The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 27, 2010

Stewart still confident in QB Smith

Geno Smith certainly wasn’t at his best in West Virginia’s 19-14 loss to Syracuse on Saturday.

But Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart certainly believes his quarterback will bounce back.

“He is steady, even if he didn’t play his best,” Stewart said. “But I’m not going to throw my quarterback under the bus. I don’t think we have to tell the offensive line they didn’t play their best, and the entire offense. But I am not going to let one side of the ball dictate why we lost.

“Our young sophomore quarterback (Geno Smith) struggled. It happens and you just work to get that back on track.”

Smith and the Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1 Big East) will attempt to bounce back Friday night when they travel to Connecticut (3-4, 0-2) for an 8 p.m. kickoff at Rentschler Field. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

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West Virginia’s coaching staff named the following players as award winners from the Syracuse game:

Offensive champion — Noel Devine; defensive champion — Anthony Leonard; defensive special mention — Scooter Berry, Chris Neild, J.T. Thomas; special teams champion — Gregg Pugnetti; offensive scout champion — Kwabena Asante; defensive scout champion — Bobby Weston.

Devine got back in the groove somewhat, with 122 yards on the ground. And that bodes well going into the game with the Huskies.

“It was good to see Noel running again,” Stewart said. “I saw him get hit in the open field, and it kind of shocked me a little bit. But it was good to see him back and to get over 100 yards.”

Leonard had eight tackles for the Mountaineers, another thing that pleased the coach.

“I told Anthony Leonard how proud I was of him this weekend,” Stewart said. “He was our player of the game. He was written off and told that his feet were too slow, that he was club-footed and that he was not Reed Williams. He has proven that if you pay your dues and pay attention to details, you will do well.”

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Tyler Urban has been slowed by injuries this year and has just two catches for five yards. Will Johnson, who has done most of the work at tight end, has five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.

But Urban is more of a blocking tight end and in an attempt to get the sometimes sputtering run game up and going, Urban may see more time.

“They both play now,” Stewart said. “Will Johnson is playing pretty well. That is not to say that Tyler isn’t. When there is an injury and you go down for a couple of games and someone steps in and plays well, I don’t see much reason to change that.

“Tyler is going to play more, and we are going to go 50/50 with them. Both are good players. I think both guys are playing and blocking well. I would like to get the ball to the tight end.”

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Connecticut has had quarterback problems of its own.

Starter Cody Endres (45-of-75 for 471 yards and five touchdowns) has been dismissed from the team.

Freshman Michael Box made his first start in a 26-0  loss to Louisville and was just 4-of-12 for 35 yards.

The Huskies’ run game has been good behind Jordan Todman, who has rushed for 841 yards and eight touchdowns.

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