Ford Mustang? He just wasn’t flashy enough.
Ford Focus? He wasn’t quite that efficient.
Ford Pinto? Come on. He was better than that.
Ford Childress’ performance in his first game as a college quarterback was probably more like a Ford Taurus. He’s not likely to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award for his play, but the West Virginia University signal caller transported the Mountaineers safely to a win.
The third-stringer a week ago, when WVU traveled to Oklahoma for a meeting with the No. 16 Sooners, the redshirt-freshman suddenly found himself as the starter Saturday against Georgia State. He sputtered early, but after a halftime tuneup, the Houston, Texas, native led the Mountaineers to 24 second-half points and a 41-7 win.
“It was pretty good for the first game he’s ever played,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen of his quarterback’s performance. Childress completed 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He had some passes dropped but also misfired a few times — especially on some deep balls — and had one first-half pass intercepted.
“I thought he did a good job of managing the game,” Holgorsen continued. “That’s what we’re looking for. If you have a guy who understands what’s going on, he can bring some other guys along with him.”
“I thought it went pretty well,” added Childress, who broke Scott McBrien’s freshman record for passing yards in a game. “I had some balls that I want to take back, but, overall, I think I played pretty well.”
Driving the Mountaineers against the Panthers, though, was a little like cruising on a midnight highway. There was very little traffic and few turns. The Georgia State defense was average, at best. Next week will be a little more like a West Virginia country road in the rain when Childress makes his second start against Maryland at the home of the Baltimore Ravens.
Still, Saturday’s test drive seemed to go well.
“I got my first touchdown, and I got my first pick,” said Childress. “So everything’s open now.”
What went right?
For starters, Childress led the Mountaineers (2-1) to a victory. He eliminated major mistakes — accept for the one interception — and he seemed comfortable on the field.
“He looked pretty poised to me, and his demeanor was good,” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “He made some good throws. He missed a couple that would have set him up for a really good game if we had made a play.
“He looked like he did a good job standing in the pocket and making throws. I’ll have to watch the film. I’m sure he did some good things and some bad things, but, overall, I thought he made some throws at good times. That was good to see.”
What went wrong?
Childress missed a few short throws — some low and others high — and he underthrew more than one long ball that could have led to big plays, if not touchdowns.
“I tend to underthrow them, because I don’t want to overthrow them,” said Childress. “I want to give them a chance. I think I need to improve on that a lot.”
Communication — an aspect that the coaches have stressed during the entire quarterback competition — seemed to go well. Childress picked up the signals, got his offense lined up and avoided any major confusion — even when Holgorsen didn’t make that job an easy one.
“It’s difficult when Dana gives the signals really quick; that makes it tricky,” said Childress. “Or when he tries to get cute with his signs. Other than that, I feel really comfortable with the signals. It’s a really basic offense, I think.”
Wait. Cute with the signs?
“He tries to hide them,” said Childress with a laugh. “And he has little, small fingers. It gets kind of confusing.”
That communication will be critical when WVU’s new Ford rolls into an impressive showroom floor known as M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., next Saturday to face the Maryland Terrapins. But Childress promises he’ll be ready.
“I don’t think there’s anything to change,” he said. “I’m going to work just as hard as I did as a backup. But I’m just more comfortable, I guess.”
WVU will face better teams than Maryland before the season’s over, but next Saturday’s game could help decide whether the coaches end the test drive or take out the pink slips on Childress.
“You find out about people when you put them in position to make plays under pressure,” said Dawson. “We’ll see how he handles things coming up.”
For now, the keys belong to Ford, and he’s looking for some Freddy Krueger fingers to pass off to his head coach.
Ford Mustang? He just wasn’t flashy enough.
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