WVU's offensive performance against LSU built confidence
MORGANTOWN - Geno Smith had enough time to watch only a little film on Clemson, learn a few basics about the plays and the players on defense and see that the Tigers wear Orange.
None of that mattered to West Virginia's quarterback as he dug in to prepare for the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl against the ACC champion.
"LSU is as good as it gets," Smith said. "There's no better test than the No. 1 team in the country."
No. 14 Clemson (10-3) isn't as stubborn on defense and ranks No. 80 in rush defense, No. 39 in pass defense, No. 57 in pass efficiency defense, No. 59 in total defense and No. 62 in scoring defense.
The Tigers allowed more than 250 yards passing five times and at least 315 yards twice. They allowed multiple touchdown passes five times and three touchdown passes four times.
"You never know," Smith said. "We played well against LSU and we haven't played well against a couple teams. You might say they're not as good, but it's going to come down to how we prepare and what we do down on the field."
Smith earned All-Big East first team honors during his junior season. He has completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,978 yards, 25 touchdowns and just interceptions. He was ranked No. 9 nationally in total offense and helped No. 23 WVU (9-3) finish No. 7 in passing offense, No. 17 in total offense and No. 19 in scoring offense.
He did a lot of his damage that one late September night against the top-ranked Tigers, who play No. 2 Alabama for the national championship Jan. 9.
Smith was 38-for-65 for a school-record 463 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers finished No. 2 in total defense and scoring defense, No. 3 in pass efficiency defense and No. 9 in pass defense. Smith passed for nearly three times the 166.6 yards the Tigers allowed per game.
"It's all about matchups and I feel like we match up with those guys," Smith said. "I feel we match up with pretty much anybody because of the versatility we have. The guys we have do different things and bring different elements to the game."
Smith's receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey had unmatched success against LSU and cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne, who were All-SEC first team picks. Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Claiborne was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back.
Austin had personal-best totals of 11 receptions for 187 yards and Bailey added a career-high eight receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
"I feel like we have feel the best receiving corps and the best offense in the country," Smith said. "We definitely have the best offensive coach (Dana Holgorsen) in the country. It doesn't surprise me one bit. Stedman Bailey is one of the best receivers out there and he can always beat the jam. Tavon Austin is one of the quickest guys out there. He's hard to cover one-on-one."
The Tigers allowed no other 100-yard receivers and Alabama running back Trent Richardson was next in line behind Austin and Bailey with 80 yards receiving.
Only three teams had more than 200 passing yards against LSU this season and nobody had more attempts, completions, yards or touchdowns. Smith passed for 23 first downs. No team had more than 19 total against the Tigers.
"I'm not going to go around boasting and bragging about that at all," Smith said. "We lost the game and I threw two interceptions that cost us the game. I wasn't perfect in that game by any stretch and I don't take pride in it. It's way back in my mind and I don't think about it at all. The only thing I think about is working that day to be the very best."
By just about every statistical measure, Smith was the best offensive player in the Big East this season, yet the conference coaches voted Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead the league's offensive player of the year.
"It would be selfish of me to sit here and talk about it," Smith said. "My hat's off to Isaiah Pead. He's a great player and he deserved it."
In truth, Smith wasn't too high on himself this season. He set WVU's single-season records for total offense, pass attempts, pass completions and passing yards and single-game records for passing yards, attempts, completions and total offense.
He played the position like it had never been played before for the Mountaineers, but he wasn't all that impressed and Smith said he'd be back at WVU to get it right next year.
"Actually, I'm disappointed in myself and the way I played this season," he said. "I feel I could have done a lot of things better. That has nothing to do with work ethic or anything like that. I just felt like this wasn't my best season.
"There's always next season and I'm definitely going to come back and work hard next season to be better than I was this season."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.