West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith bids fond farewell
West Virginia's Tavon Austin (1) breaks a tackle by Kansas' Toben Opurum in the first quarter of their NCAA college football game against Kansas in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is sacked by Kansas' Toben Opurum (35) and John Williams (71) during the second quarter.
Geno Smith looks to pass as Kansas' Josh Williams rushes him in the third quarter.
Kansas' Bradley McDougald (24) and Ben Heeney (31) tackle Tavon Austin in the first quarter.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Geno Smith hit Stedman Bailey through the flickering sun with a 45-yard arcing pass to open the game Saturday against Kansas.
From there, the afternoon spun forward with ease for West Virginia, winner of a 59-10 blowout.
Smith turned in a near flawless performance then flung himself into the stands to sing "Country Roads" with the student section to mark the final home game of his college career.
He completed 23 of 24 passes, including a program record 21 in a row, while surpassing 4,000 season yards passing late in the fourth quarter, to reach 4,004 total.
His final stats against the Jayhawks: 407 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception -- his lone incompletion.
Classmate Tavon Austin gained 77 rushing yards on 12 attempts and 110 receiving yards on four catches as the offense amassed 647 yards.
Smith's longtime receiver Bailey -- who said he's not sure if he will declare for the NFL draft as a junior -- scored two touchdowns and had 159 receiving yards on 11 catches.
In short, it was the kind of win the Mountaineers had not enjoyed since September.
"This year, we wanted to do something special for the fans entering the Big 12. Things didn't go our way a few times, but one thing we didn't want to do was hang our heads," said Smith.
"What can I say about this season? We persevered through tough times. Losing five in a row is not easy. No one hung their heads. The locker room never split. We never turned on the coaches ... we all stuck together."
The win means the Mountaineers finished their first season in the Big 12 at 7-5 overall, 4-5 in the conference.
"I thought we had a chance to play our best ball today on all three sides of the ball and I think we did that," said coach Dana Holgorsen. "I'm excited about the way we finished. They had a tremendous amount of fun out there."
The team's five first-half touchdowns all came on drives that included plays of more than 30 yards, harkening back to the start of the season when West Virginia moved the ball with similar ease.
Smith opened the game with that 45-yard pass to Bailey, and Andrew Buie finished the drive with a 2-yard run.
"The pressure was put on me by coach [Shannon] Dawson. Last three games, I took a shot [to open the game] and wasn't able to complete it. He sat me down, 'Can we just complete one to start the game off?' I told him I got him," said Smith. "It was a great route by Stedman, the offensive line protected and I was able to put it out there for him."
Shawne Alston scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns to make it 14-0 on a drive that included a 50-yard reception by J.D. Woods. Then, the quarterbacks traded interceptions before West Virginia stretched its lead to 21-0 by the 11:34 mark of the second quarter when Bailey scored to finish a drive that included a 31-yard run by Austin.
Kansas got on the board before two more West Virginia touchdowns, a 1-yard run by Alston and an 8-yard reception by Woods. Alston's score was set up by a 44-yard run by Austin, and Woods' with a 32-yard catch by Austin.
With the game in hand in the second half, West Virginia got a 30-yard field goal by Tyler Bitancurt plus touchdowns from Bailey on a 16-yard reception, Austin on a 1-yard run and Dustin Garrison on a 26-yard run.
Now, the team awaits its bowl destination, most likely San Diego's Holiday Bowl or New York City's Pinstripe Bowl. That will be determined Sunday after the final rankings are revealed. "All the bowls are fun. We have some star power obviously," said Holgorsen. "We have a fan base that will travel. But there's not much we can do about it."
Players however, are pulling for the southern California sunshine.
"I want to go somewhere where it's hot. I've been dealing with the cold for about two, three months now," said Smith.
First Published December 2, 2012 12:00 am