Offense Still Seeking Improvement
We’re now at the halfway point of the season and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has certainly given his three quarterbacks an equal chance to play.
Junior Paul Millard
started the first two games of the season against William & Mary and Oklahoma, redshirt freshman Ford Childress
started the next two against Georgia State and Maryland, and junior Clint Trickett
has started the two most recent games against Oklahoma State and Baylor.
“The reality is that we’ve played six games and we’ve had three quarterbacks start two games each,” Holgorsen said earlier this week. “They’re all guys that haven’t played very much and for whatever reasons – injuries, how they’ve practiced or how they’ve played in a game – we have to keep evaluating them.”
Each has a victory under his belt – Millard vs. William & Mary, Childress vs. Georgia State and Trickett vs. Oklahoma State – and each has had his struggles – Millard vs. Oklahoma, Childress vs. Maryland and Trickett vs. Baylor.
Millard and Trickett have both attempted 80 passes, Millard completing a much higher percentage (61.2 to 41.2) for more yards (581-470) and more touchdowns (3-2), but Trickett’s gutsy performance against then 11th-ranked Oklahoma State still carries a lot of weight because it was a winning effort against a quality opponent.
“Clint played very well against Oklahoma State and very average against Baylor. Whether it was his shoulder or whether it wasn’t, I don’t know. I haven’t coached him long enough to figure it out,” said Holgorsen. “I do like his grit and how he toughed it out. It was a challenging environment and a challenging situation, and he didn’t just turn it down. We were happy to see that.”
Childress has had the best statistical game of the three although it came against a winless Georgia State team when he completed 25-of-41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve liked Ford’s mentality,” said Holgorsen. “We just need to get him back on the field and see how he continues to progress.”
Combined, the three are completing 52.9 percent of their passes for 1,472 yards and eight touchdowns with seven interceptions – numbers we are just not accustomed to seeing from Holgorsen’s quarterbacks.
“With our offense being inexperienced and having different people in at different times, it’s hard,” Holgorsen admitted.
Trickett was clearly not 100 percent during last weekend’s Baylor game when he completed just 9-of-28 passes for 161 yards before giving way to Millard in the second half. Millard engineered two scoring drives and finished the night completing 8-of-13 passes for 115 yards.
And Childress hasn’t played since injuring his pectoral muscle early in the Maryland game.
“I’m not prepared to say that Clint is our quarterback because Ford didn’t do anything to lose the job,” said Holgorsen. “It’s a dynamic I don’t like and isn’t beneficial to our football team.”
As for his offensive unit, Holgorsen knew this year was going to be a work in progress because of the inexperience at the quarterback position as well as other key areas.
“I wish I was sitting here after six games saying that we know who we are, where we’re at and where we’re going,” he said. “That’s not the current situation, and it’s not anyone’s fault. We played some pretty good teams, we have a lot of inexperience and we have some injuries. We’re dealing with a lot of stuff that teams across the country are dealing with.”
Holgorsen said there has been progress, although it’s not always been evident to the untrained eye.
“You can see some things happening that show improvement,” he said. “Whether you want to believe that or not, you can see some things.
“The guys are playing with effort,” he continued. “They care. They are trying. Pat (Eger is) the new center. The snap is a little off at times, which affects the run play. The backs can’t hit it because the timing is all screwed up. We’ve got a quarterback trying to throw a post route to five different guys that’s he’s never thrown that to. Based on how fast the receivers are and the relationship between the quarterback and that specific receiver, the ball needs to be thrown accordingly. That is stuff that happens in the course of a second.
“Last year, it was Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey. That was easier because they’ve been doing it for eight years.”
So, how does it all come together before next Saturday’s game against a 6-0 Texas Tech team that is coming off a 42-35 victory over Iowa State yesterday and also owns a 20-10 win against TCU earlier this year?
“We try to attack, and we will try again,” Holgorsen explained. “We are going to put ourselves in the best situation we possibly can. If that doesn’t work, we need to do it again, and again and again until it works out. You can’t use a magic wand or put some sort of spell over them to make that stuff work. You just have to play. You need reps, time and practice. It’s a hard game and we’ve played good teams. It is what it is.”
Hopefully an idle weekend will rejuvenate a Mountaineer team that is now heading into the second part of their season.
“We have a beat up football team,” said Holgorsen. “We’ve been playing a lot of snaps defensively and those guys are worn down. Offensively, we’re playing more bodies because we’re trying to figure out what our dynamic is and what our makeup is going to be.”
He added, “We’re a football team that’s very inexperienced and needs to get out there and keep improving. The coaches, the assistants and I have to keep improving. The players need to keep improving and what we’re seeing on the field offensively, defensively and special teams-wise needs to keep improving.”