The Mountaineers and Baylor put an offensive display for the ages -- and a performance the defensive coordinators would likely prefer to forget -- in a 70-63 win for WVU on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Sports information personnel passed around a two-page document simply titled “Records” following the game, a mind-bogglingly long list of new marks as both teams essentially ran their respective offensive record books through a paper shredder.
No. 9 West Virginia (4-0, 1-0) set a school record for most yards in school history (807). Baylor’s 700 yards were the most the Mountaineers have ever given up in a game as well.
“Not every Big 12 game is like this. Not every Big 12 offense is like this. Not every game is going to be like this,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said in a message that may prove tough for some in Mountaineer country to believe after the program’s first-ever game in its new league.
If they all are like this, things should at least be entertaining. Quarterback Geno Smith was again spectacular, throwing for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Again, he was essentially error-free -- he threw only six incomplete passes and no interceptions and even added another 31 yards rushing.
People across the country noticed. Twitter lit up with celebrities singing the senior’s praises, including former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart and Miami Heat star LeBron James. Smith took another step towards claiming his own Heisman with a performance even his coach couldn’t criticize.
Offensive Player of the Game
31 rushing yards
“Can you please tell me how you can improve on that?” Holgorsen said, just after reeling off Smith’s stat line.
While there was ample reason to celebrate on the offensive side, the Mountaineer defense hardly had a banner day.
Baylor (3-1, 1-0) broke plenty of records of its own and moved the ball almost at will as well. Quarterback Nick Florence broke the school’s single-game passing record with 581 yards. He added five touchdowns. Receiver Terrance Williams was essentially unstoppable, piling up 314 receiving and two touchdowns.
The Bears had three receivers with 100 or more yards for the first time in program history, as both Tevin Reese (120 yards and a touchdown) and Lanear Sampson also topped the century mark.
“We fought hard, but we didn’t respond well enough to win the game,” BU coach Art Briles said.
They nearly did. Every time West Virginia appeared to be in control, the Bears answered.
That became especially true at the end of the first half, as WVU scored on a 2-yard pass from Smith to receiver Stedman Bailey (who finished with school records at 303 receiving yards and five touchdowns) with only 29 seconds left in the second quarter.
Defensive Player of the Game
7 total tackles
1 tackle for loss
1 quarterback hurry
In this game, that was just too much time. Florence and Sampson hooked up for a 67-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the half, a play that denied the Mountaineers a chance to claim a two-possession lead with their first possession of the third quarter.
“When there’s six or seven seconds left, you can’t let that happen,” Holgorsen said. “We have young safeties. We have true freshmen back there. They made some mistakes and we have to get better.”
West Virginia appeared to claim control early in the second half anyway. Smith threw touchdown passes of 45 and 52 yards to Tavon Austin (14 catches, 215 yards, two scores), and running back Andrew Buie powered in for a 1-yard score to make it 56-35 late in the third.
But to Baylor’s credit, it rallied again. A 37-yard touchdown pass to Williams and a 1-yard sneak by Florence made it 56-49 with 14:14 to go.
Immediately, the Mountaineers responded. The Bears left Bailey essentially uncovered, and Smith found him about 20 yards downfield. The receiver did the rest, outrunning the entire defense for an 87-yard touchdown to make it 63-49.
But Florence tossed a 7-yard touchdown to Antwan Goodley to get back within one possession. West Virginia held serve, with Smith and Bailey hooking up for a 39-yard score. Florence and Williams then connected one last time to get within 70-63 with 3:08 left.
In a game where the defenses largely played the role of interested spectators, Briles made the game’s most curious coaching decision, opting not to onside kick. Baylor kicked it deep, hoping against hope that it could use its three timeouts and defense to force a punt and get another shot.
Predictably, the move failed, as WVU moved to the Baylor 36-yard line before moving to the victory formation to run out the clock.
“If you do it there and you don’t get it, then basically the game is over,” Briles said of the decision to not onside kick. “If you kick it down there deep, like we did, and you get it down there and get a stop, then you have a good chance that maybe you’ll tie it up, maybe you’ll score. You play percentages. We played percentages there and it didn’t work out.”