MORGANTOWN - In a perfect world, Jeff Mullen would likely scoff at the idea of turning his only experienced quarterback into a runner. Why run the risk given that Geno Smith is better suited to do other things and his only backup is an untested true freshman?
Not coincidentally, in that same perfect world Smith would rather not be a running quarterback, either. He's said time and again that others on West Virginia's football team are far better equipped to carry the ball, and his preferred job is simply to get those guys the football.
Yet Smith now finds himself running the football more and more as the Mountaineers attempt to diversify their offense and escape a rather prolonged scoring drought. In WVU's last game, an overtime loss at Connecticut, Smith carried the ball 15 times and gained 64 yards.
And Smith's reaction to suddenly being asked to do what he obviously prefers not to? Well, it's pretty much the same as Mullen's. You have to do what you have to do.
"Whatever's best for the team,'' Smith said.
And this, it appears, is what's best for the team, at least from the standpoint of moving the football.
Defenses in the recent past have always struggled against West Virginia because of the threat that quarterbacks Pat White or Jarrett Brown would beat them with their legs. This year those same defenses have not considered Smith a threat to run.
The result is that more defensive attention has been focused on tailback Noel Devine who, while also battling a foot injury, has been held to under 100 yards in four of the last five games. That's one of the reasons the Mountaineers have struggled to move the ball.
The theory is that if those defenses are forced to honor Smith's ability to run the ball, they will be forced to pay less attention to Devine. But in order to do that, Smith has to take running the ball seriously and do it successfully.
And that's what he's trying to do.
"Obviously teams are playing us different than they played Jarrett and Pat,'' Smith said. "They understand that my first option is not to run, so they've kind of taken away some of the things with Noel. It's my job to relieve some of that pressure from him and make the defense respect me, as well.''