MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It’s back to square one.
After West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was knocked unconscious in the first quarter of a 47-40 overtime loss Saturday to Texas, coach Dana Holgorsen again handed the reins of the offense to Paul Millard, who had opened the season as the starter.
Now in a must-win scenario, needing wins against Kansas and Iowa State in the final two games to earn bowl eligibility, Holgorsen is in a bind. Ideally, he’d hand the ball back to Trickett, but Trickett is listed as day to day with a head injury which, Trickett tweeted, was a concussion.
Trickett wasn’t made available to the media during the week, but on Thursday morning, after two days of non-contact practices, Trickett tweeted, “Not the news I wanted to hear.”
If Trickett isn’t available, that would leave Millard to start because redshirt freshman Ford Childress, who started two games earlier in the season, is still sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle and is, at best, back to “90 percent,” Holgorsen said.
The emergency backup isn’t even listed as a quarterback. It’s redshirt junior wide receiver Logan Moore, a former two-year starting quarterback at Fairmont State before transferring to West Virginia last fall.
“I don’t really know the offense as well,” the 5-foot-11 receiver and scout-team quarterback said. “I’m not really involved in the game plan like the other quarterbacks, but if the situation came down to it I think I’d be fine. We’d have to dummy down the offense a little bit, but we’d be all right.”
What once was a three-horse race between Trickett, Millard and Childress has become a limp to the season’s finish line.
The quarterbacks have strikingly similar statistics, each completing between 52 and 58 percent of their passes, averaging between 6.7 and 7.0 yards per attempt and throwing exactly as many touchdowns as interceptions.
The Mountaineers have 26 turnovers — fifth worst in Division I — and the quarterbacks have been the unquestioned culprits, combining for 20 turnovers (12 interceptions, 8 fumbles lost).
Against Texas, Trickett and Millard fumbled six times. The three WVU quarterbacks have combined to fumble 16 times this season, all but one coming behind the line of scrimmage.
“You can’t turn the ball over that many times against good teams and expect to win,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “You can sit there and say we need to make just one more play, but we turned the ball over. Let’s be honest, you’re not going to win too many games like that.”
With Childress on the shelf, Trickett and Millard have fumbled 10 times in the past four weeks, losing half of those, and have committed West Virginia’s past eight turnovers spanning the last month.
Dawson’s frustration in the Texas game was that the turnovers came primarily on downs when there was a high probability that the defense would blitz, third-and-long snaps when the quarterback should expect a heavy rush.
“We knew that going into the game — hold onto the … football,” Dawson said. “It’s something we harped on. It’s third-and-long, what’re they going to do? You could have asked my quarterbacks that on Tuesday. They’re gonna blitz.”
“When they’re bringing more guys than we can block, it’s my job to get the ball out of my hand or make somebody miss,” Millard said.
The quarterback, who is not a good runner, paused and chuckled. “So, for me, I’m probably going to have to get the ball out of my hand.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.