By Cam Huffman
The advantages and disadvantages of a bye week in college football are often debated, especially after a loss. Is it better to get back out on the field and try to erase the bad memories, or is the week off needed to correct the problems?
Where the off week falls on the schedule is also often a discussion point. Most coaches don’t want one early in the season, when they’re trying to get in a routine, and they don’t want one down the stretch when they’re trying to build momentum.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, though, has no mixed feelings about taking a break this Saturday. Following a roller coaster 3-3 start and coming off a 73-42 thrashing on the road at Baylor last Saturday, the third-year mentor is thrilled about the week off.
“Going into a bye week right now comes at a good time for a number of reasons,” Holgorsen said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “Heading into Baylor, we tried to convince them that we had enough in our tank to go play a good football team. Looking back on it, I don’t know if we did. They were obviously a lot more energized, fresh, excited and ready to play. It showed out there.”
With six games under their belts — including three in the Big 12, where they’re off to a 1-2 start — Holgorsen said the physical nature of the game has taken a toll on his players.
“We have a beat up football team,” he said. “We’ve been playing a lot of snaps defensively, and those guys are worn down. It had something to do with what happened on Saturday; Baylor also was efficient. Offensively, we’re playing more bodies, because we’re trying to figure out what our dynamic is and what our makeup is going to be.
“We will take this week to rest, recover and reenergize. We need to prepare ourselves to play a good Texas Tech team (at noon in Morgantown on Oct. 19). We’re really just trying to get healthy. We got away from it a little bit this weekend, and this week we will get out there and just try to keep improving. We’re a football team that’s very inexperienced and needs to get out there and keep improving. The coaches, assistants and I all have to keep improving. The players need to keep improving, and what we’re seeing on the field offensively, defensively and special-teams wise needs to keep improving.”
Holgorsen said he’s hopeful the week off will help get some players back on the field. Junior running back Dustin Garrison, redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and senior wide receiver Ivan McCartney all missed last week’s game with injuries. Sophomore cornerback Ricky Rumph and redshirt junior offensive lineman Quinton Spain left the Baylor contest after being injured during the game. He’s hopeful the week off will help all of them to get ready to play against the Red Raiders.
“It’s college football,” said Holgorsen. “Everyone is dealing with what we’re dealing with. We have to regroup and get healthier, which is what I expect to do this week.”
Nowhere is that more important than at the quarterback spot, where junior Clint Trickett (shoulder) and redshirt freshman Ford Childress (chest) have both been dealing with some pain.
“We will rest Clint Trickett this week,” said Holgorsen. “With that shoulder, we will give him the whole week to rehab and strengthen it so he’s 100 percent next week. I don’t know if that’s going to happen for sure, but we will give him this week off and let him rest and let him strengthen that shoulder to get him back on Monday.
“Ford should be stronger this week than he was last week. He practiced some last week.”
So if everybody’s healthy, who will get the start next Saturday?
Holgorsen’s not ready to make a commitment.
“I’m not prepared to say that Clint is our quarterback, because Ford didn’t do anything to lose it,” he said. “It’s a dynamic I don’t like and isn’t beneficial to our football team. With our offense being inexperienced and having different people in at different times, it’s hard. The reality is that we’ve played six games and we’ve had three quarterbacks start two games each. They’re all guys that haven’t played very much and for whatever reasons — injuries, how they’ve practiced or how they’ve played in a game — we have to keep evaluating them.
“Clint played very well against Oklahoma State (a 30-21 upset victory) and very average against Baylor. Whether it was his shoulder or whether it wasn’t, I don’t know. I haven’t coached him long enough to figure it out. I do like his grit and how he toughed it out. It was a challenging environment and a challenging situation, and he didn’t just turn it down. We were happy to see that.
“I’ve liked Ford’s mentality. He tore his pectoral muscle. It’s not his fault. We just need to get him back on the field and see how he continues to progress. That’s what Monday is for — we will look at him then.
“I will go with Clint unless Ford does something in practice. Then we will go from there.”