"Geno is a great player," Nehlen said. "But he's also a great leader and a great person. I think the fans see that and connect with that."
"I see it in practice every day," Alston said. "Geno walks around the Mountainlair with an iPad watching film for the next week."
"I don't even have an iPad," he said.
Smith said he wanted the season to be special as well, heading into the Big 12. But after a five-game slide, "we didn't want to hang our heads. This is a blue-collar state and we wanted to represent them the same way."
As for his jump into the stands, Smith smiled.
"It was a spur of the moment thing to go in the stands and sing 'Country Roads'," he said. "I hope it becomes a tradition."
Perhaps it will to others. Smith, though, one of the finest, if not the finest, quarterback to ever hit Touchdown City, won't get that chance at Puskar Stadium again. He'll be a high NFL draft pick. He should, but probably won't, get Heisman Trophy voting love.
Which leads us directly to Austin, the country's most dynamic player. Like Smith, he probably won't get invited to New York and the ceremonies. The television networks have pounded the names of Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Marqise Lee into the brains of voters.
But Mountaineer fans know. They understand how very special that 5-foot-9, 171-pound senior is when a ball is given to him. And they showed Austin on Saturday.
"I felt a lot of love," Austin, a soft-spoken man, said.
He finished with 187 total yards and a one-yard touchdown with the crowd chanting, "Tavon, Tavon, Tavon." Out of the backfield, he'd just rushed 15 yards to reach the Kansas 1-yard line. He was rewarded, much to the crowd's delight.
"It's something I always dreamed of when I was a little kid," Austin said. "To hear people screaming your name. It's nice to live it."
"It felt good walking around the stadium, shaking hands," he said. "That's my second family."
And on Saturday, the family gathered for one final celebration with the seniors.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.