"I'm not going to sit here and point fingers at anybody else. I'm the leader of this team and I'm the leader of the offense. As an offense we didn't do enough. If [Kansas State] scores points, so what? We have to go out there and match it. We can't worry about the defense. We have to worry about ourselves.''
-Geno Smith, after the Kansas State game [via the Charleston Gazette]
Reading those words, and the words that were uttered in much the same vein after the Texas Tech loss, you see a man who is shouldering a large part of the blame for the Mountaineers' recent ills. They're heavy words, and the burden Smith thinks he has to carry is a heavy one. If he wants to win games---and there is no question he does---he understands that his offense has to overcome a lot of deficiencies among the defense and special teams. And for a while, it worked just fine. But when some adversity hit, when Texas Tech began getting pressure, stuffing the run, and blanketing our receivers on short underneath routes, all of a sudden Smith couldn't do it all anymore. He couldn't make every single throw, catch every single ball and break every single tackle. He may have tried, but nobody is capable of that. And then, suddenly, he wasn't entirely capable of just making the throws anymore.
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to be critical of Geno Smith. The guy is probably the best quarterback to ever play for WVU. He is still a Heisman contender, he has led the team to some thrilling victories, and he represents the university with class and dignity. By all accounts, he's the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to date. Well, except maybe he would spend too much time watching film and not enough time hanging out with your daughter to keep her happy. But maybe that's part of the problem.
Allow me to speak from a bit of personal experience for a minute. I wasn't a bad athlete back in my day. I was far from the best, far from ever turning pro in anything, and actually far from the level of our Mountaineer players that we follow so closely. But I played small college athletics and I was honorable mention all-conference a couple times. I could hold my own.
But my biggest detriment that hindered me from playing to the best of my ability was that I cared too much. I want to win and to perform well so badly that I often put undue pressure on myself to try to do more than I could do, and more than what was asked of me or required of me in a given situation. If the team was losing or I had been performing poorly, I tried to make up for it all at once, which often resulted in poor mechanics or, even worse, poor focus on the task at hand. If the game was tight and I knew all we needed was one play, I could buckle down and get the job done. But I wasn't good at just playing the next play all the time, particularly when we were down.
I think the same thing is happening with Geno, and I don't think I'm the only one who sees it. Listen to what Holgorsen says in response to a question at the 14:58 mark about Geno in Tuesday's presser [via BlueGoldNews.com]:
He recognizes that the best thing for Geno to do is to play within the system. Clearly, Geno is trying to be a leader and shoulder responsibility for what's going on. And that's an admirable quality. But to hear Holgorsen, he recognizes that Geno is putting undue pressure on himself and trying to make a big play on every play, and that pressure is actually hampering his performance.
Which brings us back to what I said earlier about my own performance. I think Geno cares too much. He wants so badly to have a great season---not for himself, but because he wants the team to win. He puts in extra practice and film study and generally does whatever he can to be prepared for the game that week. And when the game comes along, he has worked so hard and invested so much that he can't bare to lose. So when things start going wrong, he wants to fix it all at once. He wants to make the big play that will bring his teammates and the crowd back into the game. He wants to do something that will fire up the WVU defense, or maybe put enough pressure on the other team that they begin to crack a bit.
But the problem is, sometimes that's not the right play. And the bigger problem is, always he has 10 other guys on offense and 11 on defense that he needs to trust to help him out. He needs to take what the defense is giving him and run the plays that the alignment dictates, even if that play is a run up the middle or a short screen. He needs to trust his linemen to block properly and his backs and receivers to pick up the yardage that is available rather than try to force something down the field or, even worse, because he has lost focus of the moment, to miss on the throw down the field because he's worried so much about being down by 14 that he knows he can't miss on the throw. He needs to trust his defense (difficult as that may be) to make enough stops to win the game. And he needs to realize that if he does everything that is asked of him and only what is asked of him, the blame does not fall on him.
So Geno, thank you for being a leader. Thank you for caring so much about winning football games for West Virginia University. And thank you for leaving your heart on the field for us. But please understand, you don't have to do it all on your own. It's not all on you. You have a staff of bright young coaches, dozens of talented teammates and thousands of Mountaineer faithful to help you get it done.