ELLIOTT: Bailey Making His Push for Biletnikoff
MORGANTOWN – Stedman Bailey says he has yet to give thought to skipping his senior season and entering the NFL Draft.
Because of that, West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson figured he’d help the Mountaineers’ Biletnikoff Award finalist make a decision.
“He’d be stupid to go,” Dawson said with a laugh.
Bailey had 11 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against Kansas, in the process passing Tavon Austin for most catches in a season for a junior (106) and pushing his school records for touchdown catches in a season (23) and a career (39). With 106 catches, 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns, he’s got a great shot at that Biletnikoff Award, considering that’s seven more scoring receptions than anyone else in the country, and he’s in the top five in yards and catches.
Other school records he owns are 13 100-yard games (tied with Austin), single-game receiving yards (303), catches in a game (14), and touchdowns in a game (5). With another 100-catch season, he’d top Austin for most catches in school history. As it is, he’s third behind Austin and Jock Sanders.
“It’s pretty amazing, but stuff like that is available in this offense,” Bailey said. “With Coach (Dana) Holgorsen and those guys coming here, I knew the opportunity would be there for me, so I just tried to do the best I can and do all I can to help the team win.”
Frankly, there’s little left for Bailey to accomplish at West Virginia, assuming the Mountaineers won’t make a surprising run to a national championship next season.
“I would say just to try to finish on top of the NCAA, all the records I could possibly break would probably keep me back,” Bailey said.
Dawson says Bailey’s first name fits him perfectly.
“Steady Stedman,” Dawson called him. “He’s been a steady guy in practice, a steady guy on and off the field since we got here. He just has a knack for making plays. He’s got great body control. The way he torques his body, the ball seems to just come in. He’s got a knack for it. And he’s a helluva player.”
Geno the Recruiter
Geno Smith, another player whose name sits atop just about everything it can in the Mountaineers record book, cherished Senior Day, both on the field where he completed 23 of 24 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns, and off it, when he sang Country Roads in the student section.
He said he’s loved every minute of his time at WVU, and he won’t be afraid to tell any on-the-fence recruit this is the place for him.
“Of course,” Smith said. “I wish everyone would come to West Virginia and we just cut the ones we don’t want. It doesn’t work like that. When I’m talking to recruits, I tell those guys West Virginia is a great place. I’m sure there’s other great places out there. It’s all based on your specific needs. When I chose West Virginia, I felt that I would be comfortable here and I’d be able to start for at least three years. It happened for me, and I feel like it was a good decision.
“It’s down to, really, what the player wants. If he wants to be a great player or just mediocre, or if he wants to be one of the guys at a different school, or if he wants to be the guy at West Virginia.”
Tavon’s the best?
Regardless of next week’s Heisman Trophy presentation, West Virginia players and coaches think they know who the best player in college football is Austin.
“Hands down,” Smith said. “The eyeball doesn’t lie. There are other great players in the country, but that guy will make anyone miss at any time. And he does what he wants on the field. That’s rare.”
Holgorsen took it a little further.
“What Tavon did against Oklahoma (572 all-purpose yards), and I’ve been very vocal about this, it was the single greatest performance I’ve ever seen,” Holgorsen said.
And Dawson took it even further than that.
“He’s the best player in the country,” Dawson said. “I don’t care who gets the award (Heisman), but I’ve never been around anybody like him and there’s not anybody out there like him. You can say what you want to about all of those other guys and that’s good and dandy, but I think behind closed doors if you got people in a room that played us, they would tell you who the best player is.”
Stick to Basketball
A team doesn’t lose 11 games in a season and 21 straight conference games because it’s fundamentally sound.
Kansas’ follies were on full display against the Mountaineers.
What if the Jayhawks tried 12 defenders? They did. In the second quarter with West Virginia facing a first-and-10 at the Kansas 23, Andrew Buie ran for 8 yards to the 15 before being shoved out of bounds by Tyler Patmon. Then a flag flew. Even with an extra defender, none of them were able to get Buie to the ground.
The Wildcats originally intended to try four fourth-down attempts. They made one, but the others were a disaster.
On the first one, a fourth-and-2, running back James Sims was stopped after a 1-yard gain by Terance Garvin.
In the third quarter, Kansas coach Charlie Weis wanted to try a fourth-and-1, but Wildcats’ Michael Cummings was whistled for a false start and they decided to punt.
They also went for it on fourth-and-4 in the final two minutes, but Chris Mathews was dropped for a 3-yard loss by Taige Redman.