MORGANTOWN -West Virginia University senior quarterback Geno Smith has had plenty of highlight moments as the leader of the Mountaineers' offense over the past three seasons.
No fan of West Virginia football ever will forget last year's Discover Orange Bowl where he and fellow senior Tavon Austin rewrote the record book in a 70-33 victory over the Clemson Tigers.
Yet, there also have been some low moments for the Florida native. Tops among those would have to be his last two meetings with the Orange from Syracuse University.
WVU's record-setting quarterback will get one more opportunity to defeat the Orange when the Mountaineers (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) take on Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East) in the third annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Two years ago, the then-sophomore signal caller spent the majority of his time attempting to escape a torrid pass rush and when he did he was his own worst enemy, tossing a trio of interceptions as Syracuse handed the host Mountaineers a 19-14 setback.
As a junior, Smith's numbers were somewhat better as he completed 24-of-41 attempts for 338 yards and touchdown passes of 64 yards to Stedman Bailey and 25 to Brad Starks. But two more picks helped the Orange capture a convincing 49-23 win over their then-Big East rivals.
West Virginia (7-5,
4-5 Big 12)
vs. Syracuse (7-5,
5-2 Big East)
Game time: 3:15 p.m. Saturday
Place: Yankee Stadium
"Seventeen of the first 18 blitzes last year were different, so we have to identify that and get in the right play," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "He (Smith) has matured a bunch, and from a scheme standpoint, he is going to be able to see that and make some pretty good checks. I feel comfortable about that."
And based on the numbers Smith has posted this season, the senior has become very comfortable in Holgorsen's 'Air Raid' attack.
Heading into his final game with the old gold and blue, Smith has completed 350-of-490 attempts for 4,004 yards and 40 touchdowns. Only six times have his attempts ended up in the hands of the opposition - one more than the Orange have grabbed the last two times they have faced the Miramar High School product.
His primary targets will be the same ones he has had during WVU's present two-game losing streak against Syracuse - Austin and Bailey.
Bailey, a junior who already has announced that he will be foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft following Saturday's contest, hauled in seven passes for 130 yards in the Carrier Dome last season while Austin caught six passes for 60 yards.
West Virginia will need big games from all three, as well as senior running back Shawne Alston, if it hopes to break its slump against SU.
Bailey leads the team with 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns on 106 catches while Austin leads the team with 110 receptions for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Alston, who missed a number of games while healing from a deep thigh bruise, finished with 371 yards and seven touchdowns on 67 carries and will split time in the backfield with Austin (61-598, 3 TDs) and sophomores Andrew Buie (172-817, 7 TDs) and Dustin Garrison (46-207, 2 TDs).
They will face an Orange defense that has limited teams to 25.7 points, and 385.1 total yards per game. The unit has been particularly difficult to run against, holding teams to 148.2 yards per game.
"They're a dial-up type of a defense," said Holgorsen. "They blitz and get into some crazy stuff. I think we are a lot better both from a coaching standpoint, from a scheme standpoint and from an understanding standpoint.
"We are a lot better now than last year when we played Syracuse. Again, from a staff standpoint, from a player standpoint and from a scheme standpoint, we understand what we have to do a lot better. If they get into a bunch of crazy stuff, I feel like we are going to have some answers."