ShareThis Page

West Virginia scores 70, hangs on for 1st Big 12 win

| Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, 2:18 p.m.
West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith (12) throws downfield against the Baylor Bears at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV, on September 29, 2012. Smith threw for 656 yards and eight touchdown passes as West Virginia opened their inaugural Big 12 Conference game by defeating Baylor, 70-63. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Getty Images
West Virginia's Stedman Bailey carries the ball on a kickoff against the Baylor Bears during the game on Sept. 29, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown. Justin K. Aller | Getty Images
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen talks with quarterback Geno Smith during the second half against Baylor on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. (Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This wasn't Marshall or James Madison or even a rebuilding Maryland team confronting No. 9 West Virginia in its Big 12 debut Saturday.

This was senior quarterback Geno Smith staking his claim as the best player in college football and his No. 9 Mountaineers winning, 70-63, over No. 25 Baylor in a rollicking shootout played before 60,012 at Milan Puskar Stadium.

It was Smith completing 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns, both school records. It was Stedman Bailey catching 13 passes for a school-record 303 yards and catching five touchdown passes. It was Bailey and Tavon Austin (school-record 14 receptions, 215 yards, two TDs) becoming the first tandem in school history to surpass 200 receiving yards in the same game.

“Not every Big 12 game is like this. Not every Big 12 offense is like this. Not every game is going to be like this,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It was a situation where both offenses were playing at a pretty high level.”

No one played at a higher level than Smith, who hasn't thrown an interception in 169 passes this season and already has tossed 20 touchdown passes.

“I couldn't care less about the Heisman Trophy,” he said. “The biggest thing is that we won.”

Said Baylor coach Art Briles, who coached Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III last year: “I thought Geno was exceptional, which he has been for the past few years.

“Today, he certainly earned his cause for postseason awards.”

As he has been all season, Smith was the big story for the Mountaineers. But he wasn't alone in a back-and-forth slugfest featuring 19 touchdowns.

WVU (4-0) generated a school-record 807 yards but still needed its offense to run out the final minutes because the defense struggled against the Bears' potent attack.

Baylor (3-1), which entered Saturday ranked in the top 10 nationally in passing and total offense, amassed 700 total yards as quarterback Nick Florence (29 of 47 for 581 yards and five TDs) and receiver Terrance Williams (17 receptions for 314 yards and two TDs) set school records in passing yards and receiving yards. Williams also established a Big 12 standard for receiving yards, breaking the mark Bailey had set earlier in the game.

Trailing for the first time all season, WVU rallied from a 28-21 deficit to make it 35-28 before Baylor tied the score at 35 on the final play of the first half.

“When there's six or seven seconds left, you can't let that happen,” Holgorsen said. “To say that the defenses didn't play very well is an understatement.”

The Mountaineers scored 21 unanswered points to open the third quarter as the lead bulged to 56-35. Baylor, however, rallied to make it 56-49 and later chopped the deficit to 63-56 before WVU finally put the game away.

Again, it was Smith, operating behind nearly flawless pass protection and going through his progressions before floating a perfect pass to Bailey in the rear of the end zone for a 70-56 lead.

“It's amazing,” Bailey said. “Anytime we have a chance of going downfield, we want to try to hit it. Geno was perfect throwing the ball.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.