By MICKEY FURFARI for the Daily Telegraph
MORGANTOWN — The tale of the tape for Saturday night’s football game clearly indicates that West Virginia has the advantage on offense and host Texas the edge on defense.
But Geno Smith, the eighth-ranked Mountaineers’ quarterback, thinks the Big 12 contest in Austin, Tex., could be decided by one or more turnovers.
If that turns out to be a major factor, ball security certainly will be crucial to the eventual winner.
The Mountaineers (4-0) have committed just one turnover—an interception in the season-opening win against Marshall. They did not lose either of two fumbles.
Texas, 4-0 and ranked No. 11 in the poll, also suffered only one interception and lost one of four fumbles.
Defensively, the Longhorns picked off seven interceptions to four. West Virginia recovered three of seven opponent fumbles.
The game gets under way at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Fox. Texas is a 7-point favorite.
Offensively, West Virginia has scored 212 points to 189, 111 first downs to 96, and leads in total offense 2,394 yards to 1,983.
The breakdown shows Texas with 912 yards rushing to 628. But WVU is by far tops in passing, 1,766 yards to 1,071.
Smith, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior, ranks No. 1 nationally in most passing categories. He completed 141 of 169 attempts in four games for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are Smith’s top two receivers. Austin has 48 receptions, 560 yards, and seven touchdowns. Bailey, a junior, has caught 41 passes for 635 yards and 10 TDs.
Andrew Buoi (52-241-3) and Shawne Alston (30-191-3) are WVU’s leading rushers.
Texas quarterback David Ash, a 6-foot-3, 223-pound sophomore, has 85 completions in 107 attempts for 1,067 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jaxon Shipley (17-192-4) and Mike Davis (16-242-2) are Ash’s top two targets.
Tailback Jae Bergeron is Texas’ leading rusher with a net 255 yards on 52 carries and scored five times.
“We’re confident of our abilities,” Geno Smith said reassuringly. “We’re not cocky. We will play everybody on our schedule.
"The Longhorns put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and they try to force turnovers. I think a turnover could decide a game.”
But he noted that WVU has done a great job of maintaining ball security. That’s something WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen mentions frequently.
“And we’ve got to do that this Saturday,” Smith added. “I work very hard in trying to make plays. I’ve done that ever since I was a freshman. I think that’s the way a game should be approached. I just go out and do the best I can.”
Smith said he has the utmost respect and trust in his veteran offensive line, especially senior center Joe Madsen. He snaps the ball on every offensive play and also is an excellent blocker.
“We’ll be well-prepared and ready to play hard against Texas,” he said.