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Record book beckons for WVU’s Smith, Bailey, Austin

MORGANTOWN - As a matter of routine, when college football players eclipse a school record there is usually some sort of pause to commemorate the feat.

Maybe it's a stoppage of play or the presentation of a ball or a simple public address announcement.

Well, don't expect anything extravagant when the records begin falling Friday night while West Virginia plays Pitt in the 104th Backyard Brawl. A simple announcement will have to suffice.

Otherwise, the game could last well into Saturday.

No matter how they play, quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin figure to smash plenty of season school records for passing and receiving. The truth is they are just too close not to fall into the records no matter how the game is going.

Not that it's a big deal to most of them, mind you.

"Not for me. Maybe for other people,'' Smith said. "For me, the thing I'm focusing on is a victory. Stats and numbers and all those things, I could care less about that. I'm trying to focus on getting my team a win.''

A win would be nice, of course. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) and Pitt (5-5, 3-2) are both still right in the hunt for the Big East championship. The winner would still need a few other things to fall right in order to secure the league's automatic berth in a BCS bowl - for WVU, a loss by Louisville at South Florida earlier in the day would be huge - but none of its matters without a win Friday night.

But along the way, Smith, Bailey and Austin are going to smash some single-season school records and probably come within a whisker of a few others. Smith is also within reach of some Big East passing records with two games remaining in the regular season.

Among the most likely to fall in West Virginia's final home game are these:

  • Bailey needs just 7 yards to break David Saunders' 1996 record for receiving yards in a season (1,043). He is also two touchdown catches away from tying Chris Henry (2004) and Darius Reynaud (2007) with 12.
  • Austin, who averages 7.2 receptions per game, needs five more to tie Saunders (1998) and Shawn Foreman (1997) for most receptions in a season (77). He also needs only 141 all-purpose yards to break Steve Slaton's 2006 record of 2,104. Austin averages 196.4 yards on rushes, receptions and punt and kick returns.
  • Smith, who has already broken virtually every single-game school passing record, will likely begin surpassing season records in the first quarter. He needs three attempts, six completions and 111 yards to break Marc Bulger's 1998 records in all those categories (274-for-419, 3,607 yards). Smith also needs just 103 yards to break Bulger's total offense record from that same season (3,515).
  • That all of those records are on the verge of being broken is not at all surprising, of course. Smith already has three of the top five single-game passing totals in school history and Bailey and Austin have contributed mightily to that.

    "Actually, before the season even started, me and Tavon looked at the records,'' Bailey said. "We knew the opportunity would be there in this offense, but we still had to put in a lot of hard work during the offseason and the season. Everything's just been going right for us.''

    First-year West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, whose offense has provided the opportunity to put up all those numbers, maintained all along that he wasn't sure how things would play out as far as who put up the big numbers. Smith was a given, of course, because there was never any question he would be the quarterback and would throw the ball a lot. Austin was also a good bet because of his track record.

    Bailey, though, was more or less an unknown. He caught 24 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2010. This year he has 57 catches for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns, many of them of the spectacular variety.

    "His consistency was one of the things that I questioned coming into the year,'' Holgorsen said of Bailey. "You could tell that he had the ability to make plays and be a good player. Last year, he was very spotty in that. In camp, he was pretty consistent, but until you do it throughout the course of the season you can't really tell.

    "I've been happy with his consistency. We'll get him a year better and he'll be even more consistent and more dynamic next year.''

    The focus for now, though, is on this year. Bailey has three more games (including a bowl) to add to his records, as do Austin and Smith. As he has approached the records, he's even managed to study those who came before him without breaking the marks, guys like Chris Henry and Jock Sanders.

    "Yeah, I've been able to look into all of that as I get close to it,'' Bailey said. "It would actually mean a lot to me. There have been a lot of other great receivers come through here [in recent years] and haven't been able to do it. It's big for me.''

    Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com.

     

     


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