The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 11, 2011

Smith confirms his role as leader

By Dave Morrison
Sports Editor

MORGANTOWN — Perhaps the roots of West Virginia’s Jeykll-and-Hyde performance Saturday can be traced back to Miramar High School in Miami, Fla.

At least the second-half part of the equation.

That’s the way Miramar graduate and WVU receiver Ivan McCartney sees it.

Seems his former and current teammate, Geno Smith, had a little explosion at halftime of Saturday’s 55-12 win over Maryland.

Down 12-10 at the half, Smith, the Mountaineers’ Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, had seen enough.

“At halftime, he came in and gave us the harsh facts,” McCartney said. “And we bought in to what he was saying.”

It brought back memories.

“It didn’t surprise me because I’ve seen it before,” said McCartney, who had four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. “I remember one game, it was his senior year, my junior year. We were playing Everglades, and it was a rainy night. We went in at halftime and Geno said, ‘Look, I’ve got this. We’re going to get this done.’ And like today, we bought into it. That’s Geno. He is a great leader.”

And a great player. He did finish 20 of 34 for a career-best 371 yards and a career-high-tying four touchdown passes.

He was 12 of 16 for 267 yards and three scores after delivering his state-of-the-team address at halftime.

Maybe that speech was more important than anything.

What he said exactly we will never know.

Receiver Tavon Austin (six catches, 82 yards, 1 TD) said part of it was about the team “getting what it deserved” in that first half.

Six attempts from the 1-yard line yielded three points.

West Virginia also turned the ball over on downs inside the 5.

It wasn’t pretty.

“It was basically just telling the guys we had to play faster and play harder,” said Smith, downplaying the importance of his halftime pep talk. “We can’t come out and expect to score on every play (because the opponent was a FCS opponent). We still have to work for it.”

If there were any doubts before, Smith confirmed that he is the leader of this team. And backs it up on the field and in the locker room.

Sure, there is room for improvement.

“”He missed some checks, he got his eyes off me, and if you miss one out there, that’s one too many,” said coach Dana Holgorsen, who was in a bad mood after the game.

“He gets tempo, and he plays with some bounce and some enthusiasm. He is a voice on the sidelines, and he’s one of the only voices because we have some guys who won’t step up and take leadership roles. He’ll get better.”

If McCartney never sees the bad side of his buddy Smith again, that would be just fine.

“Frankly,” McCartney said, “I don’t think we’ll come out that flat again.”

If you can’t go home again, it’s nice to return for a short visit. Especially when it’s a good visit.

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