MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen watched with a certain sense of nostalgia Monday night while Geno Smith was throwing for three touchdowns and leading the New York Jets on a game-ending field goal drive to beat Atlanta, 30-28.
"Yeah, it would be nice to have him,'' the West Virginia coach said of the quarterback who was his starter the last two seasons. "It would be nice to have any of the last six [starting quarterbacks] I've had.''
He doesn't, of course. What Holgorsen has now instead are three quarterbacks, none of whom have really taken command and proven they are clearly the best even to run West Virginia's offense, much less do so at the level of Smith or any of the other elite quarterbacks Holgorsen has coached over the last decade.
As the Mountaineers go through their bye week, however, Holgorsen is far from conceding that none of them can reach that level.
"Who knows which one of these guys that are on our team right now can end up improving to the point where they can be the next guy,'' Holgorsen said. "They've just got to keep playing.''
For the time being, junior Clint Trickett seems to remain the frontrunner. He's started the last two games, but with staggeringly different results - a 30-21 upset of then-No. 11 Oklahoma State two weeks ago and a 73-42 trouncing at now-No. 15 Baylor last Saturday.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Holgorsen sounded at times alternately committed to Trickett in the job and remaining open-minded about it.
As for the committed part, Holgorsen said that during the off week Trickett would be held out of practice in order to allow his injured throwing shoulder - as well as other sore body parts - to heal before the Mountaineers host Texas Tech a week from Saturday.
"We'll give him the whole week to rehab and strengthen it so he's a hundred percent next week,'' Holgorsen said of the Florida State transfer. "I don't know if that's going to happen for sure, but we'll give him this week off and let him rest and let him strengthen that shoulder to get him back on Monday.''
When asked, though, if Trickett was entrenched as his starter, Holgorsen flatly said that he wasn't. He didn't mention Paul Millard, who was the starter in the first two games and relieved Trickett several times at Baylor, but he did point to redshirt freshman Ford Childress.
"I'm not prepared to say [that the job is absolutely Trickett's] because I don't think Ford did anything to flat-out lose the job,'' Holgorsen said.
Childress was the starter in WVU's third and fourth games, a rout of Georgia Tech and a humbling 37-0 loss to Maryland in Baltimore. He might have started the next week against Oklahoma State, but was injured in the loss to Maryland and replaced by Trickett.
"I've liked Ford's mentality. The guy just tore his [pectoral] muscle,'' Holgorsen said. "It's not anybody's fault. He just has to let it heal and get him back on the practice field and see how he continues to progress.''
Both Trickett and Childress have had their ups and downs, although it's difficult to compare the two. Childress threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the first college football game he played, but the opposition was the worst team in college football, Georgia State. A week later he threw for just 62 yards and threw interceptions that handed Maryland two touchdowns.