MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first priority for West Virginia’s Paul Millard, this week’s likely starting quarterback against Kansas, was learning from mistakes he made against Texas.
The junior fumbled four times in a 47-40 loss to the Longhorns, three of those on third-and-long sacks when Millard failed to make the necessary quick throws.
“When they’re bringing more guys than we can block, it’s my job to get the ball out of my hand or make somebody miss. So for me,” joked the notably immobile Millard, “I’m probably going to need to get the ball out of my hand.”
Texas registered six sacks total, one of which knocked out West Virginia starter Clint Trickett and resulted in another turnover. WVU’s quarterbacks combined to fumble six times, losing three.
After emphasizing ball security during practices and meetings, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was chafed by his quarterbacks’ sluggish reactions.
“The times we fumbled the ball were third-and-long, high-blitz percentage by them,” Dawson said. “We knew that going into the game and we hold on to the damn football. For me to be able to explain that to you, is outside my realm of knowledge.
“It’s something we harped on. It’s third-and-long, what are they going to do? They’re going to blitz. Well, should you hold the ball on blitz or get rid of it?”
With Trickett awaiting clearance from post-concussion symptoms, it’s likely Millard will garner his third start of the season during Saturday’s game in Lawrence. Better decision-making in the pocket will be crucial, though the Kansas pass rush has lacked the fervor MiIllard witnessed from Texas. Though six Big 12 games, the Jayhawks have a league-low seven sacks, compared to the Longhorns’ 24.
Millard’s bullpen appearance against UT had its moments: He led WVU to 31 points and threw for 259 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown to Mario Alford. But he also was picked off twice, missed two open receivers on possession routes and overthrew an uncovered Charles Sims on a seam pattern that could have become a 75-yard score with the middle of the field vacated.
No longer dwelling on those mistakes, Millard said he’s focused on playing better at Kansas: “If you ask yourself what-if questions you’ll make yourself sick all the time. We had a lot of chances to win that game and didn’t get it done.”
If Trickett can’t play Saturday, Millard’s backup becomes an interesting hypothetical. Walk-on Logan Moore, the former quarterback at Division II Fairmont State, would be an option after shifting to receiver during fall camp. Then there’s Ford Childress, who last played Sept. 21 at Maryland, but has begun throwing again after experiencing setbacks in his rehab from a torn pectoral.
“He did more quarterback drills (Tuesday) than he usually has done (since the injury). He’s slowly getting involved,” Dawson said. “I don’t know what that means at this point, other than he’s taking a few reps.”