By Cam Huffman
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith may not be the runaway Heisman Trophy winner than many predicted after he put up eye-popping numbers through the Mountaineers’ 5-0 start, but the college football world hasn’t forgotten about WVU’s senior signal caller, either.
Smith was selected as a finalist for the 2012 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the top college quarterback in the country.
The other four finalists were USC’s Matt Barkley, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron.
Smith has thrown for 3,041 yards and 31 touchdowns this season, completing 71.3 percent of his passes.
The award will be presented on Dec. 7 at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore, Md. Past winners include Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Andrew Luck.
Smith’s current focus, though, is on Saturday’s battle with No. 13 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The 7 p.m. game, which will be televised on FOX, will put Smith head-to-head with another one of the game’s top quarterbacks, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
“I’ve followed his career, and Landry is a guy who has done a great job since he took over for (Sam Bradford),” said Smith. “He could’ve entered the draft and been one of the higher picks, but he chose to stay with his teammates, and I respect him for that.
“He’s a great quarterback. He’s done some really good things for his team last season and this season. I just look forward to another opportunity to go out there and compete.”
Smith’s challenge will be a little different this week against an Oklahoma defense that plays almost exclusively man coverage, something the Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) have seen very little of this season.
“It’s a good opportunity for our wideouts to have some one-on-one matchups, and it’s up to me to put the ball in the right spot,” said Smith. “It’s a good opportunity for us, and I’m looking forward to it.”
WVU placed 12 players among the 131 student-athletes on the 2012 Academic All-Big 12 team.
To qualify, student-athletes must maintain a 3.00 GPA or higher either cumulative or the two previous semesters and must have participated in 60 percent of their team’s scheduled contests. Freshmen and transfers are not eligible.
The Mountaineers on the first team (3.20-plus GPA) were Connor Arlia, Jeff Braun, Nicholas Cadwell, Curtis Feigt, Troy Gloster, Nicholas Kindler, Mike Molinari, Ryan Nehlen and Corey Smith.
On the second team (3.00 to 3.19 GPA) were Paul Millard, Doug Rigg and Wes Tonkery.
WVU is turning to some past greats to try to right the ship and end a four-game losing skid.
Bruce Irvin, a rookie linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks after a stellar career at WVU, will be an honorary captain for the Mountaineers on Saturday after choosing to spend his off week in Morgantown.
According to the athletes’ Twitter accounts, WVU greats like Pat White, Chris Neild and Julian Miller also plan on being in Morgantown this weekend and will talk to the team at some point before the game.
Other former WVU greats will be busy this weekend, including a couple that will be involved with the Canadian Football League playoffs.
The league’s semifinal games will be played Sunday, with the Toronto Argonauts visiting the Montreal Alouettes and the Calgary Stampeders traveling to face the B.C. Lions.
On the Alouettes roster is Noel Devine. The former Mountaineer running back has five carries for 12 yards, eight catches for 117 yards, 15 kick returns for 297 yards and an 11-yard punt return for the team this season. He was active in Montreal’s 19-11 win over Winnipeg last week, catching three passes for 24 yards.
Scooter Berry, a former WVU defensive lineman, is also on the Alouettes roster, although he’s currently on the injured list.
The B.C. Lions also have a Mountaineer connection with former WVU quarterback Jarrett Brown on the team’s practice squad.
Turning to basketball, tickets for the WVU-Marshall men’s game, which will be played Dec. 5 at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum, will go on sale today at 9 a.m. at the Mountaineer ticket office.
A limited number of lower level seats behind the basket are available to 2012 Mountaineer Athletic Club donors for $42 each. Upper level seating is available to all fans for $32 per ticket. All tickets for the men’s game can be used for a general admission seat to the WVU-Marshall women’s game on Dec. 4.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-WVU-GAME.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH