By Cam Huffman
The battle for West Virginia University’s starting quarterback position that had consumed Mountaineer fans’ conversations for months following the graduation of the school’s all-time leading passer, Geno Smith, finally came to an end Saturday in WVU’s 24-17 win over William & Mary.
Or so those fans thought.
Junior Paul Millard took all but six snaps at the position in the season opener, completing 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. He avoided tossing an interception, and he moved the offense to four scoring drives.
“He did a good job of managing the game,” said third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen during Monday’s Big 12 conference call. “I thought he got us into several good run checks. Other than the one sack, which was really on him, he did a good job of taking care of the ball and running the offense. He completed nearly 80 percent of his passes, so I was happy with what he did.”
Millard’s major competition, Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, threw two incomplete passes and went three-and-out on both of his series in the lineup, and he never came back in the game after the second quarter.
But Holgorsen still wasn’t ready to crown Millard as the new king of the WVU offense. In fact, he made it sound as though the competition is still ongoing.
“I still think Clint brings something to the table that (Millard) doesn’t,” said Holgorsen. “So we’ll continue to rep Clint. Obviously, you’ve got to rep your second-team quarterback, anyway, so he’ll continue to get reps and I would expect him to get better at what we’re asking him to do.”
So will Trickett, who played against Oklahoma while at Florida State, get another shot at the Sooners when WVU heads to Norman, Okla., Saturday night to open up the Big 12 portion of its schedule?
“It all depends on how the game goes,” said Holgorsen. “He’s played against Oklahoma before. He knows the kind of speed that they have and what kind of athletic ability they have. He’s been in that situation before, so I think he’ll help us from a maturity standpoint and being able to move the ball.
“We’ve just got to continue to rep him. He doesn’t understand the offense as well as Paul. I’m really happy with the way Paul performed, and, right now, it looks like he’s our guy. But, with that said, we’re going to continue to rep Clint to get him in position to use him when we need him. More than likely, we’re going to need him at some point.”
Holgorsen said Millard’s biggest advantage, right now, is having spent two previous seasons in Morgantown.
“Paul has taken reps for the last couple years, and the comfort level was a little higher with him than it was with Clint,” he explained. “Again, the more snaps Clint takes, the more comfortable he’s going to get out there.”
Let the debate continue.
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Holgorsen, like most associated with the WVU program, wasn’t thrilled with everything he saw Saturday against The Tribe, but unlike those who left the stadium throwing their hats and predicting certain doom, the coach did see some positives.
“I thought we got better on all three sides of the ball, which is the overall goal of an opening football game,” he said. “I don’t care too much about the score. Would I have liked to score more? Absolutely. Would I have liked to have not given up the big plays and allowed them to score points? Of course so. But there were things that happened that we’ll be able to learn from. You try your hardest to put guys in situations to see how they’ll respond, but until you actually do that in a real game, you don’t know how they’ll really respond.
“I’m just excited about the guys who were able to go out there and make plays and show improvement. Obviously, we’re going to have to improve a lot more heading into Norman this weekend.”
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.