The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

September 15, 2011

Smith: WVU must execute game plan

MORGANTOWN — Despite sluggish starts against Marshall and Norfolk State, West Virginia is 2-0 and ranked 18th nationally going into Saturday’s football game at Maryland (1-0).

Quarterback Geno Smith had a ready reply when asked what the Mountaineers need to do to muster a stronger start — and maintain it — against the Terrapins.

“The No. 1 thing we must do is to stay focused and stay positive,” the 6-foot-3, 214-pound junior from Miami said. “And we should not listen to the critics.

“We just have to go out there and play hard the whole game. It doesn’t really matter whether the crowd is on our side. I never really think about it that way.”

Maryland has had an extra week to prepare for this game. The Terrapins opened the season with a 32-24 victory over Miami in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest.

Dana Holgorsen, WVU’s new head coach, doesn’t mind playing on the road for the first time either. He actually enjoys road games as well as those at home.

Smith believes that the only thing that really matters is executing the game plan. He’s comfortable with the new, up-tempo, quick-striking offense installed by Holgorsen.

He noted that the Maryland defense is similar to the one WVU’s offense works against in preparation for games.

“You can never tell what a defense will do,” said Smith, the Big East Conference’s No. 1 performer in total offense. “You just roll with the punches and adjust to what they’re doing.”

West Virginia, which owns a five-straight winning streak against Maryland, opened this season with a 34-14 victory over Marshall. Then in Week 2, the Mountaineers overcame a 12-10 halftime deficit to whip Norfolk State 55-12.

For the two games, Smith completed 46 of 68 passes for 612 yards and six touchdowns. He has yet to be intercepted.

As a team, WVU ranks only third in the Big East in offense. The reason, obviously, is its inability to run the ball successfully.

Vernard Roberts, a 5-foot-9, 182-pound freshman from Washington, D.C., is the team’s leading rusher. He ranks ninth in the Big East with 76 yards on 24 carries and has scored twice.

He’s averaging a mere 3.2 yards per carry. His longest run was 9 yards.

Saturday’s game starts at noon. ESPNU will televise the action.

Maryland is still listed as a 1 1/2 point favorite.

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