MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —The West Virginia quarterback race has been so tight this preseason that even the offensive dynamic duo of Dana Holgorsen and Shannon Dawson are atypically befuddled, entering an opener without a designated starter for the first time in their careers.
That’s the sort of indecision a team can stomach against the likes of William & Mary, but the coaches hope to tap their go-to guy—whether it be Paul Millard or Clint Trickett—before the pivotal Week 2 trip to Oklahoma.
“You could look at it as neither of them rose or neither one of them fell off,” said Dawson, WVU’s third-year offensive coordinator. “They’ve been pretty dadgum consistent day in and day out.
“Both of them deserve an opportunity, and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in. Whoever wants to take hold of it and run with it, I’m more than happy for him. … We’re trying to figure out who can lead this team to victory better.”
This who’ll-take-the-first-snap mystery is precisely the kind of dramatic subplot an opener against an FCS team craves. What better way to coerce fans into the stadium by kickoff? Close down that tailgate and grab an $8 beer as you rush to your seat … this ain’t just first-and-10, this is HISTORY!
And Dawson prays that is the only historic tidbit to stem from a game against a lower-level team coming off a 2-9 season.
“Hopefully somebody rises up,” Dawson said. “Hopefully somebody is a gamer.”
NO. 14 or NO. 9?
The Trickett-Millard competition is intense, though as we were told Tuesday night, it’s not quite Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan.
“When Coach turns his back, you’re not going to take a hammer to (Millard’s) kneecaps or anything,” Trickett said. “It’s friendly competition and both of us want the job.”
Funny guy, this transfer from Tallahassee. Then again, if Millard somehow winds up with a knee injury, Trickett immediately becomes a person of interest.
“Or my mom,” he said.
Yeah, funny guy.
Trickett obviously possesses the temperament to play quarterback, though he’ll need to suppress the inner-fizz sure to bubble up from returning to Morgantown, to the stadium in which he grew up aspiring to play.
“Winning. Winning. Winning,” is how he described Saturday’s mission. “I can’t really get caught up in the moment—first game back home, dream school, and all that. You’ve just got to get out there and play.”
WHEN GOING LONG EQUALS GOING WRONG
Millard was lightly recruited out of Flower Mound, Texas, because many Division I recruiters doubted his arm strength. During two seasons as a college backup, he has added zip to his passes and curbed—at least somewhat—his urge to gamble on deep throws.
“It’s not always about forcing it downfield,” Millard said of his most crucial revelation. “Sometimes it’s about checking it down and getting as many completions as you can moving the ball forward.”
Millard dodged a reporter’s assertion the quarterback possessing a gunslinger mentality, but that’s precisely what Dawson alluded to in this same-day mini-critique: “There’s times where Paul tries to do too much, in my opinion.”
This is where the playing-within-himself axiom must become Millard’s mantra. Can he be patient enough to seek out the short-toss weak spots the Air Raid attack was built to exploit?
“I came here early as a freshman and my goal was to be a starting quarterback for the Mountaineers,” Millard said. “I’m excited about the opportunity ahead—I’m just ready to go get it.”