West Virginia's offensive difficulties no surprise

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s fall from among college football’s elite offenses was not unexpected. The Mountaineers were the most prolific Division I passing offense last season, amassing 4,285 yards and 44 touchdowns.

This fall, through eight games, West Virginia’s three quarterbacks have combined for nine passing touchdowns. A year ago, it took quarterback Geno Smith just seven quarters and four seconds to reach that total.

The Mountaineers’ loss against Kansas State Saturday was the team’s third consecutive defeat and the third game this season it has gone without a passing touchdown — something it didn’t do once last season. The only touchdown against Kansas State came on a 6-yard run by redshirt junior quarterback Clint Trickett.

Trickett was 15 of 28 passing for 227 yards, but he also fumbled twice in his fourth start this season for the Mountaineers (3-5, 1-4 Big 12). The numbers were fine, but he got antsy in the pocket, skipped reads and didn’t view the field properly, coach Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly Tuesday news conference.

Trickett was replaced by backup Paul Millard in the fourth quarter, and he was no better, completing four of 13 passes for 37 yards and a game-ending interception.

When asked whether Trickett will get the start Saturday against TCU (3-5, 1-4), Holgorsen said, “I would think so.”

The communication issues with Trickett have been fixed, Holgorsen added, but it’s simply going to take more time for Trickett, an offseason transfer from Florida State, to get to the point where he’s not doing two tasks — preparing for the next opponent and learning the offense.

“It’s experience,” Holgorsen said. “It’s practice. It’s continuity. It’s trust. It’s development. It’s mechanics. It’s understanding the offense. It’s a whole list of things. Nobody’s got time or patience for it, but it’s just reality.”

Ideally, Holgorsen’s quarterback would have full control of the offense, making reads and checks at the line of scrimmage. But Trickett isn’t there yet.

“That ain’t gonna happen this year,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve come to terms with that.”

Sizing up the line

The offensive line has been under attack this season, and somewhat rightly so, Holgorsen said. Like the rest of the offense it has been inconsistent.

There were bright spots Saturday, like redshirt senior guard Quinton Spain, who “played the best game he’s ever played,” according to Holgorsen. Redshirt senior center Pat Eger went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter but looked “really good” early on.

Holgorsen pointed to redshirt senior tackles Curtis Feigt and Nick Kindler as players who “need to get better. I think they took just a small step backward last week.”

Part of the concern, too, comes back to the quarterback play.

“Good quarterbacks can bail out an offensive line at times, but I don’t know if a great offensive line can bail out a bad quarterback,” Holgorsen said.

Injury report

The Mountaineers have had more than their fair share of injuries this fall. Holgorsen counted 13 players out with injury for the Kansas State game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress, who missed the past four weeks with a torn pectoral muscle “is probably a couple weeks away still,” as is junior running back Dustin Garrison (hamstring), who might ultimately be redshirted.

Redshirt junior linebacker Wes Tonkery will miss the remainder of the season and have shoulder surgery.

Listed as day to day were: Eger (ankle), linebacker Doug Rigg (concussion), cornerback Daryl Worley (shin), defensive end Dontrill Hyman (ankle) and cornerback Ricky Rumph (foot).

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

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