Clearly, Millard is the man
MORGANTOWN — If West Virginia's opening win over William & Mary served to prove nothing else, it was that there is a clear leader in the competition at quarterback.
How long Paul Millard remains the clear leader, though, seems a matter for some debate.
In fact, heading into a second game that figures to be dramatically different than the first as far as challenges go — the Mountaineers face Oklahoma Saturday night in Norman — Dana Holgorsen sounds a little bit like he did heading into the opener when he still didn't know whether Millard or Clint Trickett would be his quarterback.
And it's with good reason that Trickett is still in the mix.
"It all depends on how the game goes,'' Holgorsen said Monday while addressing the possibility that there still could be some shuffling of quarterbacks. "He's played against Oklahoma before. He knows what kind of speed that they have and what kind of athletic ability that they have. He's been in that situation before, so I think he'd help us from a maturity standpoint and being able to move the ball.''
Indeed, as a redshirt freshman at Florida State in 2011, it was against then-No. 1 Oklahoma that Trickett got his real baptism under fire. After starter E.J. Manuel suffered a shoulder injury, Trickett was 7 of 15 passing for 134 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a loss to the Sooners. That was a week before he made his first start and threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson.
Still, experienced or not it was Millard who came out of Saturday's 24-17 win over William & Mary as the clear leader at quarterback. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards, while Trickett could muster only a pair of three-and-outs in his two series in the second quarter. He was 0-for-2 passing and was sacked.
But it's not as if Millard clearly separated himself by virtue of an outstanding performance. On Monday, Holgorsen was still talking about Millard managing the game more than making plays.
"He did a good job managing the game,'' Holgorsen said. "I thought he got us into several really good run checks. And other than one play [a sack and fumble] he did a good job of taking care of the ball and running the offense.
"But I still think that Clint brings something to the table that he doesn't, so we'll continue to rep Clint. Obviously you have to rep your second-team quarterback anyway, so we'll continue to rep him and I expect him to get better at what we're asking him to do.''
No matter who plays quarterback Saturday night, they will face a far more difficult test than William & Mary provided. Oklahoma shut out Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, winning 34-0. And while Louisiana-Monroe might not sound like much to the casual observer, remember that the Warhawks beat Arkansas last season and nearly did the same to Auburn and Baylor.
"It was pleasing to play so well [on defense],'' OU coach Bob Stoops said.
West Virginia, meanwhile, had trouble cranking it up against what figures to be an average FCS-level defense. Holgorsen, though, said that might be misleading.
"We had 400 yards,'' Holgorsen said. "And when you're looking at so many guys that have not played college football games, the fact that we had 400 yards is probably satisfying to a whole lot of people.
"I don't care about stats. I don't care about numbers. I care about being efficient. There were a lot of times when we weren't very efficient in finishing drives, but that's part of the process with inexperienced kids.''
And part of it, as it always does, goes back to the quarterback, which is why both Millard and Trickett will continue to get work.
"We've got to continue to rep [Trickett] because he doesn't understand the offense as well as Paul,'' Holgorsen said. "I'm really happy with the way Paul performed and right now it looks like he's our guy. But with that said we're going to continue to rep Clint and see if we can get him into position to use him when we need him because more than likely we're going to need him at some point.
"The comfort level with [Millard] was a little higher than it was with Clint. But the more snaps Clint takes the better he's going to get and the more comfortable he's going to get out there. "Chances are you're going to need them both at some point, so we'll keep repping them and keep trying to get better.''
The West Virginia coaching staff named its award winners for outstanding performance in the win over William & Mary — offensive champion: Charles Sims; defensive champion: Darwin Cook; special teams champion: Nick O'Toole; offensive scout champion: Maurice Zereoue; defensive scout champion: Justin Arndt.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1