The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 26, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Geno wasn’t the better quarterback

MORGANTOWN — In many ways this is going to be very difficult to believe or accept, for it goes against everything you want to believe, but on Saturday night West Virginia’s Geno Smith, as spectacular as his numbers were, did not outplay LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee.

That may confuse you.

After all, Smith completed 38 passes to just 16 for Lee, more than twice as many, and threw for a school record 463 yards while Lee could not make it to 200, finishing his night’s work at 180 yards.

Seeing that, one may wonder how you can reach such a conclusion. Certainly it’s a fair question, but there is more to quarterbacking than just completing passes and eating up yardage.

In Lee’s case, he had to run the offense, but not necessarily BE the offense.

Smith, on the other hand, is the heartbeat of what WVU does offensively, so everything he does is magnified, so that a bad read or a bad throw is like an imperfection in a gem stone and lowers its value, even if it is a true diamond.

Smith did throw two touchdown passes, but Lee threw three and had another one dropped. Smith threw two interceptions, Lee threw none.

Final score, LSU 47, WVU 21.

Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen understood just how efficient Lee was.

“They were two pretty good quarterbacks,” he said in the wake of the defeat. “Geno Smith made some plays but the one thing about Jarrett Lee is that he’s not making any mistakes. Leading into this he was a guy who put the ball where they wanted him to put it. It’s not always what your numbers are. It’s about running the offense and not turning the ball over.”

The truth of the matter is that as Smith was shattering school records for attempts, completions and yardage, he also well may have set the record for passes not completed, something that is seldom recognized.

It is along the lines of what the baseball player Pete Rose used to say when someone complimented him on being the all-time hit king.

“Yeah, but don’t forget, I made more outs than anyone who ever played the game, too.”

Smith’s two interceptions were killers, especially one by safety Tyrann Mathieu on a play just before halftime that should have been a run. Smith had the option of handing the ball off or throwing a pass on the call and he threw it, even though it was in a place where you could not throw an interception, deep in your own territory and trailing already by three TDs with less than 40 seconds to play.

Certainly it was no ordinary play that Mathieu made.

“We were aware (Mathieu) was a great football player,” Holgorsen said after the game. “I felt like he was the best player on the field the first three games and I felt like he was the best player on the field in this game.

“We knew he was going to do that. That’s on Geno. If he thinks he can get it over him, he’s got to get it over him. He was aware that kid was pretty good and

when he blitzed he was going straight up the field. It’s something Geno needs to do a better job of.”

Not that two picks, along with a pair of lost fumbles, weren’t enough to make life miserable for the Mountaineers, but the WVU special teams broke down badly, ripping any chance they had at pulling the upset of what is today the nation’s No. 1 team from them.

In truth, this area was as bad as it had been a year earlier under Bill Stewart, allowing a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to snuff out a third-quarter Mountaineer rally that had brought the crowd to life.

Put that together with a dismal punting effort by Corey Smith that kept WVU from getting any field position and the inability of Tavon Austin to catch the punts from LSU, much less return them.

The truth of the matter is, though, the way West Virginia operates, its quarterback has to play at the highest level of efficiency at all times if the Mountaineers are going to beat Top 10 teams and win championships.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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