Slowing Geno Smith won't be easy

Longhorns have been prone to giving up explosive plays this season

Updated: October 3, 2012, 11:10 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- The TV flickered to life and Geno Smith flashed across the screen. Again and again.

It was more than four hours before Texas would take the field against Oklahoma State. The Longhorns were on their bus to Stillwater, passing the time by watching some game from some part of the country.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Rob Christy/US PresswireWest Virginia signal-caller Geno Smith has thrown for 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.
"Every five minutes, they had Geno coming on with a touchdown pass," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Now, this bunch is sitting and watching this."

After the game, on the plane ride home, there were those infernal TVs in the headrests.

"There are highlights on there," Brown said. "It was Geno talking. It was the receivers talking. It was eight touchdowns. It was breaking a national record with 803 yards of offense. So we didn't need a scouting report."

"By the time we got home, our defense and defensive coaches had seen enough."

And the week was just hours old. Time enough to get into a panic. Not nearly enough time to prepare.

"You're asking us to stop, in three days' time, what they just run in their sleep," Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of what was expected of the Longhorns as they prepare this week to face Smith and his Mountaineers on Saturday.

No doubt sleep has been fitful for the Longhorns this week, and most likely laced with more than a few nightmares. Smith is the type of player who can do that. No one has stopped the senior quarterback.

Then again, there is the argument that Smith hasn't really played anyone. Baylor is the sieve of the Southwest. Maryland? Marshall? James Madison? Please. The cast of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" has more depth and talent.

That's not to say Texas is exactly locked and loaded on defense. At least not against talented teams. Remember when Texas said it was going to keep Robert Griffin III from getting the Heisman?

"He had it won by halftime," Diaz said.

Since that game, Texas has given up 20 pass plays of 20-plus yards. Wyoming's Brett Smith -- "Who?" you ask -- torched the Texas defense. What, then, can be expected when a player who has better stats than RG3 at this point last year and has more yards on his own than 38 entire FBS teams lines up against the Texas defense? Duck and cover comes to mind.

But Texas has yet to show it can do the latter. Oklahoma State freshman J.W. Walsh threw against the Longhorns last weekend for an average of 17 yards per completion.

As for ducking, well, tackling has been an issue. A huge issue. In fact, Texas -- already Kate Moss thin at linebacker without Jordan Hicks -- might have to shuffle the deck and go with even younger players at that position, because the older players cannot tackle.

"At some point, it is going to be hard to play a guy who you can't trust to get a guy on the ground," Diaz said. "But that being said, we have what we have."

And West Virginia has what it has. Therein lies the issue bigger than Bevo's backside -- not that either side's recent performances have cut into the Longhorns' bravado.

"We're ready to step up and rise to the occasion," cornerback Carrington Byndom said.

Mind you, this was Monday morning. Film study for Texas typically begins Monday afternoon. But, as Brown said, Texas has already seen plenty of Smith.

What Texas has seen and what it is coming to accept is that it cannot stop Smith. He is going to get his. So far this season, that has meant about 478 total yards of offense per game, an average of five touchdown passes per game and at least four pass plays of 20 or more yards per game.

"Anytime you play a great quarterback, you have to find some way to upset his rhythm and accept the fact that he is going to get in a rhythm," Diaz said. "You have to sort of manage those situations."

In essence, don't let the brush fire become a wildfire. But the issue remains that both Texas' defense and WVU's offense do so many things to fan the flames.

For the Mountaineers, it is about the number of skill people they are able to get on the field at one time and where they are able to put them. Each play holds a run and pass component and is designed to put a fast offensive guy in space, one-on-one against a defensive player.

Against Texas, it has almost been a foregone conclusion that the offensive player will win that matchup. Joseph Randle against Kenny Vaccaro and Adrian Phillips does a more-than-adequate job of making that point.

How Texas will have to counter is with speed and getting numbers to the ball. This was supposed to be a strength of Texas' defense, after all. The Longhorns were supposed to be able to get sideline to sideline better than any team before them, and therefore limit an offense's explosive plays.

That hasn't happened yet.

Diaz is not na´ve enough to believe that Texas can hold West Virginia to considerably fewer yards than the 576 Oklahoma State put up. In that case, the plan has to be about fighting Smith's outbursts with a few of his own.

"You have to find some way to get your own explosive plays," Diaz said. "Tip a ball up in the air for an interception. Can we get a ball out on a fumble? That is what these games require to win."

Do that, and maybe Texas can watch a few of its own highlights when the televisions flicker on late Saturday night.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation