Posted: Sunday September 30, 2012 9:17PM ; Updated: Monday October 1, 2012 3:01PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL OVERTIME

More video-game football in store when West Virginia, Texas meet

Story Highlights

WVU's shootout with Baylor could be the first of many for the Mountaineers in 2012

Alabama's biggest SEC challenger should emerge after this week's slate of games

Plus: Current BCS forecast, spreading the field, a triple-threat quarterback, more

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West Virginia's Geno Smith
Quarterback Geno Smith completed 45-of-51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns in West Virginia's Big 12 debut.
AP
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Though Texas' matchup with Oklahoma State didn't kick off for another seven hours, Mack Brown did not get to watch West Virginia's 70-63 win over Baylor Saturday afternoon. The Longhorns' hotel in Oklahoma City didn't carry FX, so Brown couldn't watch the quarterback Texas plays next, Geno Smith, complete 45-of-51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. He did not see West Virginia put up 807 yards in its first Big 12 game.

It was probably for the best.

"We just played against a team [Oklahoma State] that had scored 62 [in its previous game], and now we're playing a team that just scored 70," Brown said Sunday. "It's crazy."

Crazy was the operative word to describe a day in which college football's increasing trend of video-game scores and stats seemed to reach new levels of absurdity. The Mountaineers and Bears combined for 1,507 yards. Baylor quarterback Nick Florence threw for a school-record 581 yards. Two different receivers, West Virginia's Stedman Bailey and Baylor's Terrance Williams, eclipsed the 300-yard mark. The teams tied the FBS record for combined touchdowns (19) in a single game and came within a field goal of the combined points record with 133. (There were three missed field goals.)

Given that No. 8 West Virginia has scored at least 69 points in three of its past five games (dating back to last year's Orange Bowl), and that Smith, the new Heisman favorite, is completing a ridiculous 83.4 percent of his 169 pass attempts (just ahead of 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III's four-game mark of 82.1), and that the Mountaineers' defense appears to be as woeful as their offense is wonderful, can we expect such de facto 7-on-7 games to become the norm for West Virginia this season?

"Not every Big 12 game is like this," insisted Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen, a 10-year league veteran going back to his days as an assistant. "Not everyone is like that. Next week will be different."

But will it?

No. 11 Texas' dramatic 41-36 win at Oklahoma State may not have shattered records, but it was every bit the type of frenetic, fast-paced track meet that's come to symbolize Big 12 football over the past five years. It also served as a national coming-out party for Texas' own incredibly efficient quarterback, sophomore David Ash.

The same player who recorded a cringe-worthy 4-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a freshman last season and took until the final preseason scrimmage in August to win Texas' starting job deftly led the Longhorns on a game-winning touchdown drive. On fourth-and-six from his own 29-yard line -- with the game on the line and Boone Pickens Stadium rocking -- Ash fired a dart through the middle of the Oklahoma State defense to tight end D.J. Grant for a 29-yard gain. Two plays later, he lofted a 32-yard pass down the right sideline that receiver Mike Davis grabbed over Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert. That set up running back Joe Bergeron's game-winning two-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left.

Ash finished 30-of-37 with 304 yards, three touchdowns and his first interception of the season. "He was an interception away from doing everything perfect," said Brown.

Now Ash sits at No. 2 on the national pass efficiency chart -- right behind Smith.

Washington State coach Mike Leach is still widely regarded as the nation's preeminent passing guru, and Holgorsen learned his trade from Leach both as player at Iowa Wesleyan in the early '90s and as a Texas Tech assistant from 2000-07. But at this point, the 41-year-old Holgorsen has surpassed his mentor. At three different stops (Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia), Holgorsen has now coached three quarterbacks (Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Smith) who have each topped the last in impeccable succession.

Going back to last year's Orange Bowl, Smith has now thrown 26 touchdown passes and no interceptions. To put his 45-of-51 masterpiece in perspective, consider that Andrew Luck (who happened to attend Saturday's game as a guest of his father, Oliver, West Virginia's athletic director) completed a nearly identical 46-of-50 throws at his Pro Day in March -- against no defenders. (Insert Baylor defense joke here.) And it certainly helps to have a dynamic a pair of receivers like Bailey (158.8 yards per game) and Tavon Austin (140.0).

"They're as good an offense as I've ever seen, anywhere," said Brown.

Brown's defense is far more talented than the ones Smith has been torching of late, but Texas still allowed 576 yards Saturday to a team running nearly the exact same offense as West Virginia. (Holgorsen did install it.) Oklahoma State exploited Texas' young linebackers in the running game. Joseph Randle sprang for 199 yards on 25 carries.

West Virginia lacks the Cowboys' balance, which may make it easier for the 'Horns to pressure Smith. And the Mountaineers certainly seem ill-equipped to slow down Texas' power running game. Perhaps the 'Horns will control the clock and keep Smith and Co. off the field.

Or perhaps that's archaic thinking. Perhaps we can expect every Mountaineers game to be a race to 70 points, and perhaps Holgorsen is merely leading us down a path to eventually produce the sport's first 99-percent passer.

"[The Big 12] is a fun league," said Brown. "It's a league that can make good defenses look bad."

In that case, heaven help the bad defenses. Baylor tied an FBS record for most points scored in regulation in a loss. Here's guessing all kinds of weird records will go up in smoke by the time West Virginia makes it way through the season.

 
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