West Virginia seniors Smith, Austin go out in blaze of glory
Quarterback Geno Smith holds the West Virginia career passing yardage record (11,054) and career pass attempts record (1,413).
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There will be a moment Saturday when Geno Smith will look up and take in the atmosphere at Milan Puskar Stadium. Dusk likely will be falling, the sun dropping over the edge of the stadium, or the lights burning down over the tens of thousands of fans.
When it happens, he will stop, truly see his surroundings, and let himself feel the moment.
"I'll try not to. But I probably will," said Smith earlier this week. "Maybe later in the game and just kind of soak it all in.
"I'm glad that I was able to be able to be up here for four years. ... I'm just blessed to be a part of this. I look forward to watching it grow when I leave."
Smith, along with 21 other seniors, will play their final game at Mountaineer Field at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Kansas.
Few have had the impact of Smith and teammate and fellow senior Tavon Austin, both players who likely have long careers ahead of them at the professional level, thanks to the kind of talent they displayed as Mountaineers.
Smith, despite dropping out of contention for the Heisman Trophy with two subpar games this season, has broken numerous records at West Virginia and will go down as one of the great players in school history. He is a finalist for the Johnny Unitias Golden Arm Award and the Manning Award.
He set the single-season touchdown record this season, a number that stands at 37. He passed Pat White as the leader in career total offense in the Oklahoma game Nov. 17, Smith's total is now 11,395 yards.
He holds the career passing yardage record (11,054), and career pass attempts record (1,413) and at one point this year held the NCAA record for the most pass attempts without an interception at 272. That streak was snapped Oct. 20 against Kansas State and has since been surpassed.
"I know I have more games left in my career and I'll be able to represent my university at the next level. The main thing I'm going to miss is being around the 22 seniors, the guys who stuck with me for my four years here," said Smith, a potential first-round NFL draft pick. "[And] being around the freshmen and sophomores who I try and mentor, teach them really how fast this thing goes by.
"It seems like yesterday I came in here and now I'm on my way out."
Fellow senior Austin is among college football's most dynamic players, with blazing speed.
His most memorable night came against Oklahoma when Austin, a receiver most of college career, collected 572 all-purpose yards in a game in which he lined up in the backfield nearly 20 times and rushed for 344 yards.
"I don't think there are things that the kid couldn't do," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We are going to continue to try and put the ball in his hands."
Then there are other notable seniors: power back Shawne Alston, who rushed for a career high 130 yards last week; center Joe Madsen, linebacker Terence Garvin, defensive lineman Jorge Wright.
"I know it's senior night; it's trying to get to seven wins. But to me I think it's emotional for those kids," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "Before you know it, it's going to be gone. And I don't think they realize that. Until you're in that position where you realize, 'Oh my God this is my last week of preparation. This is my last game.' That's your identity. I don't think it hits them until it's gone.
"Being in this business, you watch those kids go through it and it becomes emotional."
And there is Stedman Bailey, Smith's high school teammate who is a junior. There is potential he will declare for the draft, leaving behind his college career a year early.
NOTE -- West Virginia has distributed unused student tickets to the National Guard for Saturday's game along with first responders. More than 1,000 tickets were given out to those who helped Hurricane Sandy victims.
First Published November 30, 2012 12:00 am