Smith’s 8 TD passes fuel dazzling win
No. 9 West Virginia and the Big 12, perfect together.
Geno Smith and the fast-moving, high-scoring Mountaineers proved they fit right in with their new conference, outracing No. 25 Baylor 70-63 on Saturday in the Big 12’s highest-scoring game ever.
Smith tied a conference mark with eight touchdown passes and narrowly missed another one with 656 yards passing.
”It did feel like one of those classic Texas shootouts,” said Smith, whose school moved over from the Big East this season. ”That’s kind of what the Big 12 is about.”
Smith outdueled Baylor’s Nick Florence, who broke Heisman Trophy-winning predecessor Robert Griffin III’s school record with 581 yards. Florence threw for five TDs.
School, conference and FBS marks all got rewritten in this one.
The game also set a new record for the most points scored in a game involving a team ranked in The Associated Press poll. The previous mark of 124 was set in No. 12 Oklahoma’s 82-42 win over Colorado in 1980.
How wild was it? Smith, the early Heisman front-runner, had more TD passes than incompletions (six). He finished 45 of 51 and still doesn’t have an interception this season.
”Can you please tell me how you can improve on that?” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Maybe not on offense, but both defenses have plenty of work to do.
West Virginia amassed a school-record 807 yards and the teams combined for 1,507 yards of offense and 67 first downs. Six receivers had at least 100 yards receiving.
The Bears’ Terrance Williams set a Big 12 record with 314 yards receiving. The old mark was set minutes earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, who had 303 yards and a school-record five TDs.
Williams’ 8-yard scoring catch brought Baylor (3-1) within 70-63 with 3:08 left.
But Dustin Garrison ran for 17 yards on third down and the Mountaineers ran out the clock to snap Baylor’s nine-game winning streak, the second-longest in the nation.
”We expect to score that many points a game,” Florence said. ”But the goal is to score more than our opponent and we came up a little short today.”
The combined 19 touchdowns tied an FBS mark, last reached when Navy beat North Texas 74-62 in 2007. That matchup set the FBS record for most points in a regulation game at 136.
Baylor, meanwhile, tied an FBS mark for the most points scored by a losing team.
Among the other records, Smith set school single-game marks for completions, yards and touchdown passes.
Bailey and Tavon Austin became the first FBS teammates with 200 yards receiving since 2007.
Going back to the Orange Bowl, West Virginia has scored 10 touchdowns three times in its last five games.
”Statistically, it’s my best game ever,” Smith said. ”But I think it’s more about the team, and I think it just lets us know that we’re going to have to battle it out every week against some really tough teams in the Big 12.
”I could care less about a Heisman Trophy. The big thing for us what that we won the game today. We’re on a mission, and we want to win them all.”
West Virginia went ahead for good early in the third quarter, but Baylor almost always had an answer.
Austin made long touchdown grabs three minutes apart while Baylor punted and missed a long field goal. Smith stayed in a groove, throwing three passes of 45 yards or more in the third quarter alone. His 47-yarder to Bailey set up Andrew Buie’s second short TD run for a 56-35 lead.
The way this game was going, though, no cushion was safe.
Williams caught a 37-yard scoring pass from Florence and, after Baylor’s defense forced a rare punt, Florence’s sneak brought the Bears within 56-49, and there was still 14:14 left.
But Bailey scored on TD grabs of 87 and 39 yards after that.
”We fought hard,” said Baylor coach Art Briles. ”But we didn’t respond well enough to win the game.”
Holgorsen talked at length about how impatient he got watching Maryland’s offense run the clock down before each snap last week.
There was no chance of a slowdown from Baylor.
The teams scored on 10 of their final 13 possessions of the first half. Seven of those drives lasted under two minutes.
Smith, whose passing yardage total was 5 yards shy of the Big 12 mark, completed a school-record 14 straight passes at one point. After a dropped pass, Smith completed 12 more in a row.
Smith’s fourth TD pass came with 29 seconds left until halftime, but that was more than enough time for Florence. On second down he threw down the left sideline to Lanear Sampson, who juked two defenders and went 67 yards untouched to tie the score at 35-35.
The Mountaineers now must hope they can generate points on the road when they head to No. 12 Texas and Texas Tech over the next two weeks.
”Not every Big 12 game is like this,” Holgorsen said.