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WVU football: Smith reflects on missed chances No. 22 Mountaineers had

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There is a reason the top three passers in college football today have all played for Dana Holgorsen. It's found in the evaluation the West Virginia football coach gave about Geno Smith's unprecedented performance against LSU.

The junior quarterback from Miramar, Fla., set school passing records with 38 completions, 65 attempts and 463 yards.

"He, for the most part, went where we wanted him to go with the ball," said the first-year coach, who tutored Houston's Case Keenum, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and now Smith, the leaders in NCAA passing yards.

Smith hasn't embraced the history. He's more interested in what he missed. He's only concerned with satisfying his coach's very high expectations. Smith didn't go home until long after the 47-21 loss to the Tigers and instead hung around the team headquarters to watch film.

When he was done and when the coaches took a look, they all agreed Smith actually left two big plays on the field. They weren't guaranteed touchdowns.

Something could have gone wrong with the throw or the reception. Getting one or both wouldn't necessarily give the Mountaineers the win.

That's not the point for Smith, though.

"There were a couple things I did in that game that were uncharacteristic," he said. "I made a few bad throws and a few bad decisions. But I'm over it and I'll try to progress from it."

His first shot at redemption comes in Saturday's game at Mountaineer Field against Bowling Green (3-1). ROOT Sports will televise the Homecoming game at 3:30 p.m.

The Mountaineers (3-1) had finally gotten past midfield in the second quarter after the previous 34 snaps by both offenses took plays in WVU territory. On a first-and-10 at the LSU 42-yard line, running back Dustin Garrison slipped out of the backfield and then sneaked behind a linebacker.

"I definitely thought I was catching a touchdown," the freshman said.

Smith never saw Garrison speed into an uncovered third of the field. He instead looked right and overthrew Devon Brown on a tricky pass across the field toward the sideline. Garrison slowed up around the 20 with no one near him. He turned around and hurried back to the line of scrimmage, but not before he saw Holgorsen and running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

"They were both holding their heads after seeing how open I was," Garrison said.

The coaches understood the error, one Smith doesn't make very often. The Mountaineers were playing with a quick tempo, but the Tigers were moving fast, too, and sent a blitzer through the middle.

"You can't blame him on that one," quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said. "He's got to make a quick decision. We're working so fast that we don't have the time to make our protection the best it could be. They could blitz, too, so you have to be as base as possible."

Smith only saw it when he was watching the film. Spatival said Smith was angry as he saw Garrison appear from behind a linebacker and then flash his right hand in the air an instant after Smith had looked to the right.

"He went up the seam wide open," Smith said. "The safety left him."

Smith ended up finishing the drive a minute later with a touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey. Smith spotted Bailey in a one-on-one situation and threw a short ball to Bailey, who shook All-America cornerback Morris Claiborne to reach the end zone.

The offense took over at its own 4 on the next possession and threw on first down. Smith was standing in his end zone. He looked left and looked some more before hitting Bailey on the left side again. He broke two tackles and picked up 11 yards and a first down.

No one covered Tavon Austin down the middle of the field.

"Tavon ran a great route, a hitch and go," Smith said. "Ninety-six yards, but I missed him. I took my eyes off too quick. That's something I need to keep my eyes on."

Austin ran a short route and stopped, like he did so many other times when he'd catch a pass and run. As he stopped, the safety sped forward. Austin then started up again and was quickly behind the last defender.

The Mountaineers ended up punting.

"He completed a pass for a first down, which is fine, but if he sits a little longer, he sees it," Spavital said.

Later in the third quarter, Smith held onto the ball and let Austin run his route and get behind the defenders. A perfect throw over a safety's shoulders went for a 72-yard gain and set up a touchdown to make it 27-21.

"You can't see the whole field, although you try to, but it's rare to have a quarterback make no mistakes," Smith said. "I'm pretty sure everyone has those same kind of moments, but you have to learn from it and get better from it."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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