Smith, WVU offense affected by weather in final game of careers
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 00:01
The explosive West Virginia offense was expected all season long to perform at the highest level to compensate for a below-average defense.
Heading into the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, there was no doubt many people had expected a strong offensive showing for both teams – especially for West Virginia. However, inclement weather conditions paired with a stingy Syracuse defense to stymie the Mountaineers’ offensive attack and dealt the Mountaineers a 38-14 loss.
The Mountaineers were averaging 39.5 points per game – third best in the Big 12 – and 330.2 yards per game through the air heading into the bowl game. Syracuse kept the passing game in check, and they allowed senior quarterback Geno Smith to throw for just 197 yards and two touchdowns.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said the faltering passing game was just one variable in the Orange’s formula for success against the Mountaineers.
"The surface was not good. It was sloppy out there; it was wet – you can’t just sit there and pinpoint Geno; our offensive line had a hard time of sitting down, and receivers had a hard time running routes, so it didn’t look very good," he said.
"The team with the best run game was going to win ,and (Syracuse) clearly had the better running game."
When asked if the weather played any factor in the game, Holgorsen said it did, causing a hindrance for both teams.
"(The weather) obviously had some effect; they didn’t throw for many yards
either, but it’s hard to pinpoint one thing, I think," he said.
Smith, who finished his career as the most decorated passer in West Virginia history, said the loss was a tough one for everyone, including the team’s 21 seniors.
"It hurts to lose. Everyone knows I hate to lose, but that’s kind of the way the game goes sometimes. You can’t win them all," he said.
Smith said despite his less-than-ideal performance in the game, his career and future NFL prospects should not focus solely on the loss but instead on his four-year body of work.
"I think everyone knows how hard it is to play this game of football at this level, especially the quarterback position, so people can say what they want to say about me, but the thing that makes me happy is I haven’t gotten in trouble in college, I was a pretty good student, and I was a pretty good leader in that locker room, and that’s really what my goal was to be throughout my collegiate career," he said.
Senior inside receiver Tavon Austin said the loss was a tough one, but overall, the prevailing theme of the season for this team was that it never lost its fight
despite how difficult times got.
"It’s definitely hard to end it (this way), but you know how the season went. We lost five straight (games). It was kind of hard," he said. "We never gave up, (and) we beat some big teams out there.
"We thought this was the year we were going to the national championship, if not back to the Orange Bowl, but it didn’t work out like that. We were just a couple of plays short – just like today."
Redshirt junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey said his last game as a Mountaineer was one he had hoped wouldn’t end in this fashion.
"It is tough because we lost the game. It’s not the way the seniors wanted to go out, but life goes on, and we just have to live with it," he said.
Bailey echoed the sentiment of his teammate and future NFL counterpart Austin when he said the Mountaineers may not have done as well as they hoped, but they continued striving together until the very end of the season.
"I’m very surprised; everybody hoped and thought we would do a whole lot better (this season), but entering into a new conference, there were a lot of things we had to adjust to," he said. "In some cases we did good, in some cases we didn’t. But we still stayed together as a team and kept fighting."