Geno Smith and the WVU offense came out firing on all cylinders early in the season, but they've hit major roadblocks the last two weeks against Texas Tech and Kansas State. The defense has been a major liability for the team all season, giving up touchdowns on almost every single drive (35 points by halftime in both games).
Smith has to straddle a perfect line between staying aggressive and not forcing things and trying to do too much. Further, the running game has all but stalled, and the receivers are going through a rash of the drops - making it very difficult for them to sustain offense and keep their defense off the field. All in all, it's an almost untenable situation to play quarterback in, and Smith is struggling. However, it's not all on his supporting cast - he isn't seeing the field clearly, he's locking onto targets and pre-determining throws.
Versus Texas Tech
Post/Out concept. The read is a very basic Hi/Low or Vertical stretch on the defender responsible for the underneath Hook/Curl zone, usually a linebacker or nickelback. The Out route across the defender's face should pull him out of that vertical window so the quarterback can hit the Post route inside or over-the-top of the safety. If the Hook/Curl defender ignores the Out and bails, take the checkdown.
The slot receiver is starting to break down into his Out route and is pulling the linebacker with him. At this point, Smith needs to make his throw just as the Post runner makes his cut.
Geno throws the Out route regardless, leading his slot receiver directly into the cornerback guarding the Flat area. As you can see, the linebacker realizes he is about to get Hi/Low'd and is frantically trying to get back into the throwing window, despite the ball already being in the air and traveling to the other receiver.
There's 1:07 left in the 1st half and the score is already 28-7. WVU calls a pass play from a Trips formation with the receivers running (from the outside/in) a deep Comeback, a Curl, and a Deep Cross, creating a horizontal stretch across the intermediate portion of the field.
Texas Tech rushes just three defensive linemen and drops eight players into coverage (five underneath and three deep). Smith looks at the crosser immediately after the snap and stays locked on him the entire way. The crosser is blanketed by defenders, but Geno tries to throw him open into a void upfield (or he's just throwing it away in the most dangerous way possible). Meanwhile, the deep Comeback comes wide open on the opposite side of the field, as all of the defenders are flowing with Smith's eyes in their zone drops. WVU is forced to punt after this incompletion. They give up another score in less than a minute, and WVU head into halftime with an untenable 35-7 deficit.
Versus Kansas State
Here, WVU has called a play with different coverage beaters to opposite sides of the field. To the top (the trips side), the middle receiver will run a Hitch route, with the other two running Curls at different depths. Against Cover 3, this will create a 3-on-2 horizontal stretch against the two underneath zone defenders to that side of the field. To the other side, the Mountaineers are running the same Post/Out concept I broke down earlier. The idea is relatively simple - if both safeties stay back after the snap, work the Cover 2 beater side. If they rotate to a single high look, work the Cover 3 side.
Smith gets the snap, looks at the safeties (who both stay back), holds the ball for a few seconds, and checks down to the Hitch route. Despite the defense staying in a two-deep coverage, he doesn't even look to the Post/Out combo. The announcers use this replay shot as an example of how everything is covered, but this is a throw he's going to get taught to pull the trigger on in the NFL.
(Note: to see video of an NFL QB coach actually breaking the Post/Out concept, start at the 1:00 minute mark of this video. You'll get an appreciation of how quick the trigger has to be pulled, the anticipation required, and how tight that window is for the Post.)
With his team down, Smith really starts pressing and forcing throws. Smith had gone some 270+ attempts this season without throwing an interception, but Kansas State was able to bait him into throwing two on the exact same route against the exact same coverage.
WVU calls one of their favorite plays - a Post/Wheel combo, with the running back motioning out pre-snap and running into the Flats. They've gotten a lot of mileage out of this concept against almost every type of coverage. Kansas State ran Quarters coverage almost exclusively against WVU, and above is an example of how WVU attacks Quarters with this concept. #15 should react up to the threat in the Flats, the cornerback will hopefully continue inside with the Post, and the QB should hit the Wheel just as he turns up the field - before the cornerback can get turned back around and into position.
The Wheel comes open for a split second. The corner (highlighted in yellow) gets caught chasing for a second, but knows what route combination is coming. He is alerting the safety of the Post and changing direction back towards the sideline.
Geno waits too long to pull the trigger and underthrows the ball. #15, who had taken the Flat route initially, read Smith's eyes and continued gaining depth, getting into the throwing lane. He tips the ball up in the air and linebacker Arthur Brown comes over to nab the interception.
As you can see, Smith is struggling to see the field clearly, and he's also going through stretches with sloppy footwork and erratic accuracy. It's still very early in the season, and WVU just had their bye last week, giving Smith s time to step back and see what's been causing the offense to stall the past two games. If he gets these issues ironed out, he'll go right back to being in top 10 discussion for April's Draft.