West Virginia notebook: Holgorsen upset about failure to communicate

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen admitted he was slightly "embarrassed" after throwing a few sideline temper tantrums during the Mountaineers' 30-21 upset victory Saturday against No. 11 Oklahoma State.

But, hey, what's a coach to do when his first-time starting quarterback Clint Trickett gazes at the sideline with an alarmed, deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes?

"There were times in the game where I signaled the play to [Trickett] and he looked at me like I was from outer space," Holgorsen said in his weekly Tuesday news conference. "That's when I would throw my fits. It's frustrating. It's like communicating with somebody that speaks a different language."

Trickett, a junior, performed admirably, completing 24 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in his first start since transferring from Florida State this summer. But Holgorsen was irate on the sideline after a few communication malfunctions, and his first headset bore the brunt when it was hurled to the turf, smashed to pieces.

"I lost several years off my life with the communication issues," Holgorsen said. "He's a long way away from being able to operate the offense the way I want him to operate our offense. With that said, he reacted to the game well and I'm glad he did."

Trickett (shoulder) and redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress (pectoral) did not practice Sunday and are day to day.

If both are healthy this weekend, Holgorsen said Trickett would start against No. 17 Baylor.

If neither practices before Thursday, it's likely Paul Millard will start again.

Holgorsen explained that, for Trickett, learning to quarterback the Mountaineers offense is like learning sign language. The first step is to learn the signals and what they mean -- "You can probably learn that in the course of a week" -- but after that, it's about implementation.

The quick presnap breakdown goes like this: get the signal from the sideline, process it, verify the correct personnel is on the field, communicate the play call to the offense, start the cadence, motion receivers and perhaps change the snap count.

"You may even change the play altogether, which he has no idea how to do that at this point," Holgorsen said with a chuckle.

"The more you do that, the easier it gets. That's what he has to improve on. And that's on him. He should be better at that by now."

Trickett learned a completely different offense and "different language" at Florida State, and he didn't get up to speed with the up-tempo West Virginia offense this summer like the coaching staff would have liked.

How early this fall did they know they had an issue? "Day one of practice," Holgorsen said.

Trickett got six snaps in the season opener but couldn't move the offense. "You get to a point where you have to make a decision and go with it," Holgorsen said.

Facing a double-digit deficit to William & Mary in the opener, Holgorsen was forced to go with Millard, who had a better handle on the offense.

"I don't think anybody would have been happy losing to William & Mary," Holgorsen said.

Bears back from break

Baylor will be plenty rested for its prime-time matchup with West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) Saturday in Waco, Texas.

While the Mountaineers haven't had an off week yet, the Bears are coming off their second in the past three weeks and will have played just one game in 27 days by Saturday.

"I wouldn't like it," Holgorsen said. "Whether it's an advantage for them or not, I don't know."

Regardless, Baylor (3-0, 0-0) is another undefeated, top-20 opponent.

"You get used to it," Holgorsen said.

Keep calm, kick on

Redshirt freshman kicker Josh Lambert validated the coaching staff's trust in him by shaking off a rough afternoon and drilling two field goals in the final minutes to secure the upset of Oklahoma State.

"It's probably because I didn't yell at him," Holgorsen said. "I would have yelled at him a year ago, but I promised coach [Joe] DeForest I would not talk to the kickers under any circumstances whatsoever."

And he hasn't.

Lambert missed a field goal and had an extra point blocked in the first half -- those plays were negated by a timeout and a penalty, respectively -- and had a field goal blocked along with another miss in the third quarter.

Still, he had the resolve to kick the decisive blows in the fourth. "For him to be able to block that out ... and punch two of them through in the second half was big," Holgorsen said. "That means we're getting better."


Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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