BY John Raby
CHARLESTON, W. Va. —
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wants the Mountaineers to get back to what their fans are accustomed to – airing the ball out.
West Virginia had 44 rushing plays while attempting 27 passes in a 24-17 win over William & Mary last week. Holgorsen hopes for a change when the Mountaineers play at No. 16 Oklahoma on Saturday night.
“I’d like to throw the ball a lot more than we did,” Holgorsen said. “We’re talking about throwing the ball 30 percent of the time. That’s embarrassing. We’re going to try to correct that, that’s for certain. I don’t care much about stats, but we have to be more balanced.”
Not only does it mean throwing it more often, Holgorsen wants a crop of mostly young wide receivers to try to get more yards after the catch. Except for Ronald Carswell’s 69-yard TD catch from Paul Millard in the third quarter, nothing else stood out. Freshman Dakiel Shorts led the Mountaineers with seven catches for 63 yards.
“Every year brings different challenges,” Holgorsen said. “Our challenge this year is to get receivers where they can make plays. Paul did a good job distributing the ball, but we didn’t make any plays – caught a ball or two and fell down.”
West Virginia looked sluggish at times on offense in its season opener, and Holgorsen’s task this week is to drum up confidence, especially in an offense consisting mostly of inexperienced players heading into a hostile environment.
West Virginia has seven new starters on offense, led by Millard, who went 19 of 25 for 237 yards in his first game since taking over for Geno Smith. Heading to Oklahoma as a heavy underdog, Holgorsen said it will be “impossible” to ask his team collectively to play a perfect game.
“Guys are going to make mistakes,” Holgorsen said. “It’s how you react to the mistakes. It’s how you respond to those situations.
“We’ve got inexperienced guys, but those inexperienced guys need to grow up and they need to embrace the fact that they’re put in a challenging situation, which I find incredibly opportunistic, to be able to go to Norman and play in front of 85,000 people on national TV against a very, very, very quality opponent.”
Holgorsen is staying with Millard as his starter but still plans to have Florida State transfer Clint Trickett ready in case he’s needed. Trickett played in two series in the second quarter against William & Mary and couldn’t move the offense.
Millard “did a good job of managing the game,” Holgorsen said. Other than taking a sack, “he did a really good job of taking care of the ball, running the offense, completed almost 80 percent of his passes, made good decisions. So I was happy with what he did.
“The comfort level with him is a little higher than it was with Clint. Chances are you’re going to need both of them at some point.”
Millard saved West Virginia from potential embarrassment with two second-half touchdown drives that included finding Carswell all alone in single coverage for the tying score late in the third quarter.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do, but we can definitely find positives from this game,” Millard said. “It was my first touchdown pass of the season and hopefully there will be a lot more. It was definitely a lot of fun. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t overthrow the guy.”