By Dave Morrison
It was a balmy afternoon Saturday, short-sleeved weather for the 56,179 inside Milan Puskar Stadium.
Funny, there was a lot of talk about Snow (as in Juwon Snow, he of the key fumble recovery and 83-yard return).
But it certainly looked like three guys out of Miramar High in Florida were right at home in the fall warmth.
Yeah, it was just like home for quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney.
Like the old days. A three-ring circus but these guys aren’t clowning around.
Smith, who has already passed for 2,159 yards at the season’s midpoint, went often to his high school mates. Bailey had seven receptions for 178 yards and two scores — his fourth straight 100-yard game — and McCartney added six for 131 yards.
That’s nearly half of the Mountaineers receptions on the day for 309 of the Mountaineers 469 passing yards.
So confident is the group that they feel they are in the red zone anywhere on the field.
Take Bailey’s 84-yard touchdown, in which the receiver made a great move and took the ball the distance.
“Any play can go the distance,” Bailey said. “It’s just a matter of you making the play. Making a guy miss and go whatever the distance is. I feel the opportunity to score always exists no matter where we are on the field.”
This connection was born in Florida but has prospered under the offensive genius of a guy from Iowa in the mountains of West Virginia.
“We’ve already made that connection in high school,” McCartney said. “And to bring it here and get everybody on the same page as us ... once everything starts to click, it’s unstoppable.”
It sure has been.
Bailey and McCartney have 34 receptions combined. Bailey already has 634 yards and five TDs and McCartney 455 and three. And they don’t even lead the team in receptions. That honor belongs to slot receiver Tavon Austin, who has 42 for 564 and two TDs.
They are in a zone. Despite a slow start, the trio — plus Austin, whom Smith said he considers a high school teammate as well, even if it’s an honorary distinction for the Baltimore native — revved into high gear.
And, like McCartney said, it was unstoppable.
“We feel very comfortable,” Bailey said. “We’ve been doing it for so long now. We know what we are capable of doing. It’s just a matter of going out and making it happen.”
McCartney said the Miramar receiving tandem are alike in that they are playmakers, different only in the fact that McCartney owns a 6-foot-3 to 5-10 height advantage on his teammate.
Smith, who already has four of the school’s Top 10 passing games all time this season, knows this better than anyone.
“Stedman is a great receiver, I’ve known him for a long time and he tells me a lot about what’s going on,” Smith said. “He sees the game like a quarterback. Ivan does as well. He’s playing very confident.
“The amount of love we have for one another goes beyond football. So when we go out there it’s almost common nature for us to do good, play hard for each other.”
Bailey is one of the few teammates, having graduated with Smith, who is bold enough to admonish Smith. But only in certain situations.
“Only if it’s something where I’m wide open,” Bailey said. “For the most part, Eugene makes good reads and good throws. I’m not going to put more pressure on him than he already has. Only if I’m wide open will I come back and talk to him.
“There all times when I will calm him down. We’ve been doing this for so long now that I can tell when he is tense, when he has too much going on in his head. Then I can pull him to the side and talk to him. There have been a couple times where we’ve done that.”
“It’s only when I’m addressing the media,” Bailey said. “But it’s always Geno outside of this.”
“My job is easy,” Eugene said. “I may get a lot of accolades for the things I’m doing out there, but it’s those guys making plays 100 percent of the time and the offensive line giving me time to get them the ball. A lot of our plays come off of YAC (yards after catch) yardage. As you can see, these guys are the ones making the plays. It’s a luxury to have those guys.”
Smith had the quote of the day, talking about a rather animated discussion Holgorsen had with the offense early in the third quarter.
“That’s coach Dana Holgorsen to the max,” Smith said. “That’s the way he handles things. He’s on those Red Bulls (energy drinks); he’s hyped up. He’s that kind of coach, and that’s what we love about him. He’s a straight-forward guy; he’s not going to shoot you any crap. He’s going to make sure you know exactly what he wants you to do, and he’s going to get his point across. And that’s what he did.”