The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 22, 2011

'The time is now'

Smith ready to shine with Tigers in town

MORGANTOWN — Those of you who are versed in the history of the NFL’s Super Bowl remember the day that Broadway Joe Namath of the underdog New York Jets sat poolside in Miami before Super Bowl III and guaranteed that his team would beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts.

“We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it.”

Namath made good on his guarantee.

Perhaps it is time for Namath to make room for Geno Smith of the West Virginia University Mountaineers.

It was very early in this past spring, long before Dana Holgorsen had acquired full control of the West Virginia team, holding only the titles of offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting, that his quarterback was advised that WVU had never won a national championship.

Without hesitation, Smith simply proclaimed:

“The time is now.”

Those four words said so much about the young man out of Miramar High near Miami, Fla., not far from that Orange Bowl site where the Jets won, and the confidence he carries in his ability as his school prepares to play its version of the Super Bowl, facing No. 2 LSU at 8 p.m. Saturday. It speaks, too, to the new coach, who took over one of the nation’s top teams over the past half dozen years and lacked the patience to do anything but improve upon it.

The stated goal of winning a national championship is normally a long-term obsession rather than a short-term dictum. Yet the Mountaineers are looking for it now, perhaps to erase the memory of that December day four seasons earlier when they had only to beat Pittsburgh to advance to the BCS championship game and a date with destiny.

Never in the history of the school and, perhaps, college football had a day been so badly gummed up, Pitt forgetting it was a 24-point underdog and winning the game outright, a decision that led directly and indirectly to the departure of coach Rich Rodriguez and the man who ran the entire athletic department, Ed Pastilong.

Now there stands another Mountaineer team saying it can be done and there is no time like the present.

The West Virginia football program possesses what is necessary to win a national title — a rich history, a strong fan following, a commitment from the school’s administration, a national recruiting footprint and good players.

What it lacked mostly was luck.

Or, to be more precise, Luck, as in Oliver Luck, the athletic director who opted to cast his lot with Dana Holgorsen’s MountainAir offense and with a player at quarterback who had even more potential than Luck himself had shown when he began WVU’s surge to national prominence as a quarterback in 1980.

In many ways, Geno Smith was a mirror image of Luck ... intelligent, accurate, team-oriented and totally unflappable.

He is the perfect quarterback for Holgorsen, someone with a tireless, accurate arm and an ability to read defenses; a quarterback willing to spend a lifetime and a day in the film room, while

Holgorsen was the perfect coach for him, a man with an unstoppable, innovative offense that had broken records at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State.

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