Dana Holgorsen made official today in his press conference what many of us believed all along - Stedman Bailey will play his last game in a Mountaineer uniform on Saturday, December 29, 2012, in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. This comes as no surprise to most WVU fans, as Steddy B came to Morgantown with high school buddy Geno Smith and Maryland prep standout Tavon Austin. Bailey was redshirted his true freshman season while Smith and Austin played sparingly.
In his redshirt freshman season, Bailey showed flashes of brilliance, hauling in 5 catches for 72 yards in a comeback win against Marshall and following that up with 4 balls for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns the next week against Maryland and one catch for a 5-yard touchdown at LSU. Though he went quiet for much of the rest of the season, he had a highlight grab for a touchdown against NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
The hiring of Dana Holgorsen and his implementation of an Air Raid offense saw Stedman's stats explode in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, Bailey had a total of 7 100-yard games and finished with 72 catches for 1279 yards and 12 touchdowns, including ridiculous plays against LSU, UConn, Bowling Green, Rutgers, the "tag" play for a deciding score against Pitt, and a diving snare to set up a game-winning field goal against USF. Oh yeah and another 5 catches for 82 yards and a score in the 70-point Orange Bowl outburst in his back yard.
As if we thought 2011 was a great season, Steddy had even better things in store for us in 2012 that was hampered by an ankle injury midway through the season that contributed to WVU's 5-game losing streak. After a couple of routine 100-yard games against Marshall and James Madison and an off-week against Maryland (one of only two games he was held without a touchdown), Bailey lit up the WVU record books, hauling in 13 passes for 303 yards and 5 touchdowns in a wild 70-63 win over Baylor in the Mountaineers' first ever Big 12 game. Three more touchdowns (one a diving snag in the back of the endzone) helped WVU topple Texas in front of a record crowd in Austin, Texas, the very next week. After coming back from that ankle injury where he was held to only 2 catches (1 for the go-ahead touchdown in the second overtime) by TCU, Bailey went back to work against Oklahoma State (14 receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown on an underthrown ball from backup Paul Millard where Bailey adjusted in mid-air) and Oklahoma (13/205/4) helped put his season back on track. He closed his home career in style, capping a blowout win over Kansas with 11 catches for 159 yards and 2 more touchdowns bringing his total to 106 catches for 1501 yards and a nation-best 23 touchdowns.
Those stats earned Bailey first-team all Big 12 honors, a couple mentions on various All-American teams, and a spot as a finalist for the prestigious Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's best receiver. All while playing blue-collar, Mountaineer football and representing himself with class both on and off the field. Highlight-reel plays, clutch catches, consistency, intensity---Stedman has it all, and will certainly go down in history of one of WVU's all-time greats. He also has great potential as a pro, with great speed, route-running and hands more than making up for any perceived lack of size. It will be fun to watch where he gets picked in the 2013 NFL draft, and we will be sure to have coverage of that as well once the season winds down.
On behalf of the gang a The Smoking Musket, thank you, Stedman, for your time playing for West Virginia University. It has been our pleasure watching you represent our university, and we wish you all the best wherever your future endeavors may take you. Remember: Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer.
[stats via WVUStats.com]