The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 13, 2011

Late blocked field goal lifts WVU over Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — It is perhaps unfair to look to the West Virginia University offense as providing the difference in Saturday’s crucial, heart-stopping 24-21 victory over Big East frontrunner Cincinnati, a victory built on defense and a last-second blocked field goal by safety Eain Smith.

Yet when you look back on what turned the tide in this game, you come to things the Mountaineer offense did.

Certainly it was not a great performance, accounting for most of the 14 WVU penalties and rushing for 32 yards in 32 carries, but that hardly mattered.

See, when the offense had to do something, it did it. True, it was in the position only because of the defense, which not only stymied Cincinnati’s high-flying offense but sent quarterback Zach Collaros, probably the Big East’s second-best QB behind WVU’s Geno Smith, to the sideline on crutches when he was roughed up in the end zone by Bruce Irvin and Co.

The way the defense stood tall when it had to allowed the offense to have its moments, and that usually means Smith, the quarterback, and wide receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.

Smith’s play was stellar, hitting 29 of 43 for 372 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. That he was sacked five times was not his fault and may even have spoken to an offensive line that probably should have accounted for even more than the penalties it had, and five of the linemen had them, missing only center Joey Madsen.

But Smith was more pleased with the way he took control of the leadership of the team again, as something was necessary with Coach Dana Holgorsen preaching that the team needed the three E’s — excitement, energy and emotion.

That comes from leadership, and that is where Smith has to excel.

“In the Syracuse game I wasn’t the leader I usually am. I was out there pouting a little bit. I looked myself directly in the eye. You have to be a leader; you can’t be a frontrunner. When the going got tough out on the field I was right there rooting my teammates on,” he said.

This was going to be his team on this day.

“When we got the ball, I told myself I was going to make the play and I urged my teammates to move forward. We didn’t put our heads down. We kept going,” he said, adding that isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

“Sometimes the pressures of football wear down on people. You kind of get afraid to make a play knowing your coach might chew you out or you have 100,000 fans saying you suck, but you can’t worry about that. You just have to go make a play,” he said.

And when the game started with one of those “here we go again” feelings, WVU going three and out and losing 8 yards in the process, then letting Cincinnati come right down the field in three plays, Isaiah Pead rushing 40 yards for a touchdown, Smith had to respond.

He did so in 51 seconds, making a marvelous deep throw to Bailey, who had run an equally marvelous pass route, for a 59-yard touchdown.

Instead of being down on the scoreboard and down emotionally, WVU was geared up, players bouncing around as if there were a trampoline on the sideline.

Before the half was over, WVU had built a 17-7 lead with the sack of Collaros resulting in his injury and a fumble that was recovered by Julian Miller in the end zone.

Cincinnati had to go to backup quarterback Munchie Legaux — that is not a misprint — and he led the Bearcats on a comeback that saw them grab a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, much of it being part of the 144 yards Legaux threw for the 77 he ran for.

Now WVU needed a response, and Smith, Bailey and Tavon Austin had the answers on an amazing 74-yard drive that took 12 plays, used up 4:27 and during which they faced problem after problem.

The first came when they were looking at a third and nine at the Cincinnati 44, Smith hitting Bailey for 13 yards and a first down that kept the drive alive.

Three plays later it was third and 15 at the Cincinnati 36 and Smith found Austin coming across the middle, streaking to the sideline for 23 yards and yet another first down.

“The one to Tavon, that was all the blazing speed of Tavon Austin,” Smith said. “People underestimate how good he is. He would be the best player in any conference. He’s one of those guys; put it in his hands and he can make anyone miss. It’s something we cherish around here because you don’t get a player like him very often.”

“It’s just his blazing speed. He’d be the best receiver in any conference,” Bailey said.

The drive culminated in Shawne Alston’s 1-yard TD run to give the Mountaineers a 24-21 lead, which would be the final score only because they blocked a gimme field goal in the final second, the block belonging to Eain Smith.

o o o o o o

NOTES: Both Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey surpassed 100 receiving yards with 126 and 104, respectively ... Travis Bell made his first start ever at safety for the Mountaineers in place of Terence Garvin, out with a head injury ... QB Geno Smith has thrown at TD pass in 13 straight games.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos