Austin, Mountaineers more confident in second year of offense
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 07:09
When West Virginia hired head coach Dana Holgorsen, fans expected his high-powered offense to immediately produce eye-popping statistics.
Though the first year of his tenure did see a drastic improvement from past seasons, it was nothing like what fans are seeing in year two.
Senior inside receiver Tavon Austin said he feels the Mountaineers’ have fallen into a positive groove as a result of knowing what to expect out of each other after
completing a season in the scheme.
"I mean, we’re definitely clicking. Last year, like we said, the Orange Bowl – that’s definitely when we came together as a team and we (realized) all the weapons that we had," Austin said. "So the only thing we had to do was piece it up.
"The coaches always told us the second year was going to be our best year – the first year we’d kind of struggle a little bit.
"So, now, we’re just coming together as a team, and we’re ready to roll."
This does not come as a surprise to quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, who sees the Mountaineers’ offensive success as simply the byproduct of having a year of experience in the potent "Air-Raid" offense.
Spavital believes West Virginia’s elimination of slow starts is a result of being more familiar with the offensive scheme and knowing who the team’s playmakers are.
"If you remember last year, we were down at halftime to Norfolk State, and a lot of it is (that) it’s year two of the offense and we know what to expect of certain people," he said.
"There was a lot of unknowns going into the season last year, but now we know who’s going to step up and who’s not going to step up," he said. "Our adjustments happen a lot quicker, and it doesn’t take a couple of drives to get over the adversity.
"We can get to the sideline, re-gather our thoughts, go out there and just execute."
A big part of that execution is a result of the cool play of senior quarterback Geno Smith. Spavital said Holgorsen’s system helps to bring the best out of every player, including the quarterback.
"Dana does a great job, obviously, of just his system and the way the quarterbacks are handled and how they go out there and operate," he said.
"It’s pretty simple; it seems complicated when you’re first going through it – which most people’s heads are going to be spinning the first year in the offense – but now (Smith has) seen everything."
In the 42-12 victory over James Madison, Smith adjusted to the ever-changing defense of the Dukes and found a way to lead the Mountaineers into the end zone without skipping a beat – something that impressed Spavital.
"He knows the calls; he knows what Dana’s thinking. We’re not throwing any curveballs at him like we did last year at times," he said.
"But it’s good to see that we had some adversity and we got over it really quick and he executed and he drove us down and scored."
Spavital believes Smith’s love of the game has helped thrust him into a rare orbit.
With his performance in the James Madison game, Smith passed Marc Bulger as the program’s all-time leading passer.
"Nothing really phases the kid. He never gets too high, he never gets too low – he loves to play the game," Spavital said.
"If you noticed when we had that goal line stand, Geno was out there in the middle of the pile celebrating with the defense. He just loves to be a part of the game, and he lives for it."
Redshirt freshman Dante Campbell caught his first career touchdown pass in the win. He said the team has the utmost confidence in Smith and believes he has not yet reached his pinnacle as a passer.
"We have so much confidence in him," he said.
"He’s a great quarterback, and every day he wants to get better. He’s not settling where he’s at.
"He knows that every day is a chance to get better, and he takes advantage of it."