MORGANTOWN - He's already been saddled with the expectation that he will be the Big 12 player of the year and he hasn't even taken a snap in a league game yet.His team finds itself in the position of being one of the favorites to win a league championship and a BCS bowl berth, if not more.That he will shatter every school passing record that he doesn't already hold seems almost a given, like the sun coming up or presidential campaigns getting nastier and dirtier like clockwork every four years.In other words, when Geno Smith begins his senior season as West Virginia's quarterback on Saturday against Marshall, won't anything less than perfection be pretty much a disappointment?
Well, perhaps. It just goes with the territory of being the focal point in one of the most highly anticipated seasons in WVU history.But if Smith is uncomfortable with those expectations he's not letting on. In fact, ask him if he and coach Dana Holgorsen have talked about it and you get this:"There's nothing that needs to be said,'' Smith said. "Coach Holgorsen has gotten to know me and he knows that I hold myself to a higher standard than anybody else possibly can. I expect perfection from myself. Even though it's impossible, I try to be perfect. That's the way I practice, that's the way I am and that's the way I want to be.''Perfection? Really?"Sure. I expect to win every game, I expect to complete every pass and I expect to make perfect reads,'' Smith said. "Is that going to happen? No. But I figure if you hold yourself to that standard ... what do they say, shoot for the moon and land among the stars?''Well, if nothing else, this season is going to be intriguing to see exactly where both Smith and the Mountaineers land.In a way, Smith understands that the expectations for the Mountaineers might be outsized. It's not that he doesn't have the confidence in both himself and his team, obviously, but he also knows how difficult things are about to become.He's smart enough to remember that while the expectations are born from a 10-3 season and that 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl, this is also a team that in 2011 trailed in every single game it played. It's a team that was dismantled by woeful Syracuse, lost at home to Louisville, needed a string of near miracles just to get into the Orange Bowl and then found itself in a perfect storm of things falling right against Clemson.Shoot, Smith even looks back on that Orange Bowl and figures it was just a pretty good game for him."It was the perfect game, but if you go back and actually watch the game then you'll see that I made a lot of bad throws,'' he said. "Four touchdowns were tip passes, so I only threw two touchdowns. The team did a great job. But Geno Smith as a quarterback, if I graded myself it would be a little above average.''So the task now is to be more than a little above average every week. In some ways, that Orange Bowl might even have a bit of a negative impact.
"The negative is that people are going to expect us to score 70 points every game,'' Smith said. "I don't know if we made it look easy or not, but that's extremely hard.''Just as this season will be extremely hard. The final score on Saturday against Marshall isn't likely to be 70-33. Nor is the final score of any game the Mountaineers play this season likely to match that. And if that's the case, there will undoubtedly be those who will be disappointed.Smith's not one of them, though. This team, in this conference and with this offense, isn't likely to play any 10-7 games and probably not many 24-21s either. But if they do, that's fine."I think as long as we win games, I think people will understand that we belong,'' Smith said. "We're not coming into this conference with the mindset that it's going to be easy, but we do have high expectations and we do know that it's going to be a long, grinding season and it's going to be grueling. It's going to test our wills and tax our bodies and our minds. But we've been testing ourselves all summer, doing things I've never done in my life."Who is to say they believe in us or not? The only people who control our fate and our destiny is us. The best part about football is that you can talk about it all day, but when it comes down to it it's based on what you do between the lines.''Even if it's not perfect.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.