MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- On just about any other day this season, it might have been foolish to put Geno Smith next to Mike Box and compare West Virginia's quarterback to UConn's.
Smith was the Parade Magazine All-American and was the player of the year in the largest class of high school football in Florida. Box enjoyed an unheralded high school career as a mostly undistinguished player. Smith played enough to be prepared to be the starter. Box was a redshirt player who wasn't a contender for the starting job this season.
Things change, though, and there is no other choice now but to contrast the two when the Huskies (3-4, 0-2 Big East) play host to WVU (5-1, 1-1) at 8 p.m. Friday at Rentschler Field on ESPN2.
What once seemed foolish is now necessary to discuss. Both Smith and Box are young quarterbacks in their first season as starters, though Smith, a sophomore from Miami's Miramar High School, will make his seventh start while Box, a redshirt freshman from Suwanee, Ga., gets his second after the Huskies' starter was banished.
And both are coming off forgettable days.
"They're probably struggling at the quarterback position and our quarterback struggled Saturday," said WVU Coach Bill Stewart. It's going to be a game of who has the greatest resolve."
Smith was 20-for-37 for 178 yards in last weeks' 19-14 loss to Syracuse, but he was sacked five times and threw three interceptions. In his first 177 passes this season, Smith threw two interceptions.
"That's a 'me' problem," Smith said. "It's something where I've got to make better decisions and I've got to get the ball out of my hand quicker. Guys were getting open and I've got to be more disciplined in my reads. I wasn't hitting the check-downs like I used to. It's something I have to work on."
Box is the starter now after Cody Endres was suspended for the remainder of the season.
In his debut, Box was 4-for-12 for 35 yards and an interception in last week's 26-0 loss at Louisville. Endres has since decided he'll leave school next semester.
The new quarterback has the distinction now of starting the first shutout loss since 2005.
"I had so many emotions before the first snap," Box said. "I just kept telling myself to get through the first snap and everything would be fine. The first snap was great and after that it was just another football game for me. The game speed was fine. It wasn't anything that I haven't trained for. It was just football, and I was ready."
The 6-foot-2 Box set school records for single-game and single-season passing as a high school senior. Before Endres found trouble, Coach Randy Edsall elevated Box to backup above Zach Frazer, who was the starter at the beginning of the season. Edsall liked what he saw from Box Saturday before the game got away from the Huskies.
"He did start off well early on," Edsall said. "The first two drives he was good and then he threw that pick, he kind of panicked a little bit and just didn't set his feet. He had a chance to step up and run the ball or just set your feet and he kind of threw it off his back foot.