MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There could, of course, have been worse outcomes for West Virginia's football team Saturday afternoon after facing an FCS opponent.
Ask Oregon State. Or Kansas State. Or Iowa State, Connecticut or South Florida.
"There's plenty of FCS teams out there that are a little bit more happy than William & Mary right now after beating some FBS teams,'' Dana Holgorsen said. "It happens every week. We were fortunate to get out of there without it happening to us.''
It nearly did. William & Mary, an FCS school that won just two games last season, led West Virginia 17-7 at halftime and was tied well into the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers finally got a short go-ahead touchdown run from freshman Wendell Smallwood with 3:22 to play and an interception by Darwin Cook to seal the deal two plays later and managed to walk out with a 24-17 win.
It came in front of a crowd of 56,350 at Mountaineer Field.
Afterward, Holgorsen perhaps understated the obvious.
"We have a long way to go on all three sides of the ball,'' he said.
He'll get no arguments.
West Virginia's rebuilt offense was largely vanilla. The reconfigured defense played fairly well but gave up some big plays that mattered. And the special teams for the most part were average with the exception of punter Nick O'Toole, who averaged 50.6 yards and helped set up the winning drive by initially changing field position.
In fact, the only thing the Mountaineers did manage to really solve, at least for the time being, was that sticky question at quarterback. Millard emerged from the game the clear No. 1 over Florida transfer Clint Trickett.
Then again, neither was asked to do much with an offense that ran the ball 44 times and threw it just 27.
"We asked the quarterback to manage the game,'' offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "And he did. But obviously the game plan was pretty simple.''
Millard, who served two seasons as Geno Smith's backup without really ever having to perform under pressure, started and played most of the game. He was red hot at the start, completing his first eight passes, but cooled off and was replaced by Clint Trickett in the second quarter. But Trickett's two series were both three-and-outs that included 0-for-2 passing and a sack.
So Millard returned at the end of the first half and had a fumble that led to a William & Mary field goal, but then started the second half and played well again. He played the rest of the game, completing 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards.
"I thought he managed the game well, minus one boneheaded play where he dropped the ball on a sack,'' Holgorsen said. "Other than that he managed it well.''