By Cam Huffman
Clint Trickett has thrown touchdown passes on Mountaineer Field before. But it was normally in front of empty drink cups, some hot dog wrappers blowing in the wind and a few straggling media members hours after West Virginia had left the field on a fall Saturday in Morgantown.
When the Mountaineers (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) host No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)) today at noon, Trickett will be looking to repeat those heroics in front of a crowd of 50,000-plus and an ESPN television audience.
Trickett spent a large portion of his youth in Morgantown where his father, Rick Trickett, served as offensive line coach before moving on to Florida State. The younger Trickett started his college career with his dad at FSU, but he transferred to WVU over the summer with a degree and two years of eligibility. He said he simply wanted to come back “home” to finish out his career.
Through the first four games of the 2013 campaign, Trickett who threw for 947 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons of spot action for the Seminoles, saw just six snaps on the field for WVU, all in the season-opening win over William & Mary. He didn’t complete a pass, and the offense went three-and-out on both of his drives.
But after an injury kept redshirt freshman Ford Childress off the practice field this week, Trickett found another opportunity. He handed the keys to the Mountaineer offense, and he’ll make his first start today.
Offensively, we haven’t been lights out here, so maybe Clint can give us a little bit of a spark that can ignite the offense and do some good things,” said Holgorsen Thursday night on his radio show. “We’ll put him out there and see what he does.”
Trickett will face a difficult challenge, trying to jump-start an offense that has put together just one touchdown drive all season against foes from “power conferences” — Oklahoma and Maryland.
WVU will surely need points to keep pace with an Oklahoma State offense scoring 45.3 points and racking up 487.7 yards per game.
Much of that production comes through the air, where the Cowboys, running the offense that Holgorsen installed for them as the offensive coordinator in 2010, are throwing for 311.7 yards per game.
“They have an athletic quarterback,” said Holgorsen. “J.W. Walsh has won a lot of football games. He’s a coach’s kid, he’s savvy, he throws the ball well, he runs well, he makes it work.”
But OSU has made an effort to stay as balanced as possible and is rushing for 176 yards per outing, including 10 rushing touchdowns.
“They’ve always been good up front,” said Holgorsen.
“They are always going to try and run the ball. They are very well rounded. They are going to play with a tremendous amount of tempo. They try to snap it about every 20 seconds, which will be different, compared to what we have seen.”
Defensively, OSU has been pretty stingy. If there’s a weakness it’s in pass defense, where the Cowboys are ninth in the 10-team Big 12, allowing 238.3 yards per game through the skies.
“They play with a lot of effort defensively,” said Holgorsen. “They’ve been running the same system there for a while. Glenn Spencer is a great football coach. He took over for Bill Young last year. He does a great job and gets them to play with a lot of effort. The scheme is not that tough. They are going to play four down. They are going to play a couple different coverages. They are mixing in some man coverage as well. They are not going to blitz a bunch, but they coach really hard on effort and technique.”
West Virginia, meanwhile, has the Big 12’s top pass defense, giving up just 155 yards per game, and ranks third in total defense after being one of the nation’s worst a year ago.
New defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who replaced Joe DeForest in that position, has WVU playing with more aggression and confidence. Now they just need the offense to put some points on the scoreboard.
“We knew it was going to be a role reversal,” said Holgorsen, who had one of the league’s top offenses in 2012 but couldn’t slow down any opponent. “Last year, I sat here and defended the defense a lot. We win as a team, play as a team, and unfortunately, we lose as a team.
“If we want to win, the defense has to set up scores or make plays. That’s just the situation we are in until the offense comes along, which eventually, it will. My challenge is to make it happen sooner, and make it happen this week.”
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.