MORGANTOWN - Paul Millard has the same mindset as any good backup quarterback. He's competitive enough that he aches to become the starter, yet realistic enough to know his role.
So he continues to work as Geno Smith's backup at West Virginia and taking the job seriously.
"I don't want to put the team in a position where if Geno goes down and I come into the game, things have to change,'' Millard said. "It shouldn't make a difference, which is why I take every rep in practice as seriously as I can. If something like that happens, I have to go out there and make plays so we can win games.''
Unfortunately for Millard, he's had some dry runs that haven't worked out so well. For the most part, he can joke about them because, well, that's what people like to do. But he also needs to rationalize his experiences as a true freshman so that he isn't defined by them.
"Last year when I came into games it was never a really serious role,'' Millard said. "Things may have not gone the best when I came in the game sometimes, but you live and you learn. It's part of football. I feel a lot more confident this year.''
Last year? Not so much. Millard saw action in four games as Smith's backup, every time when games were out of hand. He played against Norfolk State, Bowling Green, Connecticut and Clemson, games in which the Mountaineers averaged 55.8 points and won by an average of 38.
Little that he did was particularly memorable. He did complete five of his six pass attempts for 60 yards - including a 30-yard scoring strike to Brad Starks - in his debut against Norfolk State, then completed a 45-yard pass to Stedman Bailey in his next appearance. But then in his last three games Millard was 1-for-6, had an interception returned for a touchdown by UConn and threw another pick when coach Dana Holgorsen threw him in for Smith in the third quarter against Clemson.
Smith was back on the next series.
"When I go home all my brothers make fun of me all the time,'' Millard said. "They were there at the game. I think it was my older brother who said after the game that I was Clemson's best player that night.
"It's fun to look back on and joke around on. But I feel like if the situation came up again it wouldn't happen the same way. But interceptions happen. They're part of the game. It's just football.''