By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
This week it’s Texas’ turn to try to figure out a way to stop West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith on his march toward the Heisman Trophy and with it, perhaps, a Big 12 championship and a spot in the national championship game.
It won’t be easy, and the Longhorns know it.
Listen to Coach Mack Brown on how he knows what he’s facing this week when the unbeaten No. 8 Mountaineers bring their offense that is averaging 53 points and 598.5 yards a game to Austin for their first Big 12 road engagement.
Every week, before the Big 12 coaches’ conference call, Brown goes down to his defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz’s office, to coordinate thoughts.
This is what he found this week as Texas turned the page from offensive minded Oklahoma State to even more so West Virginia.
“I’ve been down there three times and Manny’s got his door closed and he’s under his desk,” he said, laughing out loud. “It’s hard to communicate with the defensive staff before the press conference and say, ‘OK, let’s get on the same page’ when they’re sick. I think they’re trying to slow them down. You’re not going to stop them.”
It is really an incredible challenge that Texas and the rest of the Big 12 faces with this West Virginia team’s offense, coming off a performance unlike any ever seen in Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field before by the offense and one from Smith that ranks among the most productive in college history.
Smith simply completed 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns.
Jedd Drenning, the one-time quarterback who now is a radio commentator among many other sidelines, took note of that day and offered some thoughts on just how productive that day was.
“Have times changed? Geno Smith scorched Baylor w/656 yds Saturday. In 1985, Mike Timko was WVU’s leading passer with 567 yds — for the year,” Drenning tweeted.
He then followed it up with this gem:
“In fact, Geno’s 656 yards Saturday are more than the season total managed by WVU Hall of Famer Fred Wyant in 3 of his 4 yrs as a starter.”
And there’s no reason to expect Texas to do a whole lot to stop the onslaught, considering this other item that Drenning offered.
“Last team to roll up 500+ yards vs Texas in Austin was Ok St. in a 33-16 win in 2010. The Pokes O-Coordinator was of course Dana Holgorsen.”
Brown simply says that Smith may be the best quarterback ever in the Big 12 and that the WVU supporting cast is part of the reason why.
“As good as our quarterbacks have been, he’s playing as good or better than any quarterback we’ve had in the league,” gushed Brown. “I mean, he hasn’t made a mistake and there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on him with all the hype and Heisman stuff.”
Brown, as a coach at Texas, knows something about Heisman hype.
“We’ve been through that here with Colt (Brennan) and Vince (Young) and Ricky (Williams) and a lot of our guys. It’s a very difficult thing to do but Smith seems unbothered by it. He plays the same each week,” Brown noted.
Brown understands, too, that simply trying to devise something to bother Smith isn’t another, because there’s a supporting cast that he will face that is dangerous.
“He’s got three of the best receivers I’ve ever seen,” he said, referring to Stedman Bailey, Stedman Austin and J.D. Woods. “They’re all really fast. They’re all really good.”
The result of all this?
“They may be as good as any offense we’ve seen,” said Brown, who in a career spent mostly in the Big 12 has him up against some pretty fair offenses at schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Nebraska.
“They can put up huge numbers ... and fast.”
Can Diaz find an answer to the challenge under his desk?
Probably not, but Texas does do some things that could keep the numbers down from Baylor or Clemson proportions.
“From a scheme standpoint they will play traditional football,” WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. “This won’t be like last week where each team takes 90 snaps. They will try to keep us off the field.”
That is an approach Maryland took and WVU managed “only” 31 points against the Terps.
NOTES: It was announced that WVU’s Oct. 13 game at Texas Tech will be carried nationally on ABC-TV at 3:30 p.m. ... In a surprise to no one, QB Geno Smith was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for his Baylor performance ... Smith was also named Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week ... Smith again was not WVU’s offensive champion of the week, and neither was record-setting receiver Stedman Bailey. The honor went to center Joey Madsen, who played his best game, according to Holgorsen. Contrary to popular belief, there was a defensive champion in Will Clarke and the special teams champion was Garrett Hope ... Mountaineer Athletic Club members and past season ticket holders have until Friday, Oct. 5, to reserve priority seating for the 2012-13 men’s basketball season.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.