- David Ubben, College Football
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The comparisons? Well, they're inevitable. A quarterback with that kind of efficiency is rare.
This time last year, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III had thrown 13 touchdown passes to just 12 incompletions through three games.
Through two games, West Virginia's Geno Smith has accounted for 10 touchdowns (one rushing) and thrown just nine incompletions.
The rarity has necessitated comparison, and Smith has already taken notice.
"I’ve been hearing all about that, and I want to put a stop to that real soon," Smith said. "RG3’s a great guy and he’s doing good things in the NFL and I’m only a college quarterback hoping to get where he is. We’re two different guys. He has a different style and I have a different style, and I’m pretty sure the only thing we both hope to do is just win games."
After Week 2, Smith's also the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, which Griffin won last season. Like Griffin, Smith would be the program's first Heisman winner.
"It’d be better for the program and the exposure that we’ll get, but it will not make me feel better about myself or a notch on my belt. It’ll just be another trophy that I won," Smith said. "I understand that the Heisman is the biggest individual accolade in sports, and I’m honored to be mentioned among the likes of guys who worked so hard every year and who have done it in the past, but at the same time, my only goal is to win the national championship and I really want to make that clear."
Still, Smith looks like a new man this year and West Virginia a new team ready to make a big dent in the Big 12 during its first year in the league.
"Something happens to guys when they’re seniors," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "His body’s different. He’s gained weight. He’s bigger, he’s faster, he’s more confident, so he’s improved and he’s been practicing like this since the beginning of August. Watching him translate it out there in games has been fun to watch as a coach."
That talk of improvement? Smith says he feels like it's "overblown." The scariest part for defenses? He doesn't feel like he's playing much better than last year, though statistics suggest he is.
Smith completed 66 percent of his passes through two games last season, and never once had a game in which he completed more than 74 percent of his passes.
This year, Smith is completing 88 percent of his passes in two games.
"Honestly, I don’t think I’m playing that great. I’ve been making some good decisions, but I’m really inaccurate at times and guys have been bailing me out," Smith said. "I think some of it’s been overblown. It’s only been Game 2 so I think I can play a lot better. We’ll see. That’ll come with time."
Holgorsen? It's safe to say he disagrees. Opponents likely would as well.
"Obviously, we stress completion percentage, but just monitoring the game and having an idea of where we want him to go with the ball, I feel like he’s doing a really good job of that," Holgorsen said.
Five or six times already this season, Holgorsen says, Smith has avoided a likely sack. Sometimes that means tucking the ball and running on a broken play, like Smith did on his 28-yard touchdown run against Marshall.
Other times, that means buying a couple seconds to dump the ball to a back in the flats.
"He could be a running quarterback if we wanted to, but our offense isn’t going to let you put that tag on him," Holgorsen said.
It's still early, and Holgorsen and Smith don't need any reminders that life in Morgantown will get much tougher in the weeks to come. Maryland treks to Morgantown this Saturday, but for now, Smith has validated his status as the Big 12's best player, and emerged as arguably the best player in college football.
"We have to get a lot better, we’ve got to play a lot better and clean some things up and I think we’ll continue to do that. It’s all a learning process. ... as of right now we’re not near where we want to be come January," Smith said. "The hardest thing to do is not get complacent after you win 3, 4, 5 games and think you’ve figured it all out. Once you do that, that’s when you take a loss."
Implied within Smith's comments is that his team will still be playing come January. So far, he and his teammates have played well enough where the prospect is easy to believe.
The comparisons? Well, they're inevitable. A quarterback with that kind of efficiency is rare.This time last year, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III had thrown 13 touchdown passes to just 12 incompletions through three games.