The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 6, 2010

WVU's Smith in line for a big day vs. UNLV

If all goes according to plan, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will have a big game Saturday against UNLV.

WVU (3-1) has a great passing attack, behind Smith and a bevy of talented receivers led by slot receivers Tavon Austin (24 receptions, 314 yards and two touchdowns) and Jock Sanders (24-261-2) and receiver Stedman Bailey (10-137-3).

Smith has completed 85 of 130 passes for 919 yards and nine scores.

More importantly, and the reason for concern on UNLV’s part, is Smith has shown a propensity for bouncing back after throwing an interception, a personal pet peeve that eats at the sophomore signalcaller.

After throwing an interception in the opener against Coastal Carolina, the next week he ended up leading WVU on two long drives to tie and eventually beat Marshall 24-21 in overtime.

In WVU’s 20-14 loss to LSU Sept. 25, he threw his second pick of the year.

It doesn’t bode well for UNLV, which is No. 42 nationally against the pass.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart sees his quarterback and vast load of receivers as a clear advantage for the Mountaineers.

“I feel good because I think it is hard to run clear across the field with a Brad Starks, Tavon Austin or Jock Sanders when you man up,” Stewart said. “We run some nice crossing routes, and if they can keep up they are going to beat us.”

UNLV does have one of the nation’s leaders in takeaways in cornerback Will Chandler, who has four interceptions this season.

“He’s done a nice job competing for the football, which is a good quality to have in a corner,” coach Bobby Hauck said.

The Runnin’ Rebels are off to a 1-4 start but they’ve played a tough schedule, playing three ranked teams already. Last week UNLV lost to No. 25 Nevada 44-26.

UNLV’s concern about Smith doesn’t even bring into play WVU running back Noel Devine, who was injured in the LSU game but is progressing toward playing Saturday when the teams kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium. It will be televised locally by WOAY-TV.

“He’s a really good player,” Hauck said. “Good back, great speed. He has the ability to make people look silly in the open field and go the distance on every play. He’s special. I’m going to assume he’ll play.”

Bill Stewart still wouldn’t speculate on Devine’s status Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

“Noel Devine is going well,” Stewart said. “I am not going to say great because I won’t know that until Saturday in warm-ups. I was really proud of him yesterday, because he was either in class or in treatment. He is trying to get better. He has a bone bruise under his toe so when he pivots it aches.”

Hauck is also concerned about WVU’s defense, which is ranked eighth in the nation and has given up seven touchdowns through four games.

“They’re one of the top defenses, statistically, in the country right now,” Hauck said. “They’ve got some really good-looking kids. Their safety, (Robert) Sands, is an impressive guy. Their linebackers really go. Their nose is really good. They do some things that are problematic on defense. It’s a structure different than what we’ve seen to date.”

— E-mail: demorrison@register-herald.com

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