The Long, Weird Journey to Relevance for West Virginia QB Clint Trickett
Clint Trickett was the third different quarterback to start for West Virginia in four games this season. But he was the first signal caller to orchestrate a major win for the Mountaineers in nearly a year.
WVU's 30-21 victory Saturday against Oklahoma State couldn't have come at a better, and in a way, stranger time. The Mountaineers had been shut out for the first time in over a decade just a week prior in a 37-0 loss to Maryland, an exclamation point (or, maybe, a question mark) to what has been one of the most astonishing meltdowns of the past year in college football.
West Virginia's defense was the story against the Cowboys. The numbers are impressive: 10 forced punts, three turnovers and a goal-line stand that resulted in a missed field goal for OSU, a team averaging 45 points a game coming into Week 5.
This is easily one of the most improved units from a year ago in the Big 12, and probably, all of college football.
But the win will also be known as the one where Trickett showed a tremendous display of toughness. Hampered by an apparent shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, Trickett still managed to orchestrate a short, yet nevertheless crucial, drive ending in a field goal. It was as big an offensive possession as there was for the Mountaineers all year since it all but officially sealed the win.
It was the kind of gutsy performance that every fan and coach alike wants to see. On top of it all, it came from a player with West Virginia ties.
Trickett's father, current Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, is from Masontown, WV and was an assistant for the Mountaineers from 1975-79 and then again from 2001-06. As a result, Clint spent a lot of time growing up in West Virginia and still has relatives in the state.
Though Clint did not sign with the Mountaineers out of high school in 2010, he said via Twitter in May, upon announcing his transfer to WVU, that playing for West Virginia was "dream come true."
It's official, I will finish my academic/athletic career at WVU. This is a dream come true to be playin for the state I love. #CountryRoads— Clint Trickett (@ClintTrickett9) May 1, 2013
ESPN's broadcast team noted during Saturday's game between WVU and Oklahoma state that Clint felt uncomfortable playing for his father at Florida State. Additionally, he sat behind two quarterbacks in Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel who would eventually be picked in the first rounds of the 2011 and '13 NFL drafts, respectively.
The Seminoles' new quarterback, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, may find himself in a similar situation a couple of years from now. Regardless, Trickett was beat out once again.
But since Trickett graduated in three years, he was able to transfer to another school without sitting out a year to satisfy NCAA rules.
Trickett's transition to WVU wasn't a seamless one. Despite the fact that he was projected by some *ahem* to win the starting quarterback job following the departure of Geno Smith to the NFL, that ended up not being the case. Rather, junior Paul Millard took a majority of the snaps in WVU's Week 1 win over William & Mary while Trickett led just two possessions.
Those "drives" were disastrous: a pair of three-and-outs, no completions and a near interception. Trickett didn't return to the game and wouldn't see playing time against until last Saturday. Despite the experience, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Trickett is still learning on the job.
"What we do offensively is still foreign to him [Trickett]," Holgorsen said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference.
But with redshirt freshman Ford Childress, who started two games against Georgia State and Maryland, out with a torn pectoral muscle, and with Millard generally ineffective, it was Trickett's turn to try and provide a spark for a WVU offense that looked nothing like the Holgorsen offenses of old.
Who should be the starting QB for WVU?
Trickett may still be learning the offense, but his experience and grit was enough to move the ball Saturday for the Mountaineers when it mattered. The redshirt junior was willing to push the ball downfield more even though he lacks arm strength and Oklahoma State mostly won the one-on-one battles deep.
He took a lot of hits too, more than someone listed at 180 pounds should. Still, he made critical throws when he needed to and extended plays just long enough to get the ball out.
Trickett's stats aren't always the best and he's not the biggest player on the field. Who knows, he may not start another game for West Virginia this season. But the coach's son with hometown roots came through when he was asked.
Those are the kind of performances that are remembered.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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