WVU's Smith makes final homestand
His final home game Saturday against Kansas signals a time of reflection for West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith, WVU's career passing leader in nearly every major category and a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy early this season, took a step back during the Mountaineers' five-game losing streak, longest at the school since 1986.
It was during the lowest stretch of his college career that Smith located his inner self and rediscovered the form that could make him the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
“It's extremely important for the psyche of this team, for the future of this program, to erase the thought of a five-game losing streak from our minds and focus on the positives,” Smith said. “I want to be part of that group of seniors that led us in the right direction.
“It's kind of been a disappointment for me this season. I wish I could have done better. But overall I'm blessed to be in this position. I appreciate being on this team.”
It's anyone's guess where WVU (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) would be without Smith this season.
“If Geno wants to play in the NFL, this is the type of thing he's going to have to go through, and he understands this. You're going to have to play at the top of your ability,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He's as good as anybody in college football.”
Smith has completed 327 of 466 passes (70.2 percent) for 3,597 yards and 37 touchdowns this season. He needs 403 yards to reach 4,000 passing yards for the second consecutive year for the bowl-eligible Mountaineers.
Against Baylor, Smith was 45 of 51 for 656 yards and eight TDs — both school records — and finished with the best completion mark in an NCAA game since 2000 (88.2).
Among NCAA active career leaders, Smith is No. 4 in passing yards (11,054), touchdown passes (93), attempts (1,413) and completions (946), No. 5 in total offense (11,395 yards) and No. 6 in passing efficiency (151.55).
Despite those gaudy numbers, Smith believes his greatest improvement has been his ability shrug off tough losses and rally his teammates.
“We have some guys playing in spots they haven't been before. It's our job to lead those guys. It's a positive sign that we continue to fight and not hang our heads,” said Smith.
“The biggest difference I see is that when you're down — especially at the position of quarterback — it's more about putting it on myself. I can't go up to a linebacker or tell a safety, ‘We need seven points.' The ball is in my hands.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.