WVU-Marshall: Mountaineers Can Win With Geno Smith

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IOctober 21, 2009

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Jarrett Brown #16 against the West Virginia Mountaineers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After watching Saturday's WVU-Marshall game again on TiVo after seeing it live, I was  struck by a number of things:

I feel much better about WVU's first-half defense than I did during the game, when I told my date, "I have to go outside and throw up now."

The Herd's sole touchdown was kept alive by a face mask penalty that I didn't see and the quarterback's touchdown run came on a broken play.

Speaking of the officiating crew, I usually don't complain about refs because I know it's a tough job and you're in the middle of the action trying to make the right call, but this crew seemed sub-standard both live and on TV.

Also, I don't normally bust on announcers but the ESPN team of John Sanders and former Florida State quarterback Danny Kannell?

Not so good.

I know that to most people, Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, and Tavon Austin are all the same size, but they are wearing different uniform numbers so you should be able to tell them apart if you're calling the game.

I don't know how many times I heard Sanders say, "...excuse me, Noel Devine/Jock Sanders/Tavon Austin."

Another good one from Sanders: "...a couple of linebackers doing work on the defensive side of the ball." Where else would linebackers do their work, John?

Kannell's beauty came after Marshall threw a long incomplete pass, which prompted him to say that it's not important to complete long passes, just keep throwing them.

Also—Kannell is not the sole sinner on this, but he contributed—announcers need to stop referring to defensive coordinators calls as "dialing up" blitzes. Thank you.

Now, on to the football:

Geno Smith is even more impressive on tape. The true freshman looked calm in the pocket and clearly has the arm to make all the throws, as they say. Once the WVU coaches let him use the whole playbook, he did. Most impressive was his fourth-down pass to Sanders.

Fourth and 10, Coach Stewart decides to go for it (!), Smith escapes a sack attempt, bumps into his own lineman while going through his progression and, according to the coaches after the game, found Sanders on his third read, completing the pass and getting the first down.

His touchdown to Alric Arnett was, as one beat writer put it, either going to be a touchdown or an incomplete pass. It turned out to be the former, thanks to Arnett's terrific hands and Smith's pinpoint placement of the pass.

It's worth noting that Smith had to scoop the shotgun snap off his laces before straightening to throw the pass.

(I digress: There has not been one fumbled center-quarterback exchange or one shotgun snap over the quarterback's head for WVU this season. This is noteworthy but made more so by the fact that the center is redshirt freshman Joey Madsen, who became the starting center about five minutes before the season began.)

I really, really hope Jarrett Brown quickly recovers from his concussion but not because I'm afraid of Smith starting. The Mountaineers can win with Smith; that was shown on Sunday.

And I think they can beat UConn on Saturday at home with Smith. But I'd rather see Brown under or behind center when the Mountaineers go to South Florida on Oct. 30. I also hope for Brown's sake that the concussion is minor because I'd love to see him have a long, fruitful, and lucrative NFL career, which I believe he will have.

The light, as they say, has clearly gone on for safety Robert Sands. Though he was an impressive 6-foot-5 presence in the defensive secondary last year with a pterodactyl's wingspan, he made few plays of consequence.

This year, with a year under his belt, he's looking smarter and much more active in the secondary. He already has three interceptions this year, the third of which came against Marshall.

Terrific game for middle linebacker Reed Williams, who must lead the nation in the following statistical category: breaking-up-passes-intended-for-tight-ends-by-reaching-around-them-from-behind.

And I must be fair here, as I've spent most of the season banging on him:

B. Hogan had a nice game. He had a key fumble recovery, which stopped Marshall inside the 10-yard line, and an interception to thwart another drive and set up WVU's first score of the game. Hogan also had a 16-yard punt return, showing his return game has really improved since his early season fumble on a punt.

One last thing: WVU announcer Tony Caridi and others have urged WVU fans to give a standing ovation to the UConn Huskies when they run onto Mountaineer Field on Saturday to honor slain UConn cornerback Jasper Howard.

I endorse this activity. I will stand and applaud the Huskies and urge all fans in attendance to do the same. And then I will cheer for the Mountaineers to beat UConn for the Big East victory.


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