West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith delivers an early Heisman statement

To appreciate how good West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was in Saturday's 69-34 dismantling of in-state rival Marshall, consider this stat for a moment: Smith's four touchdown throws matched his number of incomplete passes for the game.

By the time he exited early in the fourth quarter after West Virginia's ninth touchdown of the game, Smith had completed a video game-like 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He also added a 28-yard third-quarter rushing touchdown, the maraschino cherry on top of a performance that should solidify him as an early Heisman contender.

The scoring barrage from West Virginia was reminiscent of the 70 points the Mountaineers hung on Clemson in the Orange Bowl last January. In that game, Smith shredded the Clemson defense for 407 yards and six touchdowns, securing West Virginia's 10th victory of the season and fueling optimism that the Mountaineers could contend right away in their first season in the Big 12.

The passing game again figured to be a strength for West Virginia with eight starters back on offense including Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Still, it was eye-opening the ease with which Smith sliced up a Marshall team that won seven games a year ago and is expected to match or surpass that win total this season.

Smith capped West Virginia's opening drive of the season with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Bailey. Touchdown passes to Austin, J.D. Woods and Bailey again followed soon afterward. Of the 10 drives Smith led before leaving the game, eight went for touchdowns and another stalled on fourth and goal inside the Marshall five-yard line.

Granted West Virginia will face far stronger defenses than Marshall's in the rugged Big 12, but Saturday's effort backed up Smith's preseason claims that he feels more comfortable in second-year coach Dana Holgorsen's scheme this season.

If a revamped offensive line holds up and the running game offers Smith enough support, that should mean plenty of touchdown celebrations for West Virginia and plenty of sleepless nights for Big 12 defensive coordinators.

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