AMES, Iowa — Remember the Skyler Howard from spring practice? The quarterback who tended to throw the football to defenders with the same regularity he threw it to his own guys?
The kid looked like a wasted scholarship back then, but Howard’s November is overshadowing his April.
With three more touchdowns against Iowa State on Saturday, the sophomore has thrown for five scores without an interception during the six quarters since Clint Trickett sustained a concussion. After West Virginia’s 37-24 victory, his teammates were
“It’s crazy,” said receiver Jordan Thompson. “He probably didn’t think he was gong to play this year, but you’ve got to expect the unexpected. He’s doing a fantastic job. He was throwing the ball on the money today”
Howard threw for 285 yards, despite an injury that limited primary receiver Kevin White, and he ran for 69 more as the Mountaineers (7-5, 5-4) earned their first win of the month and secured their first winning league record in three Big 12 seasons.
What Howard didn’t do in his first start was steal the job from Trickett, who should be clear-headed in time for bowl practices. Coach Dana Holgorsen said WVU’s plan will be to return Trickett to the lineup once he receives the medical OK.
That’s OK with Howard, who has progressed lightyears since the summer when Holgorsen said he would be redshirting.
“I’m on this team to play my role, whatever that is, whatever (the coaches) decide,” Howard said. “I’ll be the best backup we have or I’ll be the best starter we have.”
Despite some effective relief work last week, Howard couldn’t rescue a win over Kansas State. Lo and behold, he found himself down 21-7 to Iowa State before throwing two second-quarter touchdowns to Mario Alford.
In the final 69 seconds of the half, Howard completed four straight passes—highlighted by a 16-yarder to Daikiel Shorts—to set up Josh Lambert’s 32-yard field goal for a 27-21 lead.
“I think our guys rallied around him,” said West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who worried how Howard would play this time, given a week to contemplate it. “That’s what I’m proudest of, the way he prepared. There is a big difference in being the guy and coming off the bench.”
Just like there’s a big difference in the Howard who won his first start Saturday vs. the guy who looked lost seven months ago.