CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen can’t shake a quarterback calamity not seen in his nine years of running an offense.
The Mountaineers played six straight weeks to start the season and are the last Big 12 team to get a bye. Holgorsen hopes the welcome break helps his signal callers heal from injuries and learn to run his system better.
West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) has used three different starting quarterbacks, including Florida State transfer Clint Trickett the past two games. Trickett is nursing a sore throwing shoulder.
“It’s rest and recovery this week,” Holgorsen said. “We have a beat-up football team.”
Holgorsen is taking a bit of a beating, too. He’s 20-12 halfway through his third season and fans are griping. Some compare his record to the man he replaced, the late Bill Stewart, who went 28-12 before being forced to resign prior to the 2011 season.
Holgorsen was hired in 2010 with the goal of competing for a national championship. Behind quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia went 10-2 in Holgorsen’s first season that included a win in the Orange Bowl and started 5-0 last year in its debut season in the Big 12.
The Mountaineers are 5-9 since, and the schedule isn’t getting any easier.
West Virginia’s next game is Oct. 19 at home against No. 20 Texas Tech. If the Red Raiders defeat Iowa State on Saturday, it would mark the fourth straight unbeaten opponent for the Mountaineers.
A week after the defense was solid in a win over No. 22 Oklahoma State, the unit looked more like the 2012 defense that gave up a school-record 38 points per game. No. 15 Baylor’s offense piled up 864 yards in a 73-42 win last week.
West Virginia’s defense did score touchdowns on a fumble recovery and an interception against the Bears. But it now ranks last in the Big 12 in points and yards allowed.
“We reverted back to a lot of the stuff that happened last year,” Holgorsen said. “When we got down 21-7 and we knew the environment we were in, our guys hit the panic button, defensively specifically. They lost some of the discipline that we’ve been teaching for eight months, which was discouraging to see.”
The problem is more pronounced at quarterback.
The position has gone from mastery to mystery for Holgorsen, who produced eight consecutive 4,000-yard passers from 2005 to 2012. The list includes Cody Hodges and Graham Harrell at Texas Tech, Case Keenum at Houston, Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State and Smith.
Holgorsen will be lucky to get 1,500 yards from anyone this season.
Trickett, redshirt freshman Ford Childress and junior Paul Millard all have gone 1-1 with two starts apiece. Millard is the only healthy quarterback.
Trickett, a junior, completed just nine of 28 passes for 161 yards at Baylor.
Holgorsen said he plans to stick with Trickett unless Childress, who is recovering from a torn chest muscle, earns the starting job back in practice.
“It’s a dynamic I don’t like and isn’t beneficial to our football team,” Holgorsen said. “With our offense being inexperienced and having different people in at different times, it’s hard. They’re all guys that haven’t played very much and for whatever reasons – injuries, how they’ve practiced or how they’ve played in a game — we have to keep evaluating them.”
Holgorsen has had problems with Trickett understanding his signals during games and the junior isn’t yet ready to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
Holgorsen also isn’t happy with the slower pace of executing plays on offense.
“Some of that is on Clint,” he said. “I told him that his sense of urgency needed to pick up. I will get him plays, but he needs to see it, understand it and relay it quicker. We will work that hard this week. He can even work that with his thought process.”