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Millard confident, but not comfortable

MORGANTOWN - A week ago, Paul Millard didn't even know he was going to be West Virginia's starting quarterback until the Friday night before the opener against William & Mary.

This week he's pretty much certain of his position heading into Saturday night's Big 12 opener at Oklahoma. Needless to say, though, that doesn't make him any more comfortable.

"I feel more confident this week after getting a lot more game reps than I've gotten in the past. I definitely feel more confident,'' Millard said. "As far as being comfortable, that's probably something the coaches will never let me feel. And that's something I never want to feel.''

It would be hard to feel comfortable under any circumstances going into a second career start on the road in Norman, Okla. The Sooners have lost but five games at home in Bob Stoops' 14 previous seasons as head coach. Oklahoma is ranked No. 16 in the country. The defense Millard will face Saturday just pitched a shutout in a 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

And, too, there's the not-so-small matter of Clint Trickett still breathing down Millard's neck. The Florida State transfer was used in just two series against William & Mary and threw two incompletions and was sacked. But as coach Dana Holgorsen pointed out this week, don't toss Trickett to the side just yet. In fact, in Trickett the Mountaineers have a quarterback who has faced Oklahoma before, and that's not a factor to be underestimated.

Still, at least at the outset on Saturday the job appears to be Millard's. And he knows he has to perform at a higher level against Oklahoma than he did in that 24-17 nail-biter over William & Mary.

"I'm not upset with the way I played,'' Millard said. "But there are things I can improve on. There were throws I could have been more accurate on. And there were some little things, like if I had put the ball in a certain place the drive continues or you have a big play.

"You're always going to make mistakes. I just want to learn from them and move on.''

In that opener, Millard completed 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards. He had a 69-yard scoring pass to a wide-open Ronald Carswell and didn't throw an interception.

But he was also careful, perhaps both by choice and direction. Holgorsen did not exactly open up the playbook against the Tribe, not necessarily because he didn't want to show things he didn't have to, but because with what amounted to rookie quarterbacks he didn't feel safe in doing so.

So the Mountaineers ran the ball 44 times and threw it just 27.

"They wanted us to run the ball,'' Millard said. "It was something we needed to do.''

Stoops knows that's likely to change this week. He saw both Millard and Trickett play and how basic the offense was. But he still says he respects the ability of both quarterbacks.

"I thought they both looked pretty good, but I'm guessing since Paul's been in their system they felt more comfortable with his experience,'' Stoops said. "They're both similar with throwing the ball. [Holgorsen is] not going to change offense regardless of who is in there.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.


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