WVU's Smith preps for curtain call
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Did you see what West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith did last weekend?
• Twenty-three completions in 24 attempts for the best single-game completion percentage in the NCAA in 14 years.
• Twenty-one consecutive completions.
• More than 400 yards passing in a 59-10 win over Kansas, resulting in back-to-back 4,000-yard campaigns for the first time in school history.
What will he do for an encore against Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium?
One quarterback, even one producing a prolific season like Smith's, was not enough to overcome a defense that finished the regular season ranked 107 out of 120 teams.
But a quarterback like Smith having another great season made for an exciting 7-5 team that once held national championship aspirations.
“He just needs to understand he can only control the things that he's responsible for,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “There were some things he couldn't control from a run game standpoint and a defensive standpoint that put us in the loss category a couple times.
“He just kept playing, and I was proud of how he did that.”
In three weeks, Smith will prepare to play his final college game. He'll team with receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey one final time. Afterward, he'll begin preparations for the NFL Draft and what he hopes results in a first-round selection.
Smith already is acting the part.
“Year in and year out, my main focus is to get better,” he said. “I'm in grind mode. I want to be the best. It's going to take a lot of hard work and I'm willing to put it in.
“We can't control where we go,” he added. “It's really about what the (NFL general managers) feel is best for their team. If they decide that Geno Smith is the guy, they'll select me. Whatever team ends up with me, it's going to be helping their franchise.”
ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer coached Smith along with quarterback guru George Whitfield last summer at the Elite 11 quarterback camp in Southern California. Dilfer came away impressed with Smith as a first-round talent.
“I'm a big fan of Geno,” Dilfer said. “I really appreciate his skill. I appreciate his mind, his leadership.
“The (quarterbacks) that really see it clearly, they know that guy's 14 yards deep, not 8 yards deep. They know that body's leaning inside instead of outside. They see the width of the safety, the drop of the linebacker. They trust the blitz is coming, and they make the right decision in protection. I was thoroughly impressed with how Geno saw the pictures.”
Dilfer credits the Smith-Holgorsen partnership for Smith's development.
“It's a match made in heaven,” Dilfer said. “Geno can really push the ball down the field. Dana's been successful with a lot of quarterbacks. He knows how to move the ball around without high challenging throws. But when you have a guy that can make the high difficulty throw, that offense becomes unstoppable.”
Smith said his best football is ahead of him.
“I'll get better because I haven't reached my prime as far as my physical ability goes,” he said. “I'm still blossoming as far as mental ability goes.”
Note: Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts left the program to pursue other opportunities.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.