MORGANTOWN-There is at least one Mountaineer player, junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey, who expects West Virginia's offense to be more like the one that put up 70 points against Clemson in the Orange Bowl rather than the one that struggled to tally 23 in a loss to Big East rival Syracuse.
"People are still thinking today that was a fluke," said Bailey. "This is our second year in the offense. It can only get better."
Words that would be hard to argue against seeing that the old gold and blue return all-Big East quarterback Geno Smith as well as Special Teams Player of the Year Tavon Austin. Add in Bailey, who led the Mountaineers in receiving yards (1,279), average (17.8 ypc) and touchdown catches (12), and an offensive front that brings back starters Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun, Quinton Spain and Pat Eger and returns senior Josh Jenkins, who missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury.
Photo Courtesy of Brent Kepner
West Virginia University junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey says he expects the Mountaineer offense to produce 50 points per game this season.
"I don't expect nothing less than 50 points per game, really, for us" said a confident Bailey.
Strong words since the redshirt junior and his teammates will be the "new-kids-on-the-block" as WVU enters its inaugural season as members of the Big 12. A conference that includes three teams-Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor-that were ranked among the top five nationally on offense as well as a University of Texas squad that ranked No. 11 on defense in the country.
"We understand the challenges that are in front of us. But, we also know that we (the offense) will present plenty of challenges for defenses that will try and stop us."
That first challenge revolves around WVU's senior signal-caller.
Smith, who made the most of his first season under center to complete 241-of-372 attempts for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns, exploded onto the collegiate scene in his first year under new head coach Dana Holgorsen's passing attack. The Florida-native culminated his second season as the Mountaineers' starter by completing 346-of-526 passes for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.
WVU's offensive leader saved his best for last as he went 32-of-43 for 407 yards and accounted for seven touchdowns in the 37-point win over the Tigers-earning the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl MVP.
As that were not enough, throw in Austin, perhaps the second best player in the Orange Bowl, and Bailey and you have one of the best passing attacks in the country, let alone the Big 12.
"I know Dana has produced a couple of Biletnikoff winners (Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon)," explained Bailey. "Me and Tavon were added to that list, which is pretty exciting. We compliment each other in a very good way.
"I don't think it's safe to double-team either one of us because that would mean one-on-one coverage for him or myself. We just want to have another season like last year, have success."
That means getting through a trio of non-conference games-Marshall, James Madison and Maryland-without stubbing their toes, win road games at Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State and then take care of business against the five league members (Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas) slated to visit Milan Puskar Stadium this fall.
"I'm sure a lot of people (in the Big 12) are looking at that and saying, 'These guys haven't seen us yet. Those things won't happen to us.' I'm quite sure we have a target on our head.
But, we've been able to go toe-to-toe with one of the best defenses in the country (referring to WVU's 47-21 loss to LSU)."
One thing is for certain. West Virginia's fans will see a confident Mountaineer squad when its opens the 2012 season in the final Friends of Coal Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 1.