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WVU's Smith makes final homestand

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Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
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.

MOUNTAINEERS gameday

vs. Kansas

2:30 p.m. Saturday Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown

TV/radio: Root Sports/WVAQ-FM (101.9), WBGG-AM (970), Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius channel 117

Records: Kansas 1-10, 0-8 Big 12; West Virginia 6-5, 3-5

Line: West Virginia by 191⁄2

Notable: Final home game for 22 seniors, including WVU's career passing leader Geno Smith and receiving leader Tavon Austin. ... Smith also leads Mountaineers in career passing yards, passing TDs, completions and attempts.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

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 jharris@tribweb.com.

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