During the Tuesday player interviews last week at the Puskar Center, WVU quarterback Geno Smith was in his accustomed position–surrounded by a gaggle of reporters and saying all the right things about the next opponent.
As quotes go, it was mundane stuff about James Madison; boilerplate compliments of the Duke’s defense.
Four days later, Smith was again engulfed by many of those same reporters, this time answering questions about yet another extraordinary performance: 34 of 39 passing for 411 yards and five touchdowns, as WVU rolled over James Madison 42-12.
“I had five incompletions. I could have completed all five of those,” Geno said with a straight face.
Smith’s uncanny excellence can have a dulling effect. His mastery of Dana Holgorsen’s offense, his ability to elude the rush, his baseball pitcher accuracy, does cause one to wonder why he ever throws an incompletion.
That’s what happens when a player ascends to the rarified atmosphere where Smith now resides. It is the unique place where exceptionally high expectations are met and exceeded as a matter of routine.
It’s the same place where former WVU quarterbacks Pat White and Major Harris spent their best years. Fans grew so accustomed to their heroics that when they did not happen–Major against Notre Dame in the national championship game and White in the loss to Pitt that kept WVU out of the title game–they stand out as peculiar defects.
Geno Smith is on a run of historic proportions. In his last three games, dating back to the Orange Bowl, Smith is 98 of 118 (83 percent) for 1,141 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions.
In the first two games of this season, Smith is 66 of 75 (88 percent) for 734 yards and nine touchdowns. He has thrown as many touchdown passes as incompletions in those two games.
Holgorsen is candid, but not given to hyperbole. His comments about Smith after the game Saturday were as grand as he could be without gushing.
“He’s doing a great job of making checks,” Holgorsen said. “He’s getting us in the right plays, his completion percentage is off the charts and he’s not taking sacks.”
Smith often talks about the fact that he’s a student of the game, a film room rat who wears down the battery on his iPad studying the opponent. As a result, on game day Smith isn’t surprised by what he sees when he looks across the line.
As coaches like to say, the game has slowed down for Smith. He can act and react in a split second without having to process the information. Ironically, the more the game slows down for him, the more he can increase the tempo, denying opponents the opportunity to make situational substitutions.
Saturday, Smith broke yet another school record, this time passing Marc Bulger’s mark of 8,153 yards. Smith has thrown for 8,191 yards with 11 games left in his college career. He is on course to end his career with nearly seven miles of passing yards.
John Antonik, WVU’s Director of New Media and unofficial sports historian, says Smith is about to take his place at the top of a distinguished list.
“I believe Geno is well on his way to becoming the most prolific quarterback in school history,” Antonik said.
For Mountaineer fans, these are times to be cherished. It’s important to make mental photographs of some of Smith’s precision arrows to Stedman Bailey or Tavon Austin.
Put those memories in a file and bring them out often whenever the subject of great Mountaineer quarterbacks comes up. You’ll be able to tell these stories years from now, and Geno Smith is providing plenty of material.