Smith shines on big stage in Orange Bowl
Published: Sunday, January 8, 2012
Updated: Sunday, January 8, 2012 22:01
West Virginia junior quarterback Geno Smith met head coach Dana Holgorsen a little more than a year ago after Holgorsen was brought in to be the team's offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting.
After practically rewriting the school's record books in 2011, it seems like it's safe to say the transition went pretty smoothly.
"That's the beauty about life. Everything can change in one year," Smith said. "A year ago, no one knew who I was. I was just a kid trying to make a name for myself, and I still have that same chip on my shoulder."
Wednesday, on the biggest stage he's ever played on, Smith didn't disappoint.
Just three miles away from Miramar High School where he first started to make a name for himself, the Miami native broke Orange Bowl records previously held by Tom Brady and Matt Leinart. Smith finished the game with 401 yards and six touchdowns to lead West Virginia to a 70-33 win over Clemson.
"He was awesome," said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney of Smith. "He's as good as we've seen all year, and we knew that coming in. And we didn't do a good job of disrupting what they were doing in the passing game."
Smith didn't do anything different than he had done in any other game.
"It's just about playing the game," he said. "I just play the game and let it come to me. I didn't force things and made sure that I tried to move the chains."
Smith's progression throughout the year can be traced back to the growth of his relationship with Holgorsen as it has gotten better throughout the season.
Once it got to a point where the two were on the same wavelengths and got to know each other better, drastic improvements started to come in Smith's game.
"He demands respect; he demands perfection from his players and he's someone who's going to be hard on you and – as a quarterback – you don't get that all the time," Smith said. "He's kind of molded me into a man, and he's helping me further my career."
So what exactly was it that got so much better over the course of the season?
As the coaches have said many times, this offense's success relies a lot on how good communication is between the quarterback and the coach. Toward the end of the year, Smith and Holgorsen communicated better, and the results showed it.
"That's the main thing with this offense, just making sure that everything is communicated because it goes so fast and the tempo is so sped up," Smith said. "That's something that he told me, with the reps and the experience, the communication would be better and it's helped us out a lot."
Holgorsen's attitude has started to rub off on Smith and the rest of the players. It's easy to see that this West Virginia team had a fire that hadn't been seen during the last few seasons when it underachieved.
Now that the expectations are high heading into next season, that same attitude that the Mountaineers had this season is going to be crucial to have.
"We're already confident," Smith said. "With Coach Holgorsen, you've got to be confident because he's a genius and we just want to come out here and make sure we work twice as hard as we did last year and make sure we can say we're contenders for next year."
With added expectations for the team bring added expectations for Smith heading into his senior year.
After such an impressive performance during the regular season and in the Orange Bowl, he'll start getting more attention when it comes to individual awards like the Heisman Trophy.
But after the Orange Bowl win, individual accolades were the last thing on Smith's mind. He's not worried about that right now.
He just wants to get back to his hometown again next year to play for the coveted crystal ball that everyone in college football wants.
"My sights are set higher than that," Smith said. "A Heisman Trophy is fine and dandy but I want to make it back here for the National Championship next year.