MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Because quarterbacks who live together keep few secrets, Clint Trickett was among the first to realize the severity of Ford Childress’s pectoral injury.
“Yeah, I kind of had an idea,” said Trickett, recounting the aftermath of West Virginia’s 37-0 loss to Maryland, an abomination of offensive football during which Childress tore a muscle in his chest.
By the start of Tuesday’s practice, WVU’s coaches also recognized the debilitating impact of the injury when offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson noticed Childress “couldn’t throw a ball 10 feet.”
In went Trickett for three days’ of practice reps, given the mission of injecting vitality into a lifeless offense—and doing so against an Oklahoma State defense whose first-stringers had allowed only one touchdown in three games.
What was Trickett’s message?
“It was apparent through the first four games we weren’t really having fun on offense,” he said. “We were pressing and everyone was tense. So I was like, ‘Let’s go have fun. Let’s throw some deep balls. Let’s get it going.'”
That could have been the same pep talk Trickett gave himself after making only a brief, six-play cameo against William & Mary and then spending the past three games in complete absentia. With West Virginia ranking 108th nationally in scoring offense, many wondered what the Florida State transfer had to do to get on the field.
“It was tough,” Trickett admitted. “The media perception and the fans’ perception was that I was immediately going to come in and (win the job). I had chances to do it during camp—and didn’t take it.”
He finally took it Saturday afternoon while guiding West Virginia to a 30-21 stunner over OSU. Not a flawless day by any stretch—his first touchdown pass as a Mountaineer was offset by two interceptions, and Trickett compiled 309 passing yards while giving Dana Holgorsen roughly 309 aneurysms over various miscommunications.
“Clint did a great job keeping plays alive. He’s tough, he doesn’t get rattled and he gets out there and plays ball … (but) he does not operate the offense, though,” said Holgorsen, clarifying his reluctance to insert Trickett sooner. “The operations for me on the sideline today were very frustrating. I threw a couple temper tantrums, which I am quite embarrassed about. It’s just that the communication needs to get better. The relationship with me and him needs to get better.”
Holgorsen wasn’t alone in his exasperation. Just absorb this postgame snippet from his first lieutenant Dawson:
“There were some things we ran that we didn’t even work on all week. I don’t know what the hell it was, but it worked.”
Coaches aren’t fond of relinquishing control, yet Trickett’s moments of maverick magic helped animate this offense from the dead. He also animated himself after a fourth-quarter hit drove his throwing shoulder into the turf.
Trickett came out for the final play of that drive, but not before stubbornly trying to stay on the field for a third-and-10 play that became third-and-15 thanks to a delay of game penalty.
“Dude, if you get hurt, lay down,” Holgorsen said. “Let somebody come tend to you so we don’t get a delay.”
While Oklahoma State held the ball for the next three minutes, Trickett tried a painful-lloking warm-up throw on the bench. After doubling over in agony, he jogged off to the locker room, his right arm tucked close to his side.
“It hurt, but I went inside and got it evaluated, and it felt better after that,” said Trickett, who returned in time for WVU’s next series and threw three consecutive passes with his “evaluated” right arm. After waiting four weeks for his turn, he couldn’t relinquish the chance to finish off Oklahoma State.
“I wasn’t getting taken out of the game,” he said.