The logic is sound, as is the way the season has gone for the offense. At the beginning of the year, Smith was throwing the ball everywhere and was among the top passers in the country. In part because of that passing attack, Devine opened the season with three straight 100-yard rushing games.
But more recently all of that has changed and Smith says it is because opponents figured out he wasn't going to run the football. His passing numbers and Devine's rushing numbers both dropped as teams simply eliminated defending Smith as a runner from their game plans.
"Defenses didn't really know what to expect out of me, so they kind of played us the same way they did last year. Me being a pass-first quarterback, I was able to kind of exploit that,'' Smith said. "Now teams are saying, 'Well, he's passing the ball well, so let's try and make him run."
If Smith can continue to do just that - to present the defense with a legitimate running threat at the quarterback spot - it should open things up elsewhere. That means more room for Devine to run and fewer pass blitzes against a guy who was perceived as no threat to tuck the ball and go.
The question, though, is whether Smith and the Mountaineers are up to the task. The primary concern that offensive coordinator Mullen has is that if Smith - with a history of foot injuries and a pin in one of them - is hurt running the football, the job falls to true freshman Barry Brunetti, who has virtually no experience. And because freshman Jeremy Johnson left the program, behind Brunetti are receivers Coley White and Brad Starks.
As for Smith, the concern is pretty much the same. He's never been asked to be a runner before and it's not what he does best. When he gets into the middle of the field on a wide-open draw play - as he did a handful of times at UConn - he has to be wondering where the hit is going to come from. So a few times he slid to the ground before contact was made, once infamously a yard short of a first down.
Mullen has no problem with Smith sliding no matter the circumstances, even if it is a yard short of where he needs to be. It's better to lose one of many first downs rather than the team's only quarterback.
"You've got to be smart. You can't be out there trying to run guys over or doing senseless things,'' Smith said. "That's putting the team in jeopardy. Not to say that we don't have backups or guys behind me, but if the starting quarterback goes down, it really hurts the team.
"Running is natural. Some guys have more ball-carrier vision than others, but every quarterback can run. It's just a mindset of whether you want to do it or not.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.