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Now that's the Trickett

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Clint Trickett wasn't single-handedly responsible for West Virginia's rather stunning 30-21 upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State Saturday afternoon. That should be rather apparent.

West Virginia's defense, after all, was little short of spectacular. A unit that a year ago couldn't stop anyone from doing what they wanted on Saturday stopped one of the Big 12's best offenses from doing almost anything at all that it wanted.

Still, it is hard to ignore the impact Trickett had in his first - and much-awaited - real opportunity to play since transferring from Florida State this summer. And it wasn't just with his passes or his runs or his reads.

It was, as much as anything else, with his attitude.

"He has confidence, I guess,'' said wide receiver Kevin White, the recipient of Trickett's only touchdown pass. "He's out there the whole game laughing and having a good time. It was fun.''

Indeed, while Trickett was far from precise or even efficient at times - coach Dana Holgorsen was infuriated several times by communications breakdowns between the two - he did something that neither of his predecessors, Paul Millard or Ford Childress, were able to do.

He made plays when plays were needed the most.

"Clint did a great job of just keeping plays alive, and that's kind of what we thought he would do,'' Holgorsen said. "He did what we thought he could do.''

Trickett completed 24 of 50 passes for 309 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions as West Virginia, a week after an embarrassing 37-0 loss at Maryland, put together by far its most impressive performance of a season heretofore marked by disappointment and inconsistency.

Starting in place of Childress, who played the last two games but suffered an injury to a pectoral muscle in the loss at Maryland, Trickett was WVU's third starting quarterback in the last four games. His only prior appearance was for two ineffective series in the season opener against William & Mary. He had not played since then.

And again, while he was far from perfect, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

"That's what Coach Holgorsen preached all week,'' Trickett said. "Let's go have some fun.''

Fun for Trickett apparently means keeping fans on the edges of their seats. He certainly did that for the 57,280 at Mountaineer Field. The native West Virginian - who grew up tossing balls around that same stadium while his father, Rick, coached WVU's offensive line - suffered through more than a few dry spells against Oklahoma State. At one point he threw eight straight incompletions. He tossed the two interceptions, including one on the second series and another deep in OSU territory. He fumbled snaps and was not exactly a running threat.

"I ain't Pat White,'' he laughed. "That's for sure.''

But he was tough and he was opportunistic when it mattered most. He was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter for a play after being thrown to the ground after throwing the ball away in his own end zone. He had to go into the locker room to be evaluated, but missed only one play. He showed up for postgame interviews with a thick ice bag on his throwing shoulder.

"That's part of the game,'' Trickett said. "We harp on 'Team.' And the 'T' is for toughness.''

It could also be for tenacity. More than once, Trickett was forced into difficult situations. But his best plays were in those:

  • With the scored tied at 7 late in the first quarter, Trickett completed a 17-yard pass to Charles Sims and another 17-yarder to White for a touchdown. They were on the only two third downs of the drive.
  • Late in the first half, clinging to a 17-14 lead, Trickett fumbled the first snap of a series and lost 8 yards. The next play he found Mario Alford for 40 yards down the sideline and three plays later Sims scored to make it 24-14.
  • Still with just a 24-21 lead and the clock at less than five minutes to play, he had two more 17-yard passes, to Ronald Carswell and Jordan Thompson, again both converting almost do-or-die third downs. That led to a 27-yard Josh Lambert field goal with 3:54 to go and a 27-21 lead.
  • Then, after Darwin Cook all but sealed the win by intercepting Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh with 3:24 to play, Trickett made sure it was sealed. With his shoulder throbbing, he completed passes of 9 yards to Carswell and 11 to Sims, leading to Lambert's game-clinching 34-yard field goal and a 30-21, two-score lead with 1:28 to play.
  • And all of this while running an offense in which he's still not entirely comfortable. He sometimes has trouble communicating with the coaches because he's known them only a few months.

    "It was rough through the whole game, really,'' offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said, referring to the communication between coaches and the quarterback on the field, an integral aspect to the WVU offense. "What he did was he kept competing. Even when he got banged up, he kept competing.''

    He wasn't the only one, of course. That West Virginia defense came up huge. Ishmael Banks intercepted Walsh only a few plays after Walsh had thrown a 73-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Josh Stewart and just after Trickett's first interception. Not only did he intercept him, he returned it for a tying touchdown. Without that, Oklahoma State might have seized the momentum much the same way Maryland did a week ago and run off with it.

    The defense also had a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter when it seemed certain OSU would take the lead - the Cowboys had a first-and-goal at the 3 - and forced no less than 10 punts. Oklahoma State had punted only 13 times in its first three games combined. The Cowboys had 433 total yards, but its 19 possessions ended with those 10 punts, three turnovers, two missed field goals, a failed fourth down and just three touchdowns.

    "They held a team to 21 points that hasn't been held to that for quite some time,'' Holgorsen said. "They played really well.''

    More than anything, though, the Mountaineers turned things around. A week ago this was a team that had been shut out 37-0 and had scored just one touchdown in eight quarters against BCS-level competition. Even its wins, over FCS William & Mary and awful Georgia State, were struggles.

    "There have been a bunch of emotions over the last week, embarrassment and disappointment,'' Holgorsen said. "But they kept working. We felt like we could win and we wanted it pretty badly.''

    West Virginia next plays Baylor Saturday night in Waco, Texas. The Bears are 3-0 and had this weekend off.

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

     


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