West Virginia: Backup QB Geno Smith solid after Brown's injury
October 18, 2009 4:00 AM
Jeff Gentner/Associated Press
Geno Smith came on for the injured quarterback Jarrett Brown and helped lead the Mountaineers to a 24-7 victory against in-state rival Marshall.
By Colin Dunlap Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- One West Virginia quarterback got knocked into next week.
Another came in and gave Mountaineers fans a glimpse of what things will look like for the next few years.
It added up to what Marshall has felt like every time it has played West Virginia for almost a century.
Freshman Geno Smith relieved West Virginia starting quarterback Jarrett Brown, who was felled by a hard hit on the first series and did not return, and guided the Mountaineers (5-1) to a 24-7 victory against Marshall (4-3) at Mountaineer Field.
The series dates to 1911, and West Virginia has won all nine meetings.
On the game's fourth play, Brown turned upfield when the pocket broke down and gained 13 yards before he was walloped by a legal hit from Marshall defensive back Ashton Hall. On the play, Hall's helmet collided with Brown's in what looked to be an accidental hit and, from there, Brown ping-ponged into Marshall linebacker Brandon Burns.
The hit rattled Brown so hard he immediately fell motionless to the turf and fumbled with Marshall recovering.
He remained prone for about three minutes as he was attended to by West Virginia's medical staff. Then, he sat up and ultimately, with help, rose to his feet.
He walked off the field escorted by trainers, but was unsteady.
Brown's exact injury is unknown, and there was no word on when he might return to action.
"When I got out there, he asked if he had fumbled," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "He wasn't unconscious, but he wasn't himself, either."
That was the cue for Stewart to throw Smith, who had seen limited playing time before yesterday, into the fire against West Virginia's in-state rival.
After Marshall took possession by recovering Brown's fumble, it went 64 yards, capping the drive with Brian Anderson's 12-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
Then, it was time for Smith to take command.
As Smith entered the game, Brown stood on the West Virginia sideline with a jacket draped over his shoulders. The starter, who had led West Virginia's balanced offense the first five games, remained there the rest of the afternoon while watching his understudy put on a solid performance.
Smith finished 15 for 21 passing for 147 yards with a touchdown.
Success did not come quickly for Smith as West Virginia went three-and-out on his first drive. He missed badly on a third-down pass for receiver Bradley Starks.
After that, the youngster from Florida, who is regarded as West Virginia's most-heralded quarterback recruit in decades, started to throw with a rhythm befitting a starter.
Smith completed the first three passes of his second drive and, later in the second quarter, led the Mountaineers on a drive that culminated in Tyler Bitancurt's 32-yard field goal to slice Marshall's lead to 7-3.
At halftime, it was obvious that West Virginia's defense was keeping the Mountaineers in the game, but that changed in the second half when running back Noel Devine put a little space between the Mountaineers and the Thundering Herd with a 14-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. That gave West Virginia its first lead, 10-7.
In the fourth quarter, Smith made the finest throw of his brief college career.
From the Marshall 33, he hit receiver Alric Arnett in stride in the back of the end zone with a throw that was either going to be a touchdown or an incompletion. The ball sailed high and tight and dropped softly over a Marshall defensive back and into Arnett's arms.
It also dropped Marshall's chances for an upset.
"That great catch by Arnett ... that was just a great throw and catch," Marshall coach Mark Snyder said.
"That was great coverage; it was just a really good throw. Besides, that, I thought our defense played extremely well against a very good West Virginia team."
But not well enough.
Devine tacked on a 9-yard touchdown run late to ice what some dubbed a sloppy West Virginia win.
Calling wins sloppy is not something Stewart endorses. He made reference to No. 7 Ohio State being upset by Purdue yesterday as a reason he never will be disappointed with a victory.
"Let me just tell you something I learned a long while ago," Stewart said. "I have never been around a bad 'W.'
"Venture on up there to Columbus, and I'd bet they'd take a sloppy 'W' tonight."