|Junior quarterback Clint Trickett has led West Virginia to Big 12 wins over Oklahoma State and TCU this season.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
One of the more challenging football seasons in recent memory will end later this afternoon when West Virginia (4-7) takes on Iowa State (2-9).
Both teams are headed for losing seasons; for West Virginia it’s the first time the Mountaineers are not going to a bowl game since 2001. That year was also the last time WVU struggled so mightily to score touchdowns and win football games.
“I’m the first to say that we haven’t had a winning offensive performance this season,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “That’s all on me. All the dynamics combined haven’t completed a winning effort and that’s something we will get addressed in the offseason.”
No. 1 on Holgorsen’s to do list will be developing some continuity at the quarterback position. Junior Paul Millard
started the first two games this year against William & Mary and Oklahoma, freshman Ford Childress
started the next two games against Georgia State and Maryland before getting injured, and then Florida State transfer Clint Trickett
Trickett, too, has struggled to stay on the field after leading the Mountaineers to a 30-21 upset victory over seventh-ranked Oklahoma State back on Sept. 28. Since then, Millard stepped in to play against Baylor, Kansas State and Texas before starting the Kansas game two weeks ago, a disappointing 31-19 WVU defeat that saw the Jayhawks end their 27-game Big 12 losing streak.
This year will be the first time an offense that Dana Holgorsen has been associated with will not have a 3,000-yard passer, let alone a 2,000-yard thrower. Heading into today’s game, Trickett leads the team with 1,249 passing yards, but is completing just 52 percent of his attempts and has thrown only five touchdown passes with five interceptions.
Millard’s numbers are nearly identical - he is completing 55.4 percent of his throws for 1,122 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
All three quarterbacks have combined to complete 54.1 percent of their pass attempts for 2,792 yards and 14 touchdowns with 14 interceptions - numbers that you are just not accustomed to seeing from Holgorsen’s quarterbacks.
The coach has not publicly indicated his QB choice for today’s game against Iowa State, although it is expected to be Trickett, and that has been the norm for the Mountaineers for most of the year.
“They’re trying hard and practicing well,” said Holgorsen. “They are competing. They want to get better. I feel like we can win with either one.”
For Trickett, the quarterback who has led the Mountaineers to their only two Big 12 victories this year against Oklahoma State and TCU, it’s been a trying season for everyone.
“It’s almost like we’re a different team because this guy is out or that guy is out,” he said. “That’s college football. We are one of the more injured teams in the country, but that’s part of it.”
In the beginning Trickett said he was playing mostly on instincts, but now he is becoming more familiar with what he’s supposed to do in Holgorsen’s offense. Next year he believes the situation will be a lot better for him with a full offseason under his belt.
“You will see that big jump really after that first year from the freshman to sophomore year,” he said. “That’s when everyone makes the big jump – even the first spring to the next year. It’s like there are three seasons with the fall, spring and summer. You see big jumps after those and I’m just excited to see where I’m at after I train all winter.”
Despite West Virginia’s struggles this season scoring points and winning football games, Trickett believes the program is still moving in the right direction.
“Regardless of what happens this week, we are confident with our program and we’re confident with some of the young guys we have, especially some of the redshirt guys like Shelton (Gibson) and Jacky (Marcellus),” he said. “They are going to be able to step in and we’re excited for the offseason. But we’ve still got this week to play.”
Playing well and winning today against Iowa State can give the younger guys in the program a big boost heading into the offseason, says Trickett. In the meantime, the quarterback says it’s also important for the younger guys to perform well for West Virginia’s 14 departing seniors.
“We need to send these seniors out the right way by having them sing Country Roads one more time before they leave,” he said. “The last time we sung it here was Oklahoma State. We want that and we are working toward that.”
After that, they can begin working toward getting the offensive continuity that has been missing all year for a variety of reasons.
“Continuity is the biggest thing. I don’t anticipate ever being in this situation again – new guys, coaches, etc.,” Holgorsen concluded.