Dana Holgorsen just made Saturday’s Georgia State game at Milan Puskar Stadium a little more interesting.
During his weekly radio show on Thursday night, the coach announced that redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress
will be the starter against the Panthers. Childress, a Houston resident, came out of fall camp third on the depth chart behind juniors Paul Millard
and Clint Trickett
Millard started West Virginia’s first two games against William & Mary and Oklahoma, leading the Mountaineers to a 24-17 victory over the Tribe in the opener before last week’s 16-7 loss at Oklahoma that saw West Virginia cross the goal line just once.
Millard is completing a very solid 60.6 percent of his pass attempts for 455 yards with one interception, but he has also thrown just one touchdown pass in eight quarters of action.
Trickett, a Florida State transfer who arrived in the summer and has been furiously trying to get up to speed with a new offense, played two series against William & Mary in the opener but did not see the field against Oklahoma.
Now, Holgorsen said it’s Childress’ turn.
“Based on the last three days we have made the decision that we’re going to go with Ford Childress
,” he said at the start of his show. “He’s had a really good week. He’s been spinning it around pretty good. He’s taken control of the huddle. We gave him probably 80 percent of the reps (on Thursday) and he’s taking it and we’re going to see how it goes.”
While making the announcement, Holgorsen also revealed his thought process heading into the opening two games of the season.
“We were all in complete agreement of going with Paul the first week of the season and we don’t regret that decision at all,” he explained. “He did a great job week one and going into the OU game it was another situation where it was a challenging situation.
“Those guys were pretty good, especially on defense so we decided to see what some of the other guys could do. But we opened it up on Tuesday and Ford took it and ran with it and I’m proud of him. He didn’t sit back and pout when we gave the other two guys the opportunity to take 50 percent of the reps for about three and a half weeks. His attitude was good.”
Holgorsen gave every indication that he plans on sticking with Childress and seeing how things play out in the coming weeks.
“At this point in the season we’ve got to pick a guy,” he said. “We’ve been watching these guys and we’ve been repping these guys for the better part of six or seven weeks now and nobody knows them better than the coaching staff does right now. What I don’t want to have happen is to go into a game and have a guy scared to make a mistake for a couple of series and be afraid to get pulled out and have somebody else go in there.
“We set the standard at the end of the (Oklahoma) game. They knew what it was going to be like on Sunday-Tuesday-Wednesday and Ford stepped up and did a great job and it’s his time. It’s his job and we’re going to see what he can do,” Holgorsen said.
If Childress performs well on Saturday against Georgia State that could give the offense a key piece to build around as West Virginia moves toward the meat of its schedule. But if he struggles and it opens the door to a three-way deal under center, then that will obviously put the Mountaineers behind the eight ball going into key games coming up against Maryland, Oklahoma State and Baylor before their open week.
The last time West Virginia had difficulty choosing between three quarterbacks was in 1985 when the Mountaineers used John Talley, Tony Reda and Mike Timko. WVU had a 7-3-1 record that season with a terrific defense that allowed just 14.4 points per game, but the offense was only three points per game better than that and was shut out twice in games against Maryland and Penn State that season.
Obviously, that is something Holgorsen is looking to avoid this year.
“There are going to be some bumps in the road,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a redshirt freshman that hasn’t taken any snaps yet, but based on practice, based on us coaching him, based on his attitude and demeanor we feel like he’s ready. He’s been here for a year and a half now. He’s been here for two springs and he’s been here for two camps and he’s matured and we feel like he’s ready for it.”
One thing is for certain: Childress clearly has all the tools necessary to be a good college quarterback.
“It’s never been about arm strength, it’s never been about accuracy or lack of athletic ability, it’s simply maturing and being ready for the job,” said Holgorsen.
That process begins this Saturday.