Much-needed timeout for WVU in wake of shellacking

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia is badgered, bruised and barely breaking even. At 3-3, the Mountaineers are off to their worst start in a decade and are coming off a 73-42 defeat to No. 17 Baylor.

A date with unbeaten No. 20 Texas Tech (5-0) looming Oct. 19, it's about time West Virginia finally had a breather.

"This bye week comes at a good time for a number of reasons," coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. "Heading into Baylor, we tried to convince the team that we had enough in our tank to go play a good football team. Looking back on it, I don't know if we did."

It will be a "rest and recovery" week for the banged-up Mountaineers, as well as a time to refocus on academics with midterms approaching next week.

Starting quarterback Clint Trickett, a junior, will be given the week off to rest and strengthen his ailing throwing shoulder injured two weeks ago in an upset victory against Oklahoma State.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress continues to recover from a torn pectoral muscle. He practiced last week, Holgorsen said, but didn't feel strong enough to play Saturday, leaving junior Paul Millard as the backup.

West Virginia is the only Division I team this year to have three quarterbacks start two games each, and the quarterback quandary doesn't seem to be resolving itself.

"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 said.

It didn't help when Holgorsen flipped on his television to see Geno Smith leading the New York Jets to a last-second, comeback victory against the Atlanta Falcons on "Monday Night Football."

Smith, the 39th overall pick out of West Virginia in the 2013 NFL draft, was 16-of-20 passing for 199 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in his fifth career start.

"Yeah, it'd be nice to have him," Holgorsen said. "It'd be nice to have any number of the six last [quarterbacks] that I've had.

"Who knows which one of these guys on our team now could end up improving to the point where they're the next guy. They've just got to keep playing."

Two for targeting

West Virginia on Saturday had its first two scrapes with the new targeting rule, which penalizes and automatically disqualifies a player for targeting an opponent with the crown of his helmet or initiates contact to the head or neck of a defenseless opponent.

Holgorsen said the officials were, "for specific reasons I won't go into," looking particularly closely for targeting in the Baylor game.

Midway through the first half, senior safety Darwin Cook knocked a receiver out of bounds, was flagged for targeting the head and, by rule, was ejected. Officials reviewed the tape and quickly overturned their decision, allowing Cook to remain in the game.

"The call on Cook was horrendous, horrible, the worst call ever," Holgorsen said before crediting the officials for reversing their initial ruling. "Darwin did everything we asked him to do. He turned his head. Head-to-head contact is unavoidable. He did not lead with his head."

Late in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Adam Pankey blindsided a defender in the backfield and was flagged and ejected for targeting. That decision stood, and Holgorsen agreed with it. Pankey must sit out the first half against Texas Tech.

"[Pankey] was peeling back and it was a defenseless defender," Holgorsen said. "He wasn't malicious about it, but he hit him. He hit him head-to-head and couldn't stop himself. You have to turn your shoulder."

Injury report

A rash of injuries kept the Mountaineers short-handed at Baylor, but most players should be ready to return against Texas Tech in two weeks.

Aside from the quarterbacks, the following are expected to rest this week and return to practice next week: RB Dustin Garrison (hamstring), LB Nick Kwiatkoski (hamstring), CB Ricky Rumph (foot), OL Quinton Spain (concussion), WR Ivan McCartney (concussion) and WR Mario Alford (shoulder).

Linebacker Wes Tonkery broke his thumb and his return for next weekend is questionable.

wvusports

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM


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