As Texas Tech cornerback Bruce Jones batted down a Geno Smith pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, the vaunted West Virginia quarterback could do nothing else but shake his head and look up.
The pass breakup forced another turnover on downs — West Virginia’s fifth of the day — and the Mountaineers’ offense continued its tailspin.
Smith, who garnered much of the early Heisman Trophy talk through the first six weeks of the season, had his worst performance of the year in a lopsided 49-14 loss to Tech on Saturday afternoon at Jones AT&T Stadium.
“There’s no excuses for what happened today,” said Smith, who finished 29-of-55 passing for 275 yards. “I was off. I wasn’t hitting my targets, I wasn’t hitting my reads — I can say a number of things I did wrong but overall it’s a team game and we win as a team we lose as a team.”
West Virginia (5-1, 2-1 in Big 12 Conference) did a good job of losing as a team Saturday, getting beat on all sides of the ball against the Red Raiders, according to Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen.
Tech scored early and often, stopped the Mountaineers’ high-powered offense and kept dangerous West Virginia kick return men at bay.
“The bottom line’s this: they played better than we did on all three sides of the ball,” said Holgorsen, who coached at Tech from 2000 to 2007. “They played harder than we did. They out-coached us. We let the situation get to us. We’re never going to use weather or injuries as an excuse. We just didn’t play very well.”
Smith entered Saturday’s game completing just over 81 percent of his passes, throwing 24 touchdowns and no interceptions through five games — all wins.
He visibly struggled Saturday, with the infamous Lubbock wind doing work on some of his passes. Holgorsen thought the wind affected Smith a bit, but Smith said the wind didn’t bother him.
What Holgorsen and Smith did agree on, though, was that there was no clear-cut reason as to why the Mountaineers were blown out.
Failing to get much of a run game going until the second half, receivers not making plays and Smith missing targets are just a few of the reasons.
Those were just some of the offensive woes.
Seth Doege and the Red Raiders (5-1, 2-1) tore up the Mountaineers’ already haggard defense to the tune of 676 yards.
Cornerback Pat Miller was still scratching his head after the game, trying to figure out what went wrong.
What made Saturday’s loss even more perplexing is the Mountaineers had probably their best week of practice, Miller said.
“There’s no explanation and no excuses,” said Miller, who had four tackles. “If anything, we’re going to put it all on ourself because we’re the ones out there playing no matter. What we could have made something happen but we didn’t.”
West Virginia will have little time to figure out the exactitudes of the throttling, now turning around to host a dangerous No. 6 Kansas State team.
The Wildcats, after holding on against Iowa State on Saturday, 27-21, are now the only remaining undefeated Big 12 team.
“It’s tough. Everybody feels bad because we didn’t leave it all out on the field today,” Miller said. “We left plays on the field all game. This is our first loss of the year so we just got to go back to practice and just bounce back.”
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