The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 7, 2011

Smith says Mountaineers will be ready for UConn

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — “We will be ready,” junior quarterback Geno Smith said of West Virginia’s home football game against Connecticut on Saturday.

The Mountaineers, ranked 16th nationally with a 4-1 record, are a three-touchdown favorite against the Huskies (2-3).

In this first Big East game of the season for both teams, WVU will be seeking revenge for last year’s 16-13 overtime loss at UConn.

That knocked the Gold and Blue out of a clear-cut claim to the conference championship and a BCS bowl berth.

“We can’t take any team lightly,” said Smith, the league’s leader in passing and total offense. “We’ve got to win each and every week.

“Everyone knows what we have to do when we go out there. So it’s just a matter of executing the game plan.”

He noted that the Huskies have a lot of experienced players and that they’ve been in some big games.

West Virginia turnovers cost the team sorely in UConn’s lone victory of the series.

Smith expects the big, strong Huskies to play hard on Saturday and give WVU their best shot in search of a repeat upset win.

It makes no difference to the Mountaineers whether UConn’s defense decides to try stopping Smith’s passing or the awakened running attack, which freshman Dustin Garrison leads.

He rushed 32 times for 291 yards and scored two touchdowns in last week’s homecoming 55-10 rout of Bowling Green in a driving, soaking rain.

Smith, a second-year starter, has completed 138 of 213 passes for 1,709 yards and 12 TDs in five games.

Johnny McEntee, the Connecticut quarterback, ranks eighth among Big East passers. He has completed 65 of 129 throws for 913 yards and six scores.

Lyle McCombs, the Huskies’ leading rusher, ranks No. 2 in the conference among rushers with 502 yards on 123 carries and has four scores. He’s averaging 100.4 yards per game.

Tavon Austin of WVU is the league’s No. 2 receiver with 35 catches for 490 yards and one touchdown.

“We want to be able to run, pass and block offensively,” Smith said. “They’re all part of our game.

“We want to be good in (all phases). Offensively, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of improvement. Not just in games, but in practice. As long as we keep working hard, we will continue to be a good team.”

Preceding the start of Saturday’s noon game, six former athletes will be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

That ceremony, beginning at 9:30 a.m., is open to the public at the Caperton Indoor Facility.

The Class of 2011 consists of Warren Baker, Canute Curtis, Joe Harick, Steve Newberry, Jim Heise and Pat Itayi (Williams).