By Dave Morrison
OK, you already know how prolific the combination of quarterback Geno Smith to slot receiver Tavon Austin has been on the field this season.
Saturday’s 35-14 win over Rutgers — that clinched a share of the Big East title but not the BCS bowl after UConn’s win — was a perfect example.
Austin caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, his eighth touchdown reception of the season. On the year the two have hooked up 53 times for a team-best 756 yards.
The two sophomores have been a pitch-and-catch machine.
They came in together, Austin playing as a true freshman and Smith waiting his turn behind Jarrett Brown.
“We came in together and we kind of just clicked together,” Smith said. “I’m not surprised. Tavon was doing it last year. I just had to wait for my chance to play. But we have a great friendship.”
Obviously, it’s something that can’t be taken for granted.
“We hang with each other outside the program,” Austin said. “We just grew to love one another.”
Obviously, the duo have been deadly.
And they will get another chance to play this year in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 28 at 6:30 p.m. against North Carolina State.
What you might not know is they are the top two-man basketball tandem on the football team.
“Me and Geno are the top guys on the team,” Austin said. “We haven’t lost yet. What we do on the basketball court is the same thing we do on the football field. It helps a lot.”
They have taken on anyone willing to play them in hoops and they haven’t lost yet.
“And we’ve played some big boys,” Austin said.
The two went up against Tyler Anderson (a 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker) and Will Clarke (6-6, 265 defensive end) in one epic encounter.
That’s two big boys going against the 5-9, 173-pound Austin and the 6-3, 210-pound Smith.
And it wasn’t close.
“Three games straight, we won. Three games to 11, by one,” Austin said, with a hint of satisfaction. “We’ll play anyone. And we really don’t think that anyone in the program can beat us.”
Prep basketball stars like wide receiver Brad Starks may beg to differ.
But the Smith-Austin team is confident. And perhaps that comes from the confidence they have on the football field.
But what about a battle between Smith-Austin against athletic linebackers like J.T. Thomas and Anthony Leonard. It’s one thing to beat Anderson-Clarke. But Thomas-Leonard are older, more athletic and they have some speed.
“That would be a close one,” Austin said. “Those boys would have a big size advantage and they’d try to post us up. But what we’d do is get the ball and run them.”
I’m not a gambling man, but given their performance this year, it is definitely advantage Smith-Austin.
— E-mail: demorrison@