For pure shock value, there wasn’t a better total in collegiate athletics. As the scrolling Top 25 scores flashed, across the country double and triple-takes were required. I got text messages from fans of Arkansas, Texas, Oregon, Auburn – themselves no stranger to awesome offense and heavy national press.
“What,” one Oregon fan wrote, “is with you guys and 70?” From Texas: “Is this a pinball game?” Arkansas: “I don’t know if I’m watching basketball or what looks like football.” And from Auburn: “Holy cow! It sounded totally out of control.”
And, my favorite: “Pittsnogle for three!”
The 133 combined points – school record. The 180 plays – school record. Milan Puskar Stadium record for opponent points. Offensive yards for both teams – school record. Geno Smith’s consecutive pass completions, pass yards, total completions, records. Tavon Austin’s single-game reception mark. Stedman Bailey’s yardage. There were 19 combined extra points made, for gosh sake.
I spoke with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby late in the third quarter, and he said “You know, West Virginia could really get to 1,000 yards by the end of the game. Maybe Baylor, too.” One game, one 60 minute period of Big 12 football, and West Virginia, via both sides of the ball, has rewritten the conference record books. Bailey set a Big 12 record with 303 yards receiving – only to see Baylor’s Terrance Williams break it minutes later and finish with 314.
“It did feel like one of those classic Texas shootouts,” quarterback Geno Smith said.
Here’s the one that gets me: This was both the most yards ever gained, and the most yards ever allowed, by WVU. In school history. That simply shouldn’t happen in the same game. It’s just difficult to even wrap one’s head around the idea. And the kicker is that in the two games West Virginia allowed the most yardage in school history – Baylor snapped the 1993 Maryland mark – WVU won.
The current Mountaineers are battling only themselves and teammates, others having been left in exhaust of the Air Raid jet. Bailey and Austin are one and two on the career WVU touchdown receptions list with 26 and 24, respectively. They’ll duke it out for top honors, all others falling so far off the record book page it’s absurd. Bailey, a junior, could put the record far out of reach by his career conclusion.
Consider Geno’s line: 45 for 51, 656 yards and eight touchdowns. In a vote likely reminiscent of soviet elections, Smith was the landslide choice for The Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Week. For the season, he’s 141 of 169 passing for 1,728 yards, with 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He doesn’t even have a touchdown-to-interception ratio, though it’ll be listed as 20-0, because there can’t be ratios with a zero value. He’d actually have to throw a pick just to get a legit stat.
The school record for pass efficiency is Jake Kelchner’s 164.01 from 1993. Smith sits at 208.4. The gap is unimaginable. So far, Smith’s pass yardage would stretch from the Coliseum to Mountaineer Field. If Geno stopped now, his season would rank 22nd on the all-time list. Consider that. With one more yard – one yard! – he would move into a tie for among the top 20 seasons of all-time with Marc Bulger and Rasheed Marshall, both of whom threw for exactly 1,729 in 1999 and 2003, respectively. That’s four games in. Let’s say he throws for a pedestrian 160 against Texas. Top 15 season, in the books.
Those aren’t video game numbers, because, frankly, people don’t put up 656 yards and eight touchdowns and score 70 in video games. Geno and West Virginia have literally busted the analogy. You can’t even say video game numbers anymore – unless you mean to downgrade what was actually accomplished.
And, by the way, it’ll just be Geno from here out. He has officially attained the status of a Pat and Major, and already passed a Hoss, a Marc, and a Rasheed. Never before has any player, the legend of Pat White and Owen Schmitt and the Maj’ considered, been anointed with this level of national attention. First up on ESPN’s College Football Final wasn’t Notre Dame or USC or Alabama. It was West Virginia. The highlights took five minutes, the discussion another three. Words like virtuoso were bandied about. Rece Davis came right out and said pundits were ready to hand Smith the Heisman Trophy.
And frankly, if the Heisman Trophy were decided today – and oh, how it’s not – but if it were, there wouldn’t even be a reason to invite three other guys. You could sit Mo, Larry and Curly up there, and they’d have an equal shot at it as any player trying to challenge Geno. Throw Shemp in there if you want some flavor.
This is not to say there aren’t problems. There are. This, right now, isn’t West Virginia’s best overall team ever. It might not even be its best team in the last decade. But, man, is it fun to watch. For another program measuring stick, consider that Texas – top 10 Texas – was already talking about West Virginia’s visit to Austin before even getting off the field after a closing-seconds rally to win a significant road game against defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma State.
Texas. Winner of four national titles and multiple Heisman trophies. And there was head coach Mack Brown noting how much fun it was going to be against West Virginia in Austin next week. Well, game week is here. The undefeated and seventh-ranked Mountaineers meet the unbeaten, No. 9 Longhorns in six days. Six of the most fun, anticipatory days in WVU history.
How’s this for a flipped script: It’s West Virginia, not Texas, that goes to Austin this week as the higher-ranked team. With the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Mountaineers, the eyes of Texas are upon you. And of the rest of the nation as well.