Of all the things quarterback Geno Smith did well Saturday night for No. 8 West Virginia, one factor that may prove beneficial against the more sizable Big 12 Conference defenses was his ability to elude sacks and withstand physical play.
Smith absorbed a few bone-jarring hits by James Madison, the first real evidence of his added strength from the offseason. But he always got a pass off.
"It's kind of a blessing. I think I got some strong bones," said Smith. "I just take those hits, I get up, my O-line they always come and ask me if I'm all right. They know I'm all right but it's just good they always ask me."
Smith added 25 pounds in the offseason.
"I've always taken hits and always been able to get up," Smith said. "I'm not a cold tub guy, a guy who needs a lot of treatment."
The most notable collision came just before halftime when Smith was hit hard from the blind side by a blitzing defensive back just seconds after getting off a downfield throw.
He ended up on the turf of FedEx Field but stood up and brushed himself off before the defender did.
The series ended two plays later with no points to show for it, a small victory for the Dukes.
But Coach Mickey Matthews, who dished significant praise Smith's way, said they just couldn't bring him down.
"Their quarterback, you just can't sack that guy," Matthews said. "He's quicker than our defensive linemen.
"When I was at Georgia we used to play Peyton Manning and that was the biggest problem we had with him. We couldn't sack Peyton because he was bigger than our defensive linemen.
"That's what Geno is. We're big up front defensively, but we couldn't bring him down."
Coach Dana Holgorsen, in his postgame remarks, noted that Smith will have to get better at recognizing the blitz when the team faces physically stronger defenses down the road.
"When you face some of the D-linemen we're going to be facing, those aren't going to be as easy to get out of," Holgorsen said. "It was the first time we faced a lot of blitz in a long time. We're going to be able to learn from that. He needs to do a better job of getting the ball out of his hands when they're doing a lot of blitzing.
"He's not going to be able to sit there and scramble for five seconds."
NOTES -- Following Saturday's 13-reception performance, Stedman Bailey became Division I-A's leader in receptions per game with 11. Bailey and Tavon Austin are first and second in that category, with Austin at 10.5 receptions per game. ...West Virginia moved up to No. 8 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll and to No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches poll. ... Three players had the first sacks of their career on Saturday: Travis Bell, Dozie Ezemma and Isaiah Bruce.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1959.