By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Perhaps there were moments Saturday, as West Virginia was engineering a highly unexpected upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State on the football field, that your attention was drawn to the sideline.
One would expect while this upset was going on, the man behind it, Coach Dana Holgorsen, would have been an excessively happy fellow, but there were occasions when his displeasure bordered upon uncontrollable temper tantrums, so much so that after the game he admitted embarrassment over his behavior and apologized for the damage inflicted to his harmless headset.
And just what could have brought on such behavior?
Holgorsen readily admitted it was miscommunication between himself and his new quarterback, Clint Trickett, in getting plays into the game.
This made one refugee from the Paul Brown era when he solved the communication problem by running messenger guards into the game on each play wonder just what could possibly be so difficult about communicating the play from the bench.
And so it was that in the midst of Tuesday’s press conference, he asked Holgorsen just what it took to communicate a play ... and now we offer to you the explanation of just how difficult it is.
“View it as learning a sign language, like learning the sign language of the alphabet,” Holgorsen began. “How long does that take you? You could probably learn it in a week.”
So how come Clint Trickett, who has been at WVU since Aug. 1, doesn’t have it down?
Perhaps because that is just the beginning.
“That’s Step 1, learning what the signals are and what they mean. From there you have to process the play,” Holgorsen continued. “I give him the play and he has to process it.”
And just what does processing mean? A lot more than you may think.
“He has to make sure the personnel is right, where people line up, get them lined up, get it communicated to the O-line, get to the line of scrimmage, relay the cadence, go through the cadence,” Holgorsen said, now getting into it and speaking faster.
“You may have motion. You may have a changed snap count. You may change the play altogether, which he has no clue to do at this point.”
In this era of action and reaction, Trickett isn’t ready to be able to react to a defensive change at the moment.
“The more you do that, the easier it gets. That’s what he has to improve on. That’s on him. He should be better at that at this point,” Holgorsen said, now getting to the reason why he was losing it on the sideline.
“I mean, there were times in the game where I signaled the play to him and he looked at me like I was from outer space ... and that’s when I would throw my fits. It was just frustrating. It was like communicating with someone who speaks a different language.
“The language they learned at Florida State is different than the language we’re speaking here ... obviously.”
As frustrating as it was for Holgorsen, the final result made it acceptable.
“It’s taken some time,” Holgorsen said. “From there it’s, ‘OK, I got it, I got it, I got it’ and he communicates it to everyone else. Then it becomes, ‘Now, what do I do with the ball?’ That’s a whole other thing. The good news is when he snaps the ball and reacts to the game of football, that’s why we won the game.”
And now it is an ongoing process.
“He’ll get better with it,” Holgorsen said. “Me and him have been practicing all week, just walking by each other and signaling.”
But it isn’t something Trickett can work on alone.
“It’s really just me and him, two people communicating,” Holgorsen explained. “I got to get better at it. He has to get better at it. We both got to get better at it through practice, through games, through communicating.
“And it’s not just about signals. It’s about getting the signals and relaying it to everyone else. It’s part of being a quarterback. We do it a little differently than he’s used to. We’re going to adapt as coaches, he’s going to adapt and we’re going to get better.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.