By MICKEY FURFARI
“This is an opportunity to prove ourselves again.”
That’s how quarterback Geno Smith sees West Virginia’s Big 12 football battle against Kansas State at 7 p.m. today in Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium.
The game is being televised on Fox network. The Mountaineers remain a 2 1/2-point favorite against the Wildcats, who are ranked No. 4 in The Associated Press poll.
“It was embarrassing,” Smith said of last week’s 49-14 loss at Texas Tech. “But that’s now behind us.
“It will be great to play in front of our fans again. We play with great energy when we’re home.”
A sellout crowd of 60,000-plus is assured.
The Mountaineers (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) are ranked only 17th, so a victory would regain some ground and respect in the polls.
Kansas State is 6-0 and 3-0 in conference games.
The players seemed upbeat and confident during Tuesday night’s interviews. They are confident that WVU can play well enough to bounce back at the Wildcats’ expense.
“We always play with more energy at home,” said Smith, who remains the No. 1 passer in the Big 12.
“But they are very experienced, very good and they play hard. So we want to go out on the field and slug it out with them.”
Smith, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior from Miami, is WVU’s all-time career leader in completions (814), attempts (1,206) and passing touchdowns (81).
He’s No. 1 on the school’s passing yards chart with 9,728 and No. 2 in career total offense (9,990).
Nationally, Smith is No. 1 in total points responsible for (26.0 per game) and in passing efficiency (80.80). He is No. 2 in passing yards per game (385).
So he still should be in the Heisman Trophy race.
For the season, Smith has completed 195 of 259 passes for 2,271 yards and 25 touchdowns. But he has yet to be intercepted.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, who apparently prefers to run rather than pass, has completed 79 of 119 passes for 1,074 yards and seven scores.
But Klein ranks No. 4 among Big 12 rushers with 510 yards and 10 touchdowns on 98 carries.
West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey rank 1-2 among the league’s top receivers.
John Hubert leads the Wildcats in rushing with 606 yards and eight touchdowns on 98 running plays. Freshman Andrew Buie is WVU’s top rusher with 504 yards and five scores on 104 carries.
Austin, a senior, is the league leader in all-purpose yards and kick returns as well as pass-catching.
His buddy receiver, Bailey, is No. 1 nationally in scores per game (14.0), tied for No. 3 in receptions per game (9.17), and No. 4 in receiving yards per game.
West Virginia is averaging 45.7 points per game to Kansas State’s 40.8 and in total offense the average is 543.7 yards to 427.5.
The bulge is biggest in passing yards per game, 385.3 to 179.6. But the Wildcats claim the edge in rushing yards per game, 248.5 to WVU’s 158.4.
Each team has lost two of six fumbles and KSU has thrown two interceptions to one.
Defensively, the Wildcats have been toughest. They have allowed just 99 points to WVU’s 224, 113 first downs to 147 and 339.7 total yards defense to 498.5 per game.