By Dave Morrison
Register-Herald Sports Writer
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. —
I first made what seemed like an overzealous statement in the fall of 2010, not long after Geno Smith had gotten off to a quick start in his career.
“This kid is going to be a Heisman contender one day.”
This fall, given that his numbers were going to approach astronomical proportions in Dana Holgorsen’s numbers-friendly offense — and given that I apparently drank the “preseason expectations” Kool-Aid — I said the same thing.
Look, it stood to reason that Smith was going to pass for around 4,000 yards (he now has 3,978) and about 35 touchdowns (OK, I whiffed there; he had 25, which was surprisingly just one more than he had last year).
But I remain unwavering in my belief that Smith will be, and should be, a Heisman Trophy candidate.
And Wednesday night’s Orange Bowl is a perfect stage for Smith to launch his candidacy to a national audience for 2012.
With USC’s Matt Barkley coming back, he is already behind the 8-ball.
But so was the field when Andrew Luck returned to Stanford this year.
Not that you will get Smith to touch the question.
“I don’t look at it like that,” Smith said of the Orange Bowl launching a Heisman candidacy. “I’m sure it’s a storyline. But I look at it as another chance to be a good leader and lead this team to victory.
“I think our university deserves something as good as this, a stage like this, and we have to make sure we represent our state and our university well.”
Nope, you have to go to his friends to get the true scoop on stuff like the Heisman. And nobody is closer to Smith then fellow Miami native Stedman Bailey, who has no problem telling people he would like to win the (Fred) Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.
“For us to do a good job in this game, I think that would pretty much put him up for consideration for the Heisman,” Bailey said.
“He is really humble,” left tackle Don Barclay said. “Is he a Heisman candidate? In my mind he is.”
Smith had his finest moment during a 47-21 loss to LSU Sept. 24, when he threw for a school-record 463 yards.
ESPN, whose opinion holds way too much sway, and some of its pundits pointed to the game, and largely, in defense of LSU’s defense, wrote it off as numbers put up by a quarterback trying to make a huge comeback.
Smith threw for 217 yards in the third, the pivotal quarter when WVU came back, but then suffered the crushing kickoff return after WVU cut the score to 27-21.
And, a lot of teams fell behind LSU like that and nobody else put up those numbers.
“He stayed in the pocket the whole game really well, he was really comfortable,” Barclay said. “We tried to give him as much time as we could and he went with it. He threw for a lot of yards. He found Tavon (Austin) and Stedman plenty of times. Against one of the best defenses, he was relaxed.”
The interesting part of this week is how Smith, a Miami native, has referred to WVU and West Virginia as “we” and “our.”
And for anybody who has seen our state, and to some extent WVU, stereotyped and lambasted over the years, how can you not root for that?
— E-mail: demorrison@