The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

September 2, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Millard makes most of first career start

MORGANTOWN — Let us first get something important out of the way as a service to Paul Millard.

It came in the postgame glow over a come-from-behind victory over William & Mary in his first collegiate start, a game in which the quarterback conversation around Milan Puskar Stadium went from plural to singular quite quickly.

Millard had started and made the most of it with 19 completions in 25 attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown — a rather impressive touchdown throw of 69 yards to quick-as-a-flash Ronnie Carswell that turned the game from what seemed to become an embarrassing defeat to a tolerable victory.

Anyway, in the afterglow of the postgame media session, someone referred to Millard as a “gunslinger,” which was a label he brought with him from Flower Mound High in Texas.

“I don’t know where the gunslinger comes from,” he snapped. “I threw the ball like 70 times once in high school. I’m not a gunslinger.”

Throw 70 passes in a game once and you get tagged for life. Of course, the gunslinger tag could have come from throwing 500 passes and completing 331 for 4,491 yards and 41 touchdowns in his senior season, but who was counting.

The fact of the matter was that while Coach Dana Holgorsen would be fine with Millard as a gunslinger, he’s totally satisfied with what he saw in Saturday’s game — a cool, level-headed kid who didn’t make a lot of mistakes, save for one “boneheaded play,” as the coach would put it, that cost WVU the ball and a field goal.

“Offensively, we are still trying to find an identity,” Holgorsen said. “I thought Paul managed the game well, minus one boneheaded play where he dropped the ball on a sack.

“Other than that, he managed it well. We will get a lot better and look at the tape, and as guys see themselves in game situations, they will improve.”

This was strange talk considering that less than two weeks earlier Holgorsen’s main complaint with Millard was with his decision making. He would make great decisions, then bad ones, and Holgorsen was looking mainly for a quarterback he could trust not to make mistakes.

But as opening day drew near, the light bulb went off in Millard’s head, and it was a 200-watt bulb at that.

Not that it surprised him that he caught on.

“The same thing happened in high school. It was my sophomore year and I wasn’t playing on the varsity squad, but in the offseason a lot of things just clicked for me,” he said. “I would say I knew the system the last two years, but I think I did a good job this year.”

Being a backup to a quarterback like Geno Smith doesn’t give you the same urgency to learn as does being involved in a competition for the starting job with a quarterback like Clint Trickett, a player who has similar talents to your own.

Certainly, Holgorsen did not put a great deal on Millard in his first start. He knew he had accomplished running backs and used them, running the ball 44 times while passing it just 27.

“I have no idea how many passes I threw,” Millard, the one-time gunslinger, would say after the game. “It’s nice having running backs like we do. It’s nice to catch the ball back there and hand it to them and let them get us first downs. It makes the game a lot easier. It’s going to be nice to have those guys all year.”

It’s nice, too, in making completing passes easier, especially the one to Carswell.

“I knew it was six points right then, the play before,” Millard said. “Because we had them set up.”

Indeed they did.

“Seeing as how we were running the ball like 80 percent of the time,” Holgorsen said, using exaggeration for effect, “if I was them, I would have probably screwed those safeties down as well.”

The safeties had seen that formation over and over and it led to a running play, so when the call came in for play action, they bit, leaving Carswell only a corner to beat and by the time the football settled into his hands en route to the end zone he was in a different ZIP code than the defender.

Holgorsen will look carefully at the game film and see if he didn’t overrate Millard’s performance, see where he needs to improve, and decide if he will start next week over Trickett, but if he doesn’t it will be a bigger upset than it would have been had William & Mary beaten the Mountaineers.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads