! ha! Hey Friend! Your the one with the dead brain CELLS!

        Oh wait! My fault! Your right! I think W&M is supposed to play Alabama for national title THIS year!

        Some PEOPLE!

      • gv

        William and Mary was 2 and 9 last year, not were.

    • 2019jones

      I hope they r 2-0

  • Mister Man

    Kansas State had some trouble.

  • 2019jones

    going 2 b a long night next sat night and a very long season,and they r right dana is not a head coach.......

    • Mister Man


  • DonaldH

    At least they won and honestly, none of the Big12 teams I've watched today have looked SECish---

  • jlee

    Right now we are nothing but a C-USA type football team and it is embarrassing to say the least. Look at Arizona! I never thought I would say, Rich Rod...please come home!!

    • 2019jones

      amen 2 that...

  • Mister Man

    I think we'll aight.

    • Mister Man

      We'll be aight.

      • 2019jones

        what game was u whatching

        • gv

          Please, what game were you watching? If you cannot put a sentence together stay off here.

        • Mister Man

          What game were you watching?

  • Bobby M

    How YOU like ME now?! For weeks I was NOT drinking KOOLAID while EVERYONE laughed at me! I told ALL of you that we werent as GOOD as everyone thought! Last year was awful WITH NFLers - imagine how we ARE now!

    We are NOT in Big East anymore! 6 wins this year would be MIRacle!

  • Shadow

    When you have this much trouble with a Cream Puff, it is going to be a long season in the Big 12.

    • DC

      Well at least we know Kansas ST will have a worse season than we do going by this logic.

  • Magic Mike

    This team is in big big trouble. I was in Elkins WV today and people are not happy. They want Holgerson gone. I don't blame them he is no head coach. This will be the only game we win this year.

    • James

      I Agree with Mike ! Holgorsen is in way over his head and the water is only knee deep. The fan's better enjoy this one, this was it !

    • Art in Ohio

      Want Holgerson gone. Start all over again with a new head coach and staff??? A decision that would set back the program for years. I don't think that would a good idea at this time.

    • Tim

      Yeah that's the hotbed of football knowledge.
      Give them a chance?

    • Mighty Mighty Devil

      From the looks of that Oak Hill - Elkins score last night I think the good folks in Elkins have bigger things not to be happy about than Holgs.

    • rekterx

      This team will, for the most part, get better each week. Last year after several games we had fans that actually believed we were a Top Ten team. But this team, as opposed to last year's team, will, I think, get better and better as the season rolls on.

      You say this will be the only game we win this year and I flat out disagree with you. I think this team has the pieces to put together a winning season. I plan to enjoy watching them strive for that very thing.

      Way too much "knee-jerkin" throughout all of these comments.

      • Magic Mike

        William and Mary was 2 and 9 last year. FBS. WV is not going to get better. It was a mistake to hire Holgerson. I say bring back Rich Rod. Ya what he did was dirty but at least he won.

        • DC

          Did he win last year? They actually had as bad of defense as we did....

        • rekterx

          Last year? If what happened last year is what matters why do we even play games this year?

          So what if they were 2-9 last year? This is this year.

          Take a deep breath and step back from the ledge.

        • Rugger

          Deep breaths