Tuberville Impressed With West Virginia’s Smith

To suggest Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is impressed with West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith might be an understatement.

And Tuberville doesn’t need a stat sheet to help him get to that conclusion. In fact, as of Monday afternoon, he hadn’t even seen one.

”He doesn’t throw any interceptions,” Tuberville said. ”I haven’t seen any on film after watching it for the last 48 hours.”

Tuberville, who lost a 34-17 decision to West Virginia as Auburn’s coach in 2008, went to the Manning Passing Academy this summer with his own quarterback, Seth Doege, and came away astounded by what Smith was doing.

”No doubt he was one of the top quarterbacks at that camp,” Tuberville said.

He expanded on that thought, having seen a ton of great quarterbacks in his day.

”This is about as good as it gets,” Tuberville said of Smith. ”I think he’s pretty close to where (former Oklahoma State and current Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon) Weeden was but in different ways. (Smith has) great touch on the ball, he’s got a lot of speed at receiver. He’s got that knack at sitting in the pocket. He’ll take a sack. He’s not one of those that’s going to turn the ball over. He understands there’s going to be another play; he’s not going to panic and throw it and throw it to to someone else. He’s very meticulous with the ball and that’s what makes a good quarterback. You have to take what they’ll give you. He does that.

”He’s a cool guy in terms of under pressure.”

Heisman favorite Smith, with 204 attempts without an interception in 2012, is approaching Trent Dilfer’s FBS single-season record of 271 consecutive passes without letting one land in the hands of an opponent. Digging deeper, Smith has 259 straight attempts without a pick dating back to last season, 120 shy of Russell Wilson’s overall record, set in 2009.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen says the reasons for Smith’s outrageous numbers – 24 passing touchdowns, 1,996 yards, zero interceptions – have a little to do with the coaches and players around him, on top of his own abilities.

”You try to call plays in the proper situation,” Holgorsen said. ”You have to do a good job of (pass) protecting. The receivers have to do a good job of running routes to get open. When the ball is in the air, the receivers have to do their part and attack the ball and make sure they’re the only ones that can catch it.

”This streak has a whole lot more to do with what the system is and how we coach everybody from a technique standpoint and an assignment standpoint than as much as it does the guy that’s throwing it.”

In Doege, a player Holgorsen helped recruit to Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have a pretty good quarterback in their own right.

He threw for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and is well on his way to topping those numbers. The seventh-ranked passer in the Big 12 (which is good for 23rd in the country) has completed 127 of 183 passes for 1,392 yards and 15 touchdowns, though he’s coming off a three-interception game against Oklahoma in which one was returned for a score. That doubled his INT total for the season.

”Talk about a determined kid that never gave up – and that’s how he plays,” Holgorsen said. ”I’m proud to see him doing that and glad it’s working out for him.”

Texas Tech, which suffered its first losing season since 1992 last year and was picked ninth in the league’s preseason poll, has a lot of balance at receiver with five players catching at least 15 passes thus far. Eric Ward and Darrin Moore have 20 catches each to lead the way, and they’ve combined for 489 yards and five touchdowns.

Those numbers are nice but they don’t really fare favorably to West Virginia’s top receiver, Stedman Bailey, who has 49 catches for 710 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Tavon Austin has 58 catches for 662 yards and eight touchdowns. In fact, WVU’s third-leading receiver, J.D. Woods, would be the Red Raiders’ leading receiver. He has 29 catches for 284 yards and a pair of scores, giving WVU three of the top six pass catchers in the Big 12.

There’s similar balance in the Red Raiders’ run game where three players – Kenny Williams, Eric Stephens Jr., and SaDale Foster -have between 45 and 56 caries and 209 and 345 yards.

With a big performance against Texas, WVU’s Andrew Buie is now the Big 12’s third-leading rusher and the Mountaineers are suddenly the 64th-best rushing offense in the country, a fine complement to the land’s second-best passing outfit.

”The thing a little different about Dana than some of these so-called ”spread people” is he understands running the ball,” Tuberville said.

”That takes pressure off the quarterback. It’s hard to execute every time throwing the ball, throwing it down the field. They do a great job of that, but they also do a very good sneaky job of running the ball. They’re very physical with their running game.”

West Virginia averages 164 yards per game on the ground.