MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It's hard to fault the numbers that Ford Childress put up in his first college football game Saturday.
West Virginia's redshirt freshman quarterback completed 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 41-7 win over Georgia State. He threw an interception and was sacked once, but all in all it was the kind of performance coach Dana Holgorsen was looking for after two games of missed opportunities and lackluster offense.
So why weren't Holgorsen or offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson or even Childress raving about the performance? Well, because while it was certainly an improvement, there is obviously a lot of work still to do.
"It's frustrating,'' Dawson said after his offense produced 604 yards. "We can be good. But everybody's still taking an opportunity to shoot ourselves in the foot.''
Childress took advantage of open receivers all over the field against a poor defense to complete passes to nine different players. Even on some of his biggest plays - all of his TD throws were over 20 yards and he also had a 43-yarder - he only had to be moderately accurate because his receivers were so open.
But even at that there were still dropped passes and missed throws all afternoon in front of a surprisingly large crowd of 57,440, all of which left pretty much everyone involved seemingly encouraged, but perhaps cautious, as well.
Even Childress, who broke by 102 yards Scott McBrien's 2000 school record for passing yards by a freshman, was low key about his success.
"I thought it went pretty well,'' the 6-foot-5, 243-pounder from Houston said after playing in a college football game for the first time. "There are some balls I'd like to have back, but overall I thought it went pretty well.''
Perhaps the cautiousness is due to the fact that even though West Virginia was clearly never in danger of losing, it was the fourth quarter until the game was really put away. The Mountaineers led just 17-0 at halftime and 20-7 going into the fourth quarter. And that was against a Georgia State team that trailed FCS foe Tennessee-Chattanooga 42-0 at that point a week ago.
Childress and the offense had their struggles. He threw his first touchdown pass to freshman Daikiel Shorts, from 21 yards, on the second series and it was 10-0. But from there until the fourth quarter the Mountaineers went seven series and scored just one more touchdown, that when Ivan McCartney got ridiculously free behind the Panther defense and Childress lobbed to him a 45-yard TD throw.
That stretch of seven largely unsuccessful series - it included two punts, an interception, a fourth-down sack and a missed field goal - left Dawson wondering if anyone was ever going to start making plays.