MORGANTOWN (AP) — There’s no quit in Geno Smith.
The West Virginia quarterback was considered a front-runner in the Heisman Trophy race only a few weeks ago as he led the Mountaineers to a 5-0 start and a Top 5 ranking.
Two losses later, Smith has the task of pulling both himself and No. 23 West Virginia (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) out of a rut at home against TCU (5-3, 2-3) on Saturday.
Smith had 24 touchdown passes in five games. He has just two in back-to-back losses.
Now that the spotlight isn’t so bright and the Mountaineers have tumbled to sixth in the Big 12 standings, the senior isn’t down on himself.
“The main thing is you have to go into each game with the intent to win every one of them,” Smith said. “You’ve got to keep things in perspective.
“I remember when I was in the stretch of throwing 24 touchdowns and no interceptions and everyone was raving about it, but I kept saying that’s just how football goes. I put everything behind me, and just try to do my best on every play.”
Smith’s coaches say he has an uncanny ability to stay consistent and level-headed mentally.
It didn’t change when he threw for 656 and eight touchdowns in West Virginia’s Big 12 debut against Baylor, or in recent losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State when the Mountaineers were outscored by a combined 76 points.
“He’s going to treat each game the same, and I think that’s a great attribute to have,” said West Virginia quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital. “He’s always the same guy, regardless. All the kid wants to do is play football and win games. He’s a competitor and he will take each loss hard, but the thing I love about him is that he comes back in even more hungry the next day to get better and try to win.”
Coach Dana Holgorsen said that while Smith didn’t have any physical fatigue, a recent bye week came at a good time for the quarterback.
Holgorsen reiterated this week that Smith took too much blame for the 55-14 loss to Kansas State, one of the worst home losses in school history.
“He needs to handle the loss a little bit better,” Holgorsen said. “There are a whole bunch of people that play in the game, and coaches that are involved in the game. So there are a whole lot of people that can accept responsibility for the game, whether it’s good or bad. He’s not responsible for a loss.”
But Spavital pointed out Smith is quick to fall on the sword after a loss because it comes natural.
“That’s just him,” Spavital said. “He’s the quarterback, and he has that whole persona of ‘If I lose, I’ll take all the blame.’ “
Smith quickly dismissed Holgorsen’s notions, claiming that although he is always inward-looking after a loss, he never loses perspective of the bigger picture.
“Dana knows that I’m my own biggest critic and I’m always going to be hard on myself,” Smith said. “I think he understands that it’s just my competitive nature and I’m never going to be hard on myself to the point where I would lose confidence.
“No one man can win or lose a game. But as the quarterback, I control a lot of what’s going on out on the field, which is why I’m so hard on myself — because I want to win them all.”
And if and the Mountaineers can win out, despite the setbacks the final chapter of Smith’s record-setting career would end on a high note.