LANDOVER, Md. - Mickey Matthews was full of praise for Geno Smith Saturday evening. And why not?
After all, the James Madison coach had just watched Smith, West Virginia's senior quarterback, dissect his James Madison football team for 411 passing yards and five touchdowns. Smith was so good that, for the second week in a row, he had as many touchdowns as incompletions.
In games against Marshall and JMU this season, Smith is now 66-for-75 for 734 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
Oddly enough, though, Matthews reserved his highest praise for Smith not addressed to his throwing, but his ability to move around in the pocket.
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds after an off-season of weight and strength training, Smith is looking more and more the part of a big, strong, NFL-style quarterback.
"You just can't sack the guy. He's quicker than our defensive linemen,'' Matthews said. "When I was at Georgia, we used to play Peyton Manning [at Tennessee], and that was the biggest problem we had with him. We couldn't sack Peyton because he was bigger than our defensive linemen.
"That's what Geno is. We're big up front defensively, but we couldn't bring him down.''
Indeed, once again - this is the third straight game - Smith was not sacked. It didn't happen in the Orange Bowl rout of Clemson or the opener against Marshall or in Saturday's 42-12 win over James Madison at FedEx Field.
Yes, Smith was hit a few times by the Dukes, which was actually unusual. Marshall managed to hit him only once two weeks ago in the opener.
Smith's weight and strength make a difference now. Just before the end of the first half, Smith was drilled perhaps as hard as he will be hit all season. It came just after he released a pass and was a clean hit, nothing late or dirty.
The thing about it, though, was that Smith bounced right up. One of the guys who hit him, 6-2, 210-pound safety (and Maryland transfer) Titus Till, did not. He remained on the ground and had to be helped up and off the field.
Afterward, Smith shrugged off his added size and strength.
"I've always taken some hits,'' he said. "Fortunately, I probably have some strong bones.''
But if Smith doesn't see it as a big advantage, others do, including Matthews.
"He's a big guy,'' Matthews said. "And he plays that way.''