The Times West Virginian

November 6, 2011

Lots of yards in losses becoming common for WVU

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith had another of those games that are becoming the norm around these parts under Dana Holgorsen:

A total of 410 passing yards, the fifth-best game in WVU history, moving him past Chad Johnston and Pat White with 6,197 career passing yards and into second place behind Marc Bulger.

Three touchdown passes, giving him 48 for his career and third place on the all-time WVU list.

But it really didn’t matter because West Virginia did not win.

While bowl eligible, they are in a deep hole at 2-2 in the Big East, for what figures to be their three toughest games remain ahead of them — at Cincinnati, at home against Pitt, at South Florida.

Things have to change, and Smith knows it.

“I’m not going to call us losers, but we’re not doing what it takes to win,” he said.

Mistakes beat the Mountaineers, big, glaring mistakes like 11- and 12-yard punts and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, the fourth touchdown WVU special teams have given up this year.

“We’ve got to fight, man,” Smith said of the way to correct the problem. “We’ve got to avoid negativity. We have to become closer as teammates. We have to become closer to our coaches. We have to develop that knack to win at all costs.

“It’s frustrating. You’d think we figured it out by now, but we have a lot of growing to do. We have to work at it.”

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Wide receiver Stedman Bailey had a career-high eight receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns, his sixth 100-yard game in the past seven.

In addition, Bailey has scored six TDs in the past six games.

WVU now has had 11 100-yard receiving games this year. Think about this — the Mountaineers had managed only nine in the previous five seasons.

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Defensive end Bruce Irvin twice almost single-handedly turned the game around with defensive plays.

At one point he ended a Louisville drive with consecutive sacks on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Another time he threw Louisville back with a quick move that let him make a tackle for a loss on a key play.

“We were able to frustrate Bridgewater a little,” middle linebacker Najee Goode said. “Bruce Irvin is the fastest linebacker you’ll see. They couldn’t block him.”

A true freshman, Bridgewater didn’t let it get to him as he completed 21 of 27 passes for 246 yards and engineered a crucial drive at the end of the game that clinched it, eating up 7 minutes and 11 seconds.

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Senior wide receiver Bradley Starks had a 62-yard return of the opening kickoff, the longest of his career, but left the game with a lower extremity injury and did not return. ... Running back Shawne Alston scored twice and now has five TDs in the past three games. ... This was just the third time since 2000 that WVU lost when it scored 30 points or more. It has won 73 times with 30 or more.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.