By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
November 02, 2011 11:16 AM
|Quarterback Geno Smith made three critical runs in the second half to help West Virginia to a 41-31 win at Rutgers.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
Geno Smith didn’t have his best passing performance last Saturday in icy, windy, snowy Rutgers, going 20 of 31 for a season-low 218 yards with two touchdowns, but he made some big football plays when his team needed it most in helping West Virginia to a critical 41-31 come-from-behind victory.
If he doesn’t make those plays, the circumstances are entirely different this Saturday when improving Louisville comes to town for a noon game against the Mountaineers.
Three times in the second half against Rutgers, Smith used his legs instead of his arm to make things happen, twice scrambling for first down yardage on third down, and then on fourth and goal at the Scarlet Knights’ 1, Smith used his head by using his feet to get into the end zone when he didn’t like the look he got on the passing play Coach Dana Holgorsen called.
“He made a play,” said Holgorsen. “That was not a designed end-around play. If he had it, throw it. If he didn’t have it, don’t force it, but make a play. He did, and he needs to keep doing that.”
Despite the impressive passing numbers Smith keeps putting on the stat sheet each week, we have to keep reminding ourselves that Geno is still only eight games into this offense.
“He still has room to grow,” said Holgorsen. “Half of it is mental, half of it is making a play. He’ll keep getting better from a mental aspect. He still makes mistakes just like I do and everybody does. We’re human. It happens. Being able to overcome them is important.”
At some point, there is going to come a time when choosing to run the football or choosing to remain in the pocket is going to become second nature for Smith. He can’t always hold onto the ball when the pocket is collapsing and receivers are not open, and he can’t always tuck the ball and run it when more capable ball carriers are free down the field.
Plus, there are only so many hits a quarterback can take before he starts feeling it.
“It’s somewhere in between,” said Holgorsen of choosing when to run and when to throw. “We want him to get the ball out of his hands to more talented people that can do something with it. We want to keep his body out of harm’s way as much as we can. It’s impossible to do throughout the course of the game.
“We need to do our job as coaches to not put him in situations where he’s taking a beating. When he’s in the pocket, get rid of it. If it breaks down, get out of it. Once you get out of it, put the ball in play by throwing it or deciding to run it.
“You have to make the best decision,” Holgorsen concluded. “We can’t yell at him to run or yell at him to throw, but he needs to make that decision and go.”
Late in the Rutgers game, Smith seemed to be making all the right decisions.
“I think Geno had some poise last week in the fourth quarter,” Holgorsen said. “I got on him in the third quarter pretty good.”
Smith will be challenged once again this weekend, facing a Louisville defense that might be the best the Mountaineers will see for the remainder of the year. Geno heads into Saturday’s game on a streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass in 11 straight games.
The last time he failed to throw a touchdown pass in a game?
You guessed it, Louisville last year. Smith was just 9 for 20 for 133 yards through the air against the Cardinals.
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