AP Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia couldn’t have scripted a better way to finish its nonconference schedule.
Skyler Howard threw four touchdown passes, Wendell Smallwood rushed for a career-high 147 yards and West Virginia beat Maryland 45-6 on Saturday.
The Mountaineers won for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings against their regional rival.
West Virginia (3-0) compiled 601 yards of offense and the defense snared five interceptions in its final tune-up before playing at No. 15 Oklahoma next Saturday.
The Mountaineers have allowed just 23 points in their first three games.
“Overall, what a day,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “The guys were ready to play. We hit the field running and we didn’t look back.”
West Virginia let up considerably in the second half after building a 38-0 halftime lead, its largest since scoring 49 in the first half of an 80-7 win over Rutgers in 2001.
In the second quarter, Howard threw his first interception in 178 pass attempts dating to last season. But he was solid otherwise, completing 21 of 33 passes for 294 yards.
Howard threw TD tosses of 15 and 41 yards to Shelton Gibson, 7 yards to Elijah Wellman and 1 yard to Daikiel Shorts.
Howard said the interception was “inevitable.”
“It was going to happen. It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m not glad it happened, but I’m glad it happened this week.”
The Terrapins (2-2) will have plenty of things to fix before opening Big Ten play at home Saturday night against Michigan.
Maryland drove into West Virginia territory multiple times but came away mostly empty. Maryland certainly had its chances, including on its first drive when it turned the ball over on downs at the West Virginia 38.
“We thought we had to throw the ball in order to be able to be successful today,” said Maryland coach Randy Edsall. “We come out, and we move it. We get fourth-and-1, and we get stopped. After that, we couldn’t get anything going.”
Brandon Ross ran 55 yards to the 1 late in the second quarter. Ross was ruled down before he fumbled out of the end zone, but the call was overturned and West Virginia took possession on the resulting touchback.
West Virginia’s K.J. Dillon fumbled away the second-half kickoff, but Caleb Rowe’s pass was intercepted in the end zone on the next play by Karl Joseph. Darryl Worley intercepted Rowe’s pass in the end zone on Maryland’s next series.
Rowe completed 10 of 27 passes for 67 yards with four interceptions before being replaced late in the third quarter by Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman, who got Maryland on the board with a 46-yard scoring toss to Jarvis Davenport.
Rowe has thrown nine interceptions in three games. Now it’s up to Edsall to decide whether another quarterback change is in store. Perry Hills started the first two games and Rowe the last two.
Edsall indicated that he’ll likely stick with Rowe.
“We’ll sit back and watch the film and evaluate it,” he said.
Ross was Maryland’s lone bright spot with 130 yards rushing.
West Virginia set a school record with 37 first downs, breaking the mark of 36 set against Washington & Lee in 1923. As sloppy at the Terrapins were, West Virginia did little damage after halftime.
West Virginia twice took over in Maryland territory after punts in the first quarter and found the end zone both times, with Gibson taking a short sideline pass from Howard and weaving around several blocks for a 15-yard score and a 21-0 lead. Gibson finished with six catches for 118 yards.
Smallwood had 85 yards alone in the first quarter, when he had four runs of 10 yards or longer. He had a 4-yard TD run in the period.