Bailey just as impressive as Smith against Baylor
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 08:10
Prior to Saturday’s 70-63 victory against Baylor, redshirt junior Stedman Bailey was tied with teammate and senior inside receiver Tavon Austin for the Big 12 Conference lead in touchdown receptions.
Each player had secured five apiece through the Mountaineers’ first three games, and both were closing in on former West Virginia great Cedric Thomas’ 32-year-old record for most receiving touchdowns in program history.
As it turns out, Bailey would end Saturday as the undisputed leader in both categories.
With an individual performance that rivaled his childhood friend and Heisman Trophy frontrunner, senior quarterback Geno Smith, Bailey achieved the single-most productive game from a wide receiver in West Virginia history.
With 13 catches Bailey finished with the second-most receptions in a single game in school history.
His 303 receiving yards and five touchdowns both set West Virginia single-game records, and his career total of 26 touchdown receptions now puts him two in front of Austin – who also eclipsed Thomas with his three-touchdown effort in the win.
For Bailey, it was the only type of performance he expected out of himself for this game.
"I thought to myself throughout the whole week that I had to come out and have a big game with us playing a good opponent in Baylor, and everything just worked out the way we wanted it to," he said.
In the prior week’s game against Maryland, Bailey fell short of his own expectations – dropping several passes and only registering six catches for 55 yards and zero touchdowns.
Though that performance was a painful one for Bailey, it ultimately propelled him to play the best game of his life the following week.
"I kind of had a chip on my shoulder from last week when I put a couple of balls on the ground and didn’t get my 100 yards that I try to get every game," he said. "I knew I just had to come out with Big 12 play – this was our first Big 12 game – and have a big one."
Luckily for the Mountaineers, Bailey’s best-in-a-lifetime performance came when it was needed most; the West Virginia defense ceded the most points (63), yards (700), and touchdowns (nine), to any opponent in a single game in history.
"It’s pretty scary; I mean, us as an offense, we try to score every time we’re on the field, but we were able to score 70 points, and it still wasn’t pretty safe, so it ended up being scary, but we came out with the win," Bailey said.
As expected, the West Virginia defense saw a drastic drop in its demeanor as the game progressed. Bailey said he and the rest of the leaders on offense assured the defensive
unit that regardless of what happened, the offense would be there – touchdowns at the ready – to back them up.
"We played Baylor, (and) those guys have a great offense," he said.
"(Our defense was) kind of down; they gave up quite a few points. But me, Geno, (and) Tavon, as vocal leaders, we told those guys don’t worry about it and we’ll just go out there and score again."
Schematically, Bailey was aided by the fact that he made a return to the slot position – which is atypical of his usual outside spot. When West Virginia ran five-receiver sets, Bailey sometimes found himself lined up against a linebacker or a safety – something he hasn’t seen in a while.
"When coach Holgorsen and (his staff) first got here, I initially started in the slot but had to move outside due to (former wide receiver) Brad Starks being injured, so I haven’t played it in a while, but I still have a feeling for it and how to work it," he said.
"I knew I might have a couple of more opportunities playing in the slot, but I just thought I would play the game, take it play-by-play and see what happens – and it worked out well."
The pitch-and-catch nature of Saturday’s game was like watching a couple of best friends – Smith and Bailey – toss football around on the sandlot. Without the 60,012 fans in attendance and legions of others watching from afar as the Mountaineers’ made their first foray into the Big 12 Conference, perhaps it would have been.
Smith’s 45 completions, 656 passing yards and eight touchdowns all set new records, and the Miramar, Fla., native is the clear favorite in the Heisman Trophy race; his success couldn’t make Bailey any happier.
"Geno has been phenomenal; it’s just crazy," he said. "I’ve known him for so long and he’s just doing so well … for him to be doing so well, I’m just very proud of him."