Mountaineers Looking to Be Opportunistic

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- This has been a season like no other for West Virginia's 7-5 football team.

The Mountaineers, who will face 7-5 Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, will never play another inaugural year in the Big 12.

WVU likely will never again start a more talented trio of players than quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

Smith, who produced back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons, is WVU's career leader in nearly every major passing category. He's expected to be the first quarterback selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Austin, who should be among the first receivers drafted, is the Mountaineers' all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and all- purpose yards.

Bailey, who will enter the draft a year early, is the Mountaineers' career leader in touchdown receptions. His 23 TD catches this season ranks No. 3 all-time in FBS history.

Despite the efforts of Smith, Austin and Bailey, WVU's porous defense -- ranked No. 107 out of 120 teams -- couldn't keep pace with its record-setting offense. As a result, Smith's Heisman Trophy candidacy took a tumble and the Mountaineers went 2-5 down the stretch.

"Trying to explain to everybody what the Big 12 is all about is difficult," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said Friday. …