What went wrong for the Mountaineers?
LUBBOCK, Texas - A couple of times early Saturday evening, in the aftermath of West Virginia's lopsided loss at Texas Tech, Geno Smith seemed simultaneously intent upon taking the lion's share of the responsibility for the defeat while also defending himself.
"Everyone has a bad game. That's really all there is to it,'' Smith said after the 49-14 shellacking at the hands of the Red Raiders. "I don't think I played terribly bad. I just don't think I did enough to win the game.
"And that's the way I measure myself, on wins and losses rather than completions and all that other stuff that people like to build up in the media or whatever.''
Well, no one - media or otherwise - is likely to be building up this performance, be it that by Smith individually or West Virginia on the whole. In fact, what happened at Jones AT&T Stadium was downright perplexing.
Granted, the worst part about WVU's performance was a defense that gave up 676 yards and 49 points. Consider that in just six games this season, opponents have already posted by far the two largest total offense outputs ever by a West Virginia opponent in well over a century of football. Baylor rolled up 700 yards and Texas Tech's 676-yard total was also better than the 638 that Texas Western put up 62 years ago.
The Mountaineers have now given up a 400-yard passing performance (Marshall's Rakeem Cato, 413) and two of 500 yards or a hair away (Baylor's Nick Florence, 581, and Tech's Seth Doege, 499). Before this season only five opposing QBs had thrown for 400 yards in more than 1,200 games against WVU.
Still, that can be - and has been - rendered less than fatal if West Virginia's offense simply scores even more. But for the first time all season, that offense wasn't just slowed, it was essentially stopped. Until Smith led a meaningless touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, the offense that had 10-touchdown performances in three of its last six games had but one. And that came on a drive that covered just 54 yards.
"There were a number of things that happened. Obviously, we didn't get the job done,'' Smith said. "We didn't come in with the right mind frame. I think we had a good game plan. I think we had a great week of practice. We were focused coming in. But I just think we got out there on the field and didn't do enough to win the game, and that's really all there is to it.''
Certainly Tech's defense gets some credit. The Red Raiders did, after all, start the game ranked No. 2 in the nation in total defense. And with the exception perhaps of Maryland, good defenses are not something the Mountaineers have faced this season.
But one touchdown until the outcome was well in hand? Smith, who had thrown just 38 incompletions in the first five games, threw 26 against a Tech team that lost one of its starting cornerbacks early in the game to injury. He lost favorite receiver Stedman Bailey to a foot injury in the second half, but he was also overthrowing Bailey, Tavon Austin and almost everyone else much of the day. He finished his day 29-for-55 for 275 yards.
"They did a great job of keeping everything in front of them,'' Smith said. "They forced us into some third-and-long situations. We had some tough situations, but I feel like I should have done a better job putting the ball in play and keeping us above the chains.''
Not that it matters, but Smith still hasn't thrown an interception and he's now getting close enough to the NCAA records that's its actually worth considering. His streak of 313 attempts without one (dating back to the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale at South Florida last season) is 67 away from breaking Russell Wilson's all-time NCAA record of 379. And more immediately, his 259 this season are just 13 away from breaking the single-season mark of 271 set by Fresno State's Trent Dilfer in 1993.
Those records, though, were made all the more amazing by what Smith was able to accomplish while continuing it - throwing into the teeth of defenses for multiple touchdowns (the count is 25 this season and 30 since his last pick) and converting big plays. Against Tech, he did neither, throwing for just one TD and going 0-for-5 on fourth-down pass attempts (WVU did convert two fourth downs, but both on runs).
"I play the game the way I always do. It's just one of those games that everyone has,'' Smith said. "Like I said, everyone has a game or two. I don't think I played terribly terrible or awful. I just think I didn't do enough within the game to get it done. You know, I put a hundred percent of that blame on myself because I know I can do a lot better.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.