With the 2012 regular season in the books, we look back the top 10 individual football performances of the Mountaineers inaugural Big XII campaign. This season has featured a ton of high powered single games performances on the offensive side of the football and even a couple on the defensive side of the football.
Ranking the top 10 performances of the season was certainly a challenging task as it is difficult to decipher amongst so many fantastic performances. In the end, we had to ignore many great performances like Alston’s big days against Marshall and Iowa State and Stedman Bailey’s monster day against JMU.
The ten good enough to make our list are as follows:
#10: Isaiah Bruce vs Marshall
Sep 1, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Martin Ward (29) is tackled by West Virginia Mountaineers linebacker Isaiah Bruce (31) and safety Karl Joseph (top right) in the first half at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
West Virginia opened the 2012 season with the final installment of the Friends of Coal Bowl against the Thundering Herd of Marshall. WVU came into the game with one of the top offenses in the nation but with plenty of question marks on the defensive side of the ball. WVU, in the midst of installing a 3-4 scheme, played a number of unproven freshman including Isaiah Bruce. The young linebacker made a memorable rookie debut against the Herd, racking up 16 total tackles and scoring a touchdown on a 43-yard fumble recovery. Bruce’s 16 tackles is a career high for the blossoming star.
#9: Karl Joseph at Iowa State
Nov 23, 2012; Ames, Iowa, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers safety Karl Joseph (8) celebrates with teammate K.J. Dillon (9)after recovering a fumble in the end zone against Iowa State Cyclones during the second half at Jack Trice Stadium. West Virginia defeated Iowa State 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
With the Mountaineers reeling from a 5-game losing streak, WVU needed to come away with a big road victory at Iowa State. The cold, blustery day made it difficult for either offense to really gain much traction, forcing the game into a defensive stand off. West Virginia’s defense had been beaten down for much of the season and was looking to show everyone that they could win games for the Mountaineers. Karl Joseph keyed the defensive tone for the Mountaineers, registering 13 tackles and a tackle for loss. With Iowa State driving to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Joseph came away with a goal line fumble recovery to seal the WVU victory.
#8: Tavon Austin vs Maryland
September 22, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) turns up field after a pass reception against the Maryland Terrapins during the fourth quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium. The West Virginia Mountaineers won 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
No Mountaineer relishes the chance to play the Terrapins than the incredible Tavon Austin. The Baltimore, MD product racked up an impressive set of statistics against his home state Terrapins. Austin sliced up the Maryland secondary for 13 receptions, 179 yards, and 3 receiving touchdowns. The big day from Austin helped the Mountaineers to a tight 31-21 victory, the 4th of Austin’s career over the Terrapins.
#7: Geno Smith vs James Madison
After lighting up the Herd in week 1 of the season, Geno took to the field in week 3 to further his early season Heisman hype against the Dukes of JMU. Smith had a relatively easy day at the park against the FCS opponent. He would tear apart the Dukes secondary for 34 of 39 passing, 411 yards, and 5 touchdowns. At the time, this game was Smith’s 3rd highest career passing total and 2nd highest passing touchdown total. Geno huge day led to an easy 44-12 victory in D.C.
#6: Stedman Bailey vs Oklahoma
November 17, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Stedman Bailey (3) catches a thirty-three yard touchdown pass behind Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Aaron Colvin (14) during the second quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Lost in the lime light of Tavon Austin’s near record-setting performance against the Sooners, Stedman Bailey had one of his best receiving performances of the season. In one of the most exciting college football games of the 2012 season, the Mountaineers and Sooners traded scores back and forth, down to the final seconds. Austin and Bailey combined to dominate the Sooners defense. With Austin drawing coverage to the middle of the field, Bailey took advantage of space on the edges to grab 13 passes for 205 yards and 4 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his stellar performance was not enough to lift WVU to victory in a 49-50 loss.