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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Geno Smith threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns and No. 16 West Virginia navigated through another slow start to beat Connecticut 43-16 in their Big East opener Saturday.
West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) struggled to a 10-9 halftime lead before erupting for 23 points in a 7:35 span of the third quarter to take control.
Connecticut (2-4, 0-1) was picked apart on defense for the second straight week and its offense was limited to 275 total yards.
UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee was chased around the field all game. His third-quarter fumble led to a touchdown that gave West Virginia the momentum for good.
West Virginia struggled out of the gate for the fifth time in six games, mustering little early against a Connecticut defense that gave up 479 passing yards a week ago to Western Michigan. The 10 first-half points were the lowest for the Mountaineers this season.
During a timeout early in the third quarter, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen waved his hands up and down while lecturing his skill-position players at the back of the bench.
They responded -- with a nudge from the defense.
McEntee was driving UConn toward a go-ahead score midway through the third when he was hit on the run by cornerback Pat Miller. The ball popped loose, freshman linebacker Jewone Snow grabbed it and went 83 yards down the right sideline before being caught at the Connecticut 12.
It was the spark the Mountaineers needed. Smith, who completed 27 of 45 passes, found Tavon Austin on a post pattern in the back of the end zone two plays later for a 17-9 lead.
Connecticut got just two first downs the rest of the game.
For West Virginia, the points kept coming.
After the Mountaineers got the ball back at their 16 on the next series, Smith hit Stedman Bailey with a pass at the West Virginia 36. Bailey sidestepped Ty-meer Brown and went the rest of the way untouched to put West Virginia ahead by double digits for good.
Bruce Irvin sacked McEntee in the end zone for a safety late in the third. West Virginia got the ball back at midfield and scored in eight plays, with Brad Starks making a leaping catch over Dwayne Gratz for a 22-yard TD for a 33-9 lead.
Bailey later added a 27-yard scoring catch. He finished with seven catches for 178 yards, his fourth straight game of more than 100 receiving yards. Ivan McCartney had six catches for 131 yards.
Connecticut's only touchdown was a gift. Paul Millard relieved Smith in the fourth quarter and promptly threw an interception that Brown returned for a score.
Heavy-underdog Connecticut was effective moving the ball early. The Huskies' held the ball for 11 minutes of the first quarter and their first four drives went into West Virginia territory.
But they failed to find the end zone after three drives reached the West Virginia 20. Dave Teggart kicked first-half field goals of 40, 53 and 22 yards.
McEntee finished 21 of 37 for 193 yards.
Connecticut's Byron Jones was called for holding on a second-quarter interception he made in the end zone. Three plays later, West Virginia freshman Dustin Garrison burst through the line for a 14-yard scoring run to put the Mountaineers ahead 10-6.
That was one of few bright spots for Garrison, who last week ran for 291 yards against Bowling Green. He was limited to 80 yards on 18 carries Saturday.