Howard’s confidence wins over teammates, worries Texas A&M

Skyler Howard threw three touchdowns and ran for 69 yards to guide West Virginia to a 37-24 win in Ames.

 

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Skyler Howard wasn’t among the players available during Liberty Bowl media sessions, but West Virginia’s quarterback became the primary topic anyway.

Texas A&M’s interim defensive coordinator Mark Hagen, after emphasizing he meant no disrespect to Clint Trickett, said Howard’s mobility “presents a whole new set of problems.” (It’s hard to believe there exist new problems for an Aggies’ defense that presumably encountered all of them during a disastrous season.)

Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett—having faced Blake Sims, Nick Marshall, Bo Wallace and Maty Mauck—knows all too well the stress a scrambling quarterback puts on a secondary.

“Covering a guy for 10 seconds isn’t easy,” Everett said.

Neither is judging a quarterback’s potential, apparently. After all, Dana Holgorsen pegged Howard for a redshirt season last summer and soon made him a third-stringer behind William Crest.

If not for Trickett’s concussions and Crest’s wounded shoulder, Howard still might be an unknown commodity, instead of a guy who has thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions in West Virginia’s last two games.

West Virginia’s Skyler Howard appeared to be headed for a redshirt seaon during preseason camp, before injuries to Clint Trickett (right) and William Crest.

How uneasy was Holgorsen about inserting Howard against Kansas State? “I didn’t know how he’d react.”

But the Howard who threw passes late and into coverage during spring practice wasn’t the same guy late in the season.

“It’s night and day,” Holgorsen said of Howard’s transformation. “Mentally, we didn’t think the was ready. Physically, we didn’t think he was ready. We went with William Crest early in the year because I thought he was ahead of him. But the improvement he’s made the last two months, I’ve never seen that as a quarterback before, not as a true sophomore.”

During his first series of relief against K-State, Howard stirred up his teammates by checking out of a run play in the red zone. When guard Mark Glowinski yelled at him to stick with the run, Howard yelled back, “No, I got it.”

Howard had noticed the safety rolling down and the cornerback playing outside leverage against Kevin White, so he threw a 7-yard touchdown slant to White. Even the All-American admitted to questioning Howard’s call, but added: “He threw a touchdown, so no one could complain.”

By the following week at Iowa State, the linemen realized they could trust Howard’s judgment—especially Glowinski, who had been a junior college transfer also and could relate to the acclimation pressures. Now that the quarterback comprehends the system, his teammates don’t feel the need to be caretakers.

“Once you figure out the beat you can get everything rolling,” Glowinski said. “Skyler’s more confident and gives us a sense that we can just do what we need to do really help him out.”





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