By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
It would be wonderful to announce that in finding a quarterback on Saturday during a rather unexpected upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State, Coach Dana Holgorsen had found one with the arm of Geno Smith, the legs of Pat White, the athleticism of Major Harris and the future of Jeff Hostetler.
That, we quickly learned, was not the case, admitted to rather freely by both Holgorsen himself and his latest protégé, Clint Trickett.
In truth, one suspects Holgorsen would love to reinsert Ford Childress at the quarterback spot as soon as his torn pectoral muscle is healed, even if that is as quickly as this week against Baylor, in part because he feels he can best mold him into the quarterback he pictures as potentially the best and, in part, because one must assume that his inability to complete passes or throw them downfield was a result of the injury more than shortcomings that a healthy Childress possesses.
In fact, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson revealed Sunday afternoon that by Tuesday Childress “couldn’t throw a ball 10 feet,” forcing the change of direction.
But even the cocksure Holgorsen would not have the nerve to make such a move in the face of the popularity Trickett procured as the odd-man-out in the quarterback race who came on to make football fun again in his hometown.
See, Trickett didn’t come riding in out of the West wearing a white 10-gallon hat, spurs jingling and jangling and six-shooters blazing as the new Texas image of a quarterback is around these parts. No, it was more as if he showed up straight from the Buckwheat Festival, a miner’s light on his helmet and coal dust dirtying his face.
He came home as a West Virginia quarterback, one whose game wasn’t made for TV but simply to win with.
Trickett realized that this was simply a debut performance by him and the offense, a getting-to-know-you session, nothing like it can be, nothing like it will be.
“Lots of room for improvement,” Trickett said. “We’re never going to be exactly where we need to be. I don’t know the stats offhand, but we’ve got a long way to go, and we can get there. That’s what’s so exciting. We did beat the No. 11 team in the country, but we didn’t play our best at all.”
In assessing his three quarterbacks, Holgorsen had both Childress and Paul Millard ahead of Trickett in the physical assets that come with quarterbacking, but he understands that Trickett brought a certain something to the position that often outweighs ability.
He is a leader, an inspiration. He is what Bobby Layne was back in another era in that regard, and in the way he changes the attitude of a team he is out of the Terry Bradshaw mold in that the entire personality of the offense changed with him in the game.
“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.’”
This was what offensive football had come to be at WVU, not just under Holgorsen with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but before him through the Rich Rod era ... maybe not in throwing the ball around, but in big plays that revved up the fans and the players.
It was the ball Trickett had grown up on, so close and personal that long before he threw his first real touchdown pass on Mountaineer Field to Kevin White on Saturday, he’d thrown hundreds as a kid as his father, Rick, slapped offensive linemen twice his size with his ball cap trying to get them to understand how to block for Steve Slaton.
When he opted to leave Florida State, a decision not difficult to understand having seen the freshman who stood ahead of him for the starting job there, Trickett certainly envisioned coming home and playing, even though he had been promised nothing.
And it wasn’t easy when he managed to play only six plays in the first four games, tough on him and maybe tougher on the fans who fully expected he was brought in to start and saw Holgorsen’s denial of that simply as motivational jabber.
“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.”
When his real chance came Saturday, however, he took advantage of it, and now it’s probably his job to lose ... and if he beats Baylor no one is going to take it from him.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.