WVU football: Geno not concerned with 'silly' streak
MORGANTOWN - West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown 259 passes since his last interception against South Florida last season.
If he can throw 121 more passes without an interception, he will break Russell Wilson's NCAA record.
That's at least three games away and the No. 5 Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) tried to spend as little time as possible discussing it before Saturday's game at Texas Tech.
"He's got a lot more on his plate than worrying about some silly little streak that doesn't mean anything," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He's probably going to throw an interception at some point. I hope that one interception doesn't hurt us winning the game because winning the game is a whole lot more important than a streak that you guys like to talk about."
The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1) are aware of Smith and all his exploits, but are not in awe. They lead the nation in pass defense (117.4 yards per game) and have four interceptions, but the quality of opposition is improving. A week ago, they played Oklahoma's Landry Jones and watched him complete 25-of-40 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's a quarterback. He's a good quarterback, but I don't feed too much into it," safety D.J. Johnson said of Smith. "Different players play different ways against different people. This may be the game that somebody else on our defense decides to show up and make plays against Geno Smith and he wasn't expecting it.
"Or maybe some guy that he just didn't pay attention to is out there making plays, or it may not be his game. He may come out sluggish or slow or one of his receivers may not be up to par in this game."
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ONE OF WVU's 12 negative yardage plays against Texas was one of the most surprising. The Mountaineers tried a flea flicker following a turnover that was swallowed up for a 13-yard loss.
WVU actually tried it twice. On first down, Smith and Andrew Buie bumped into one another as Smith tried to hand off the ball. The same play from the same formation followed and the play developed too slowly.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said the team's repertoire of trick plays consists only of reverses - the Mountaineers don't practice any others. The flea flicker was designed for how the Longhorns were defending WVU.
"Trick plays are situations where defenses are coming down hard or doing something like," Dawson said. "Defenses typically play off us anyway and have someone high somewhere. I've never had a whole lot of success with trick plays. I've always had a mindset to attack with your normal scheme and everything will work out."
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THE MORE effective surprise for the Mountaineers was going for it as much as they did on fourth down. They'd been 0-for-4 in the first four games, but were 5-for-5 against Texas.
There were two conversions in the first quarter, one in the second and two in the fourth.
"I would like to go for it on fourth down," Smith said. "Obviously, that one of those things where I can't call it. It's up to Coach Holgorsen. I love the fact he trusts us enough to leave us out on the field on fourth down in medium- or short-yardage situations, especially with the game on the line."
There were three fourth downs when Holgorsen didn't go for the first down. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt was 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts. He had a 42-yard attempt blocked on WVU's second drive, but made a 37-attempt in the second quarter. His 41-yard field goal at the end of the half was on third down.
Bitancurt also had a punt blocked at his 24-yard line in the second quarter.
Holgorsen decided to go for it in Texas territory all five times and each was between the 48 and 20. The five conversions came on three touchdown drives.
"With our offense, I do like our changes to convert a lot of those situations, but it all depends where you are on the field," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "It could be a big momentum shift if you don't get it, especially in an environment like Texas.
"That would pretty much rev their fans up and make them go crazy, which would make it hard on our defense. If you do get it, it's kind of like, I don't know, a slap in their face. I'm for it, but like I said, it all depends on where you are on the field."
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THE WVU defense ranks No. 37 nationally against the run and gives up 124 yards per game. The 2.91 yards per carry is No. 13 - and that includes 20, 20, 24 and 49 yard runs in the first five games. Those are the only runs of 20 or more yards allowed in 213 attempts and they add up to 18 percent of the 620 yards allowed all season.
One big reason for WVU's success is 6-foot-4, 310-pound nose guard Shaw Rowell, who's already played more than twice the number of snaps he played all of last season. He was solid in the middle against Texas, but had a close call before the game - one he won't discuss.
"He cut his leg before the game," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "He did something in the locker room and had to have it stitched up, but he said he was OK and he could play - and he played really well for us."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org