MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With three games left to write the legacy of West Virginia’s season, Clint Trickett was cautious this week not to wrap Senior Night in too much pomp.
“It’s going to be cool, but I’m more focused on the game,” offered Trickett, whose team is slightly favored against No. 12 Kansas State on Thursday.
Yet he understands the sentimental trappings of starting his final game at Mountaineer Field, albeit the completion of a relatively brief career as a player.
Among the team’s 19 seniors, only six are full-term players who signed with West Virginia out of high school. The rest climbed through the junior college ranks in Georgia, Mississippi and Kansas, or as in Trickett’s situation, they earned undergraduate degrees elsewhere before relocating to Morgantown.
“A lot of us came in as transfers from juco or whatnot, so it’s not a four-year class, it’s a two-year class,” Trickett said. “But we still have a very strong bond. I think we all understand what this program means to this state.”
Trickett feels it more deeply than most, having spent six years of his childhood roaming the football complex while his father Rick worked as West Virginia’s offensive line coach. Despite an 8-9 record as the starting quarterback, Trickett cherishes the two seasons he spent here upon leaving Florida State.
“It’s something I always dreamed about,” he said. “Something I never thought would’ve happened but did.”
With 3,173 passing yards through 10 games, Trickett stands fourth on the WVU single-season list and seems assured to surpass the 3,607 yards posted by Marc Bulger in 1998. He must average 344 the rest of the way to match Geno Smith’s 2012 output for second place (4,205) and needs 404 per game to equal Smith’s record-setting 2011 campaign (4,385).
During last weekend’s bye, Trickett hung out with family members in Glenville and the conversation frequently returned to Mountaineers football.
“It gets you going and it gets you juiced up,” he said. “With all these people talking about it, it really is the only thing going on in the state, and we represent everyone.”
Kansas State (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) at West Virginia (6-4, 4-3)
Kickoff: Thursday, 7 p.m Eastern (Fox Sports 1)
Radio: Nine hours of coverage begins at 3 p.m. on MetroNews affiliates across West Virginia
Line: West Virginia favored by 2.5
Final home game: Trickett’s top two targets, Kevin White and Mario Alford, also are wrapping up their home careers tonight. White is a Biletnikoff semifinalist whose 91 catches and 1,207 yards rank fourth on WVU’s single-season chart. (Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are tied for the receptions mark with 114, and Bailey’s 2012 output of 1,622 leads the yardage.) With 53 catches for 552 yards, Alford is on pace to crack the top 10 in both categories.
Fellow senior and Kansas native Dreamius Smith has 302 yards the past four games on only 40 carries (a 7.5-yard average). He wants to atone for last year’s performance at K-State (23 yards on 7 carries), which running backs coach JaJuan Seider called “probably the worst game he has ever played.”
Lockett’s combination: K-State’s Tyler Lockett listed height of 5-foot-11 may be bogus, but his other numbers are legit. And West Virginia’s secondary can attest. He has five touchdowns in two games against the Mountaineers, catching nine passes for 194 yards in 2012 and eight for 111 last season.
“I think Lockett is one of the best players in the country,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
While Lockett is on his way to breaking all the K-State career marks, fellow senior Curry Sexton has enjoyed a breakout season of 53 catches for 723 yards. Among his four 100-yard games, two came against Auburn and TCU.
Dillon grateful for reprieve: After his fourth-quarter ejection at Texas, Mountaineers safety K.J. Dillon faced the possibility of a first-half suspension against K-State. That penalty was waived, however, when the Big 12 determined via video that the safety had not thrown a punch.
“I’m glad they did that,” Dillon said. “Shout out to them.”
Stats, go figure: West Virginia averages 502 yards (third-best in the Big 12) to K-State’s 422, but the Wildcats hold the edge in scoring, 36.2 to 34.1.
K-State also stands plus-five in turnover margin while West Virginia brings up the rear of the league at minus-13.