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Smith's perfection is at stake

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith (12) scrambles 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

If left to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, he'll keep his streak of 259 pass attempts without an interception intact Saturday against Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock.

Smith needs 68 attempts without an interception to surpass the Football Championship Subdivision record set by Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer, who threw 271 passes without an interception in 1993. Russell Wilson holds the Football Bowl Subdivision record with 379 passes without an interception while at N.C. State (2008-09).

“One thing about Geno, he's very decisive,'' said Dilfer, who completed 254 of 396 passes for 3,799 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions in his record-setting season.

“He pulls the trigger. Guys that pull the trigger without hesitation get the ball out quick and throw less interceptions.''

Now an ESPN analyst, Dilfer appreciates what Smith is accomplishing because of how difficult it was for him to avoid throwing interceptions when he set the record 19 years ago.

“I can think of three or four I bounced off defenders' chests,'' said Dilfer, a first-round pick by Tampa Bay who won Super Bowl XXXV with Baltimore. “It takes an enormous amount of luck because, when the ball's in the air, bad stuff can happen.''

Texas Tech leads the nation in pass defense and is No. 2 in total defense. The Red Raiders are allowing 117.4 passing yards per game. They have five interceptions while yielding four touchdown passes.

“We're not going to force the ball; we're not going to force the issue. We're going to take what you give us,'' said Smith, who has 24 touchdown passes with only 38 incompletions among his 204 pass attempts this season. “I'm a smart quarterback. I understand defenses.''

Smith leads the nation at 399.2 passing yards per game. He has averaged more than 40 attempts per game in the No. 5 Mountaineers' first five games.

“He spreads the ball around. He's got great touch on the ball,'' Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “He's got a knack for sitting in the pocket. He'll take a sack. He's not going to turn the ball over.''

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen cited “a combination of things” contributing to Smith's streak, but he mostly credited his quarterback.

“That's what good players do,'' he said. “They do a good job taking care of the ball.”

Smith's streak began in the fourth quarter of WVU's game at South Florida on Dec. 1, 2011. Following an interception that was returned for a touchdown, Smith completed eight of his next 12 passes and guided the Mountaineers to a 30-27 win on Tyler Bitancurt's 28-yard field goal on the final play.

In WVU's next game against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Smith completed 32 of 43 passes for 407 yards and six touchdowns in a 70-33 victory.

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

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