COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The biggest player in West Virginia's 37-31 victory over Maryland at Byrd Stadium on Saturday had to be Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith, who threw for 388 yards.
Completed 36-of-49 passes. Had a terrific day.
Overall, though, the biggest player for WVU right now just might be athletic director Oliver Luck.
Before Saturday's game, there were fireworks on Capital One Field. Army parachutists flew in. (A nod to WVU coach Dana Holgorsen?) The talk, however, was about the logo on the field, near where a couple of the soldiers landed: that of the ACC. It was about the fireworks surrounding Maryland's conference.
According to reports, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, members of WVU's Big East Conference, have applied for membership into the ACC. One report said the two schools are "likely gone" from the Big East.
That would be a devastating blow to the Big East football schools, including West Virginia. Unless, that is, the Mountaineers can jump to the rugged Southeastern Conference.
The odds of that happening increased somewhat when the ACC decided to raise its exit fee to a whopping $20 million, which almost certainly rules out a move of Virginia Tech from the ACC to the SEC.
Those closely following WVU know there have been rumors sending the Mountaineers to the SEC for a couple weeks now. But there is no solid evidence the conference would absorb the school after Texas A&M ultimately joins.
There is evidence, however, WVU officials were blind-sided by Pitt and Syracuse. On Saturday, Luck refused to comment, but one Mountaineer official said the staff didn't learn of the news until the ride to Byrd Stadium.
So now the future of WVU sports might be on the shoulders of Luck. Former school AD Ed Pastilong and staff engineered WVU into the Big East in football, then in basketball. Now Luck, a former Mountaineer and NFL quarterback, might have to shake off another blind-side hit and rally his team.
Winning on Saturday didn't hurt. Playing in a Big East that's again sagging, WVU got past a Maryland team that defeated Miami, Fla., to start the season. The Mountaineers won on the road. They won against an ACC opponent. They solidified their Top 25 ranking to keep a high profile while expansion talks are heated.
No, it wasn't pretty at the end. But a loss would have been hurtful while Luck seeks a home for the school.
Give the WVU players credit. They picked it up by picking it up. After the Norfolk State game, coach Dana Holgorsen said he didn't believe his players understood how important a quick tempo was to his offense.
They understood, or at least listened, against Maryland. In the first half especially, Smith and company got to the line quickly after each play. They had the Terrapin defense on its heels. They rolled up 315 first-half yards.
It was the finest exhibition of a Mountaineer offense since the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2007 season, when WVU defeated Oklahoma 48-28.
"It was exciting," said redshirt senior offensive lineman Don Barclay, who was in the program for that season. "It was exciting to come out and hop on [Maryland] quickly. We had good intensity. That's what you need to do on the road. That's the best possible situation. We just have to finish."
"The tempo for us was fantastic," Holgorsen said. "Of course, when you get things going it's easier to have tempo."