West Virginia senior Tavon Austin rips off a first-half run against Kansas. He finished with 110 yards receiving and 77 yards rushing in a 59-10 victory. (Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography)
Examining the ups and downs, the dividends and downticks, from West Virginia’s 59-10 win over Kansas:
While preparing for Senior Day, Geno Smith called his four-year stint in Morgantown “life-changing,” and said “it has helped me grow into a better man, an older, wiser man.”
He looked plenty wise to the Jayhawks, completing 23-of-24 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns. Smith nearly pitched a perfect game if not for an interception thrown under pressure. But even that mistake came with a caveat: Stedman Bailey failed to come back for the football, which allowed KU cornerback Tyler Patmon to leave man coverage against Ryan Nehlen and steal the throw.
Smith’s performance, which tied Tee Martin’s NCAA single-game completion percentage record, earned him Big 12 offensive player of the week.
Running backs (UP)
Shawne Alston scored two short-yardage touchdowns on his way to 10-carry, 40-yard afternoon, showing even more agility than he did during a 130-yard effort at Iowa State the previous week.
The biggest development, however, was the resurfacing of Andrew Buie, who darted to 100 yards on 12 carries and gained another 57 yards on two catches. He showed the type of straight-line speed we hadn’t seen since the Texas game.
Dustin Garrison added a weaving 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Maybe the KU defense was playing out the string, but Garrison looked more confident cutting than he has all season.
Bailey’s two touchdown catches gave him 23 and moved him past Michael Crabtree and Larry Fitzgerald on the FBS single-season list. Only Randy Moss (25 TDs in 1997 for Marshall) and Troy Edwards (27 in 1998 for Louisiana Tech) have caught more.
Such rare production had Bailey stumping for the Biletnikoff Award, which will be handed out Thursday night in Orlando. He’s a finalist along with Baylor’s Terrance Williams and USC’s Marqise Lee.
“Yeah, I think I deserve it,” said Bailey after Saturday’s 11 catches pushed his season total to 106, fourth-most nationally. “All those touchdowns, I think I’ve tried to help my team as much as I can.”
Bailey also promoted teammate Tavon Austin for a more noteworthy honor, the Heisman. Austin struck a trophy pose after lunging for a 1-yard touchdown run. The senior compiled 110 yards on four catches (he’s second in the nation with 110 receptions) and ran for 77 more on 12 carries, showing his complete repertoire of stop-and-start moves.
“I’m a very humble person, but I think I deserve to be in the talk,” Austin said.
“Hands down, Tavon’s the best player in the country — hands down,” said Smith, himself a Heisman frontrunner for the first five weeks. “The eyes don’t lie. There are other great players in the country, but that guy will make anyone miss at any time. He does what he wants on the field.”
In rewatching the game, you’ll notice Austin making several quality downfield blocks on run plays.
An underappreciated senior is No. 3 receiver J.D. Woods, who caught four passes for 83 yards — highlighted by a twisting, acrobatic 50-yard snag that was a career-long.
Offensive line (UP)
Inconsistent play prevented this from becoming one of WVU’s better O-lines, but the three interior seniors close their home careers with a strong effort. Center Joe Madsen (50 career starts) and guards Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins got Buie to the second level without being touched several times, helping him average 8.3 yards per carry.
By controlling the line of scrimmage, this unit led WVU to nine scores on its first 10 possessions. On the same first-quarter drive, Jenkins was flagged for a chop block and Curtis Feigt committed a holding penalty, but WVU scored anyway, moving 77 yards in nine plays for a 14-0 lead.
Kansas notched three sacks, two of which were no fault of the line. Paul Millard took one on the first snap after Geno Smith’s ceremonial exit, abandoning a sizable pocket and running into the line — a decision that had offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson yelling, “What was that?” Two plays later, blocking back Cody Clay failed to pick up KU’s Ben Heeney on a delayed linebacker blitz.
Kansas running back James Sims, after averaging 123 yards per game, was limited to 57 yards on 18 carries by West Virginia. (Dan Estel/All-Pro Photography)
Defensive Line (UP)
Jorge Wright made four stops, while Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke made three each, helping the defensive line limit the Kansas running game to 3.5 yards per carry and some 60 yards below its per-game average.
Fifth-year senior Jeff Lageman made a start, while Kyle Rose and Christian Brown also were active. Freshman Garrett Hope made a first-quarter tackle in the red zone.
Sufficient in pass coverage and disciplined against Kansas’ zone-read ground game, WVU’s linebackers made the Big 12′s worst offense live down to its reputation.
Shaq Petteway led the group with seven tackles, while Doug Rigg made five. Redshirt freshman Nick Kwiatkoski, a surprise starter in place if Isaiah Bruce, announced his presence on KU’s opening drive with a third-down knockout hit on receiver Kale Pick. Primarily a special-teams contributor on coverage units this season, Kwiatkoski finished with three tackles.
Chief among senior Terence Garvin’s three tackles was a fourth-down stop on James Sims. He later dropped Sims again for a 6-yard loss.
Josh Francis, credited with two tackles, didn’t have many opportunities to crank up his pass-rushing skills.
The Jayhawks cycled through three quarterbacks, failing to spark an out-of-synch passing attack that wasn’t much a litmus test. Still, WVU’s secondary held its own, allowing only 117 yards on 7-of-16 passing.
Cornerback Pat Miller was out-jumped by Andre Turzilli on a 41-yard sideline completion, while boundary safety Darwin Cook closed a half-step late on Tony Pierson’s 42-yard catch. Outside of those completions, KU did nothing through the air.
With seven tackles, including some of the head-snapping variety, free safety Karl Joseph wrapped up a stellar freshman season. He caught a tipped interception to thwart a first-quarter KU threat, and in the third period, he undercut a sideline route only to drop what would have been a pick-six.
Cook also made seven tackles, while his backup, senior Cecil Level, contributed to the Joseph interception with underneath coverage that forced a high throw from Crist.
Reserve cornerback Terrell Chestnut made two sure tackles in run support.
Special teams (UP)
Senior Tyler Bitancurt made his only field-goal try from 30 yards and went 8-for-8 on PATs. His only punt was a mere 31-yarder, but no one noticed because it came with just 1:46 left in he game.
Five Corey Smith kickoffs went for touchbacks, while KU averaged 23 yards per carry on the other five.
The trepidation over Kansas coach Charlie Weis conjuring up an surprising offensive scheme never materialized. “We adjusted well as a team and as a coaching staff on what they were doing and how to attack it,” said WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest.
The early return of Crist lasted just two series before KU trailed 14-0 and turned to running quarterback Michael Cummings.
“Either they made a decision that this is going to be a long game so ‘We better run the ball and eat the clock,’ or they said ‘We can’t throw it, so let’s figure out a way to gash them in the run,’” DeForest said. “And they didn’t do that either.”
Dana Holgorsen’s offense piled up 647 yards (averaging 9.1 per play) and broke the 2011 school single-season record for yardage with 6,222.
The Jayhawks didn’t bring much fight to Morgantown, and what little thy did pack, WVU quickly siphoned away. On the final Saturday of the regular season, the Mountaineers sent out 21 seniors with their most complete performance of 2012.
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