By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian
Geno Smith has set numerous career records as West Virginia University’s quarterback during his three years as a starter.
What’s more, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior from Miami was an early leader for the Heisman Trophy until the Mountaineers (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) fell out of the top 25 polls after ranking No. 5 on a 5-0 season’s start.
Smith didn’t finish among the 10 top Heisman Trophy vote-getters.
But Fred Wyant of Morgantown, WVU’s starting quarterback from 1952 through 1955, thinks Smith might well could have won college football’s top award if he had shown more versatility and run more with the ball.
Wyant’s reasoning is that he could have been even more productive and that the team probably could have avoided that disastrous five-game losing streak.
Asked whether he thought it was an injustice to Smith and other seniors when West Virginia moved to the Big 12 from the Big East, Wyant replied:
“No, I just think maybe they wouldn’t go 7-5 in the Big East.
“So they just stopped having him run the ball. In my opinion, he had the Heisman Trophy all wrapped up (after the 5-0 start).
“Then there was something different. All he had to do was keep playing like he was before.
“But, again, there was something different. They never did run the ball as a significant part of the passing game. He certainly could run the ball, but didn’t (very much).”
Wyant, whose 30-4 record as a starter still is WVU’s best percentage-wise, believes Smith is a good runner but said he has no idea why the coaches wouldn’t run him more.
Every time he was out there, the opposing team knew he wasn’t going to run with the ball, according to Wyant. He’s admittedly baffled by that.
“It made it tougher for him to complete passes,” he stated. “I have no idea what they told him, coaching-wise.
“Did they tell him not to run the ball? Did they tell him just to pass the ball? I don’t know. Those mysteries there, in my opinion, were the reason he didn’t win the Heisman or at least have a good shot at it.”
Wyant firmly believes “he was the man” during the first four or five games of the season.
“They, for whatever reason, wouldn’t let him run the ball systematically and it could have been the coaches,” Wyant said. “They didn’t want him to stray out of the pocket for fear he might get hurt. But he was a moose.”
He also was impressed by Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. But he noted that someone has a bad game and another has a good game.
A freshman, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, was elected to win the Heisman Trophy.
“When I was playing, there were a lot of real good quarterbacks, too,” Wyant recalled.
“Sonny Jurgensen and I have had conversations about people calling plays, instead of the quarterback,” Wyant said. “And he and I are of the same opinion.”
Wyant said coach Art “Pappy” Lewis allowed him to call all the plays for WVU after his freshman year.
“What I was proudest most as a player of was that the offensive line never once kept us from scoring a touchdown or making a first down,” Wyant said.