West Virginia’s offense is one of the nation’s most high-powered attacks. Conducted by pass-happy quarterback Geno Smith, the system dubbed “Air Raid” averaged more than 600 yards in both of the Mountaineers’ wins this season.
The Maryland coach charged with scheming against Smith and West Virginia, defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, knows all about the Air Raid. After all, he saw it every day in practice while serving in the same capacity at Houston.
Their times with the Cougars never overlapped, but West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen instituted an offense as Houston’s offensive coordinator from 2008-09 that had the Cougars consistently ranked at or near the top of every NCAA passing category.
Holgorsen departed to Oklahoma State, and in came Stewart, fresh off a season with the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive assistant. Holgorsen’s offense was maintained, and Stewart’s unit saw it on a regular basis.
“The way the defense is set up at the no-huddle, the wristbands we use, it came from playing against that offense in practice,” Stewart said Wednesday. “I don’t anticipate the communication being a problem. What I do anticipate, it’s hard to practice that speed.”
The Mountaineers execute at a blistering pace, with shuttle passes and deep balls in equal frequency. And Smith, an early front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, is at the center.
“I don’t think you worry about it slowing him down,” Stewart said. “Just eliminate the big plays, keep the ball in front of you, tackle the catch, put pressure on him.”