COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Geno Smith set career highs for passing yards, attempts and completions Saturday and West Virginia won a game against Maryland.So why afterwards did coach Dana Holgorsen at different times call his performance awful and terrible?Well, because it could have been so much better. And Smith knows it."I made some mistakes,'' Smith said. "I made some bad throws.''
He obviously made some good ones, too. By day's end, he completed 36-of-49 passes for 388 yards. He had some passes that were, frankly, stunning. He threaded a ball to Ivan McCartney in the first quarter for a 14-yard gain to set up a touchdown. He hit McCartney on a perfect streak down the right sideline for 36 yards. He led Stedman Bailey on a nice 34-yard touchdown. He gave Ryan Nehlen his first career reception with a clutch cross-field throw to convert a third-and-9 in the fourth quarter.But close to the goal line, Smith wasn't nearly as successful. And that's what Holgorsen will remember when it comes time for practice today."He missed a couple of throws on the goal line that he's got to make,'' Holgorsen said. "He can do a whole lot better.''Indeed, Smith threw six passes while the Mountaineers were inside the Maryland 20 on three possessions. He completed just one, a 9-yarder to a back, Vernard Roberts.The worst, as far as Holgorsen was concerned, was on what could have been a clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. It turned into a field goal drive that gave West Virginia a 37-31 lead and left the door open for a Maryland comeback when Smith threw two incompletions from the 4-yard line.The second was with Bailey running a perfect route and getting open quickly. Smith's pass was nowhere near him and sailed out of bounds."The one on the goal line was awful,'' Holgorsen said. "We knew we'd get single coverage and we told him to look. Stedman had an unbelievable release and the throw was terrible."It's part of Geno's game that has to get better.''
ABC announced late Saturday night that West Virginia's game this Saturday against LSU will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be televised nationally by the network.
The network last week used one of its six-day windows to delay a decision on when the play the game and what network (ESPN or ABC) would televise it until after the results of this weekend's games.When No. 3 LSU beat Mississippi State on Thursday night and the No. 18 Mountaineers dispatched Maryland on Saturday, it set up a marquee game of unbeaten and ranked teams.There also remains the possibility that ESPN could bring its College Gameday crew to Morgantown on Saturday. That decision had not been made as of late Saturday. The decision to put the WVU-LSU game in prime time on ABC was announced at the end of Oklahoma's 23-13 win over Florida State just before 11:30 p.m.
ESPN has never brought its football Gameday to Morgantown, although a few years ago the network did its basketball version of the show from the Coliseum.nn
So much for being the only team in the country without a turnover on either side of the ledger.
That changed for West Virginia in the wrong way early Saturday. At the end of the Mountaineers' first possession - which to that point looked like a scoring drive after moving from the 25 to the Maryland 37 in six plays - Andrew Buie was popped hard after gaining about eight yards on a wide-open run through the middle. The ball squirted forward and cornerback Cameron Chism recovered it inside the 20.WVU would also turn the ball over when Smith was hit while throwing and fumbled early in the second quarter. Smith was also intercepted in the second half through no fault of his own. His pass bounced off McCartney and Dexter McDougle was right there to catch the ball and somehow get his foot down inbounds."We turned the ball over three times and all three could have been prevented,'' Holgorsen said.The turnovers were mitigated somewhat, though, by the fact that West Virginia's defense finally forced some turnovers, too. Safeties Terence Garvin, Darwin Cook and Eain Smith all picked off Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien. Two of those were game-changers. Garvin scored on his interception and Smith's came with 73 seconds to play and the Terps driving for a winning score."You can't turn the ball over three times at the quarterback position and expect to beat a ranked team,'' O'Brien said. "That's really what it comes down to.'' nn
It was almost four turnovers that West Virginia surrendered. Tavon Austin, who had a magnificent game with 11 catches for 122 yards and six kickoff returns for 121 yards, tripped over teammate Willie Millhouse on one of those returns and lost the ball when he hit the ground. Maryland returned the loose ball for a touchdown.The instant replay, though, clearly showed Austin had the ball until he made contact with the ground and the call was reversed. That brought cheers from everyone in the announced crowd of 53,627, even the Maryland fans.That's because most of them weren't paying attention when the referee, in announcing that the play was being reviewed, said the ruling on the field was that Austin was down and the play was dead. So when he later announced that the ruling on the field stands, they thought the touchdown was what stood. nn
BRIEFLY: Austin's 11 receptions were one shy of the school record of 12, held by five different players.Garvin has played in 26 games during his career and has made 16 straight starts. But Saturday's interception was the first of his career. He made it memorable by returning it 37 yards for a touchdown.