MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Of all the things Geno Smith was to learn from his night in the tiger's den last game, his coach, Bill Stewart, offered this:
"Trust his coaching," the West Virginia coach said.
Through three games, WVU's quarterback had done almost nothing wrong.
The interception he threw? His offensive coordinator wanted the blame for that, but only after pointing out what a great play the Coastal Carolina defender had made.
The fumble he lost? The offensive line was overwhelmed again by Marshall's defensive line and Smith was crunched.
The fourth game was to be a lot like the fourth year of high school for Smith and lead toward a graduation to another level. LSU's defense was a litmus test for legitimacy.
Smith wasn't horrible. He didn't fail. He won't be held back. He did complete just 14 of 29 pass attempts and threw an interception on the night WVU finished with the fewest yards of offense since 2003. Those are things he'll have to live with and learn from the rest of the way.
"I think we did a lot of good things," Smith said. "Even after the game, I knew we did some good things and executed pretty well, but at the end of the day we didn't make enough plays to win the game. That was a let-down for us because I feel like we have the athletes and the coaches in place to make the plays."
And yet, opportunities to snatch an unlikely victory were right there at the end and Smith, the startlingly confident sophomore from Miami, figured he could do it. That bravado included a curious decision on what was a key play of the game, a third-and-2 at the WVU 15-yard line with a little more than four minutes remaining.
Out of a timeout, Smith scrambled to change a play at the line of scrimmage and appeared to line up behind the right guard before taking the snap and running left. He was tackled for no gain.
"He hurried it," Stewart said. "He had success earlier going right on the speed option. He ran one to the right and got a big first down. The last one, he ran to his left. He hurried it. He'd done the proper footwork all day and didn't do it on that one. He got in a hurry trying to make a play, just trying to be competitive."
That's the hallmark of Smith's still-infant age as a starting major college quarterback ... not the mistake, but the urge to do something based on an inner belief.