The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

September 26, 2011

Goals still within WVU’s reach

MORGANTOWN — All the pre-game hype centered around the fact that LSU featured an NFL-caliber defensive line — big, strong and fast.

The question was, how would West Virginia’s offensive line hold up?

Apparently, just fine.

Quarterback Geno Smith was not sacked.

“I thought the pass protection was fantastic and Geno had time, and we had some guys get open and make some plays,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Indeed, Smith, on several dropbacks, had all kinds of time to scan the field.

He finished with a school record for completions (38), attempts (65) and yards (463).

The question is, did Smith pass too much?

“It’s hard to say. I think we did good. I think we moved the ball well. Everything went right except we turned the ball over. You eliminate those turnovers and we don’t give those easy points up, it might be a different game. But, that’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ve got to move on and get better.”

The goals are, for the most part, still attainable.

“We’re gonna get past (the loss),” Smith said. “Our goal to be undefeated is down the drain. But BCS champs, Big East champs, winning every game from here on out is what we have to do and that’s something that I’m going to work extremely hard to do.”

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LSU coach Les Miles was impressed by the whole game-day atmosphere in Morgantown.

“I think what is being done here at West Virginia is very strong,” Miles said. “They have a good, quality team, and they played hard for four quarters.

“We showed up tonight in a very hostile environment, and you have to play. West Virginia did a good job, but our defense showed up to play and we got off to a good start. They threw the ball well in the second half, and they have good players. It took our full team to win.”

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Tavon Austin had 11 receptions for 187 yards, but he was impressed with LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a sophomore.

“I played against (former LSU standout cornerback) Patrick Peterson and it that wasn’t much different,” Austin said. “Peterson was kind of stronger, and bigger. (Mathieu) is good. He’s going to get there. He’s the same size as me, so we had a fist fight the whole game.”

Austin won a lot of battles.

But Mathieu (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) made his presence known.

On one play, he tipped a pass to Austin from Smith into the air, corralled the ball and returned it to the 1-yard line. From there, LSU scored with :27 left in the first half to make it 27-7.

Mathieu had six tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and the interception and pass breakup.

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Doug Rigg had nine tackles to lead the WVU defense, which was constantly put in harm’s way with bad field position.

A lot of that fell on special teams.

Punter Corey Smith had a 14-yard punt and a 32-yarder. He did have two of 50-plus yards, but even then the Tigers got good field position.

Smith might be out of a job.

“Hitting a 60-yarder and then hitting a 10-yarder. That’s not going to get it done,” Holgorsen said.

LSU, meanwhile, had three drives that started at or inside its own 5.

And LSU’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, after WVU had cut the lead to 27-21 in the third quarter, was a deadly blow.

“Special teams were completely one-sided,” Holgorsen said. “We weren’t good and solid on special teams, and we didn’t play smart.”

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