Stewart: The pressure got to WVU

| Monday, Sept. 27, 2010

BATON ROUGE, La. — On West Virginia's final offensive play against LSU — a third down with less than four minutes to play and trailing by six points — quarterback Geno Smith made some pre-snap changes and lined back up under what he thought was his center.

To his surprise, it was his right guard.

As the play clock ticked down, WVU running back Noel Devine had to tell Smith to move over. Finally, when Smith handled the snap, the Tigers' defense blitzed effectively, and Smith overthrew his receiver. WVU would not get the ball back.

"They had an all-out blitz, and I overshot my guy," said Smith, a sophomore making just his second road start. "If I could take it back, I would. It's something I'll learn from."

That confusion and lack of success summed up West Virginia's offense for much of the Mountaineers' 20-14 loss to No. 15 LSU Saturday night.

The Mountaineers only had 177 yards of offense against LSU's quick defense. It was the lowest total yards by a WVU offense since 2003, when it totaled 156 against Maryland. WVU also turned the ball over two times in the first half, which led to 10 LSU points.

"That was a heck of a game," WVU coach Bill Stewart said. "But I don't like us not being able to handle the pressure, and I don't like trading touchdowns for turnovers."

The Mountaineers had to play much of the first half without its starting running back Noel Devine, who bruised a toe on his right foot when LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow hit him out of bounds. LSU was penalized 15 yards for the late hit.

"Did you see him get hit out of bounds?" Stewart said. "He rolled up on his foot, and he was hurt."

With Devine in the game for the first two drives, the Mountaineers' offense netted 71 yards. Without him, WVU struggled with just 73 yards the rest of the half.

"It all starts with (Devine)," offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said. "If our run game's not there, then it gets uphill from there."

Devine returned in the third quarter but finished with 39 yards on 14 carries. That was his second-lowest total since he became a full-time starter as a sophomore.

Devine's replacement, Ryan Clarke, was ineffective. His first-quarter fumble led to LSU's first touchdown.

Smith, though, was already trying to put the loss behind him when he spoke with media after the game.

"When we win, we look forward," he said. "And when we lose, it's the same thing."

The Mountaineers, who are off next week, play UNLV at home Oct. 8.

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