MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The Big 12's arrival Saturday could finally lift the lid on West Virginia's vertical passing game, Dana Holgorsen hinted Tuesday.
So far this season, the Mountaineers offense has hung its hat on the quick game with short screens, drag routes or touch passes, with most of the team's biggest gains coming on yards after the catch.
That's a specialty of the team's top two receivers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Both are fast and quick, with the ability to make defenders miss.
"We're going to get better finishing blocks in the run game, try to put the ball in play a little bit more and maybe go vertical a little bit more," said Holgorsen in his Tuesday news conference.
Anticipating a game in which quarterback Geno Smith might get to let it fly is music to a receiver's ear, said Bailey.
"Going vertical, those are opportunities to make big plays," said Bailey. "The thought of it gets me pretty hyped."
Agreed said J.D. Woods: "When we can stretch the field anytime, it's going to be all smiles for the receivers. We get to run and open up. We'll see this weekend."
It will all depend on the game situation, of course, said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who explained going deep will become more necessary if the Baylor defense applies pressure.
"If you're in a good flow, you feel better about taking shots. But, if people are going to pressure us, then we have to throw vertical and we have to make plays downfield," said Dawson. "There's nothing that probably gets the ball out quicker than catching it and throwing it up."
Dawson said it's important not to force the deep ball, adding that the past few games have not called for it.
"I'd have to go back and look at why we haven't, but we've probably been more underneath based on what they're giving us," he said. "You don't want to force it deep. You kind of want to do it when they give it to you, but it it's not as simple as looking at it on a white board. Whenever you do take those opportunities, you want it to be calculated."
He added: "Part of it is coaching up Geno [Smith] on the right looks. If he anticipates some tight coverage, he throws a deep ball as good as anybody. Maybe we can get 'em?"
That's what Baylor does, said Holgorsen, explaining the Bears' tendency to spread its receivers from sideline to sideline, lull the defense into stopping the run, then launch one deep.
"We've got to make sure they don't get behind us. They've got speed," said Holgorsen. "They're gonna run the ball 50 percent of the time and then they're going to take shots downfield."
Baylor's top two receives -- Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese -- are averaging 100-plus receiving yards a game with 117.7 and 101.3.
"They're faster," said Holgorsen. "Maryland's [top receivers], those guys can play anywhere. The two kids Baylor's got are vertically better. Maryland did not have a vertical passing game. They sat there, watched the clock go down to 1, snapped it, and those two kids, two, three times made a whole bunch of people miss. Baylor is more of run the ball, run the ball, throw it as far as you can."
Smith said he's fine with however it plays out.
"That's our offense. We're always going to attack," said Smith. "No matter what the defense does, we're going to figure out ways to counter it. If it means going vertical, that's what we'll do. If it means going quick game, that's what we're going to do.
"We just want to make plays to win the game."
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published September 26, 2012 4:00 AM