Jury still out for gridders

MORGANTOWN – It should be obvious to all concerned that a clear-cut judgment on this year’s West Virginia football team is yet to be determined.

That 24-17 struggle against underdog William & Mary, an NCAA Division I-AA opponent, most certainly wasn’t up to expectations. The Mountaineers reportedly had been favored by 32 points by odds-makers.

They were so inept after an early touchdown at the start that they fell behind by 17-7 at halftime. But you’ve got to give them credit for rallying in the second half and barely pounding out the win.

What was expected to be a two-quarterback game for West Virginia – surprising to many – turned out to be pretty much a one-quarterback performance. Paul Millard started and remained in for virtually the entire game.

Clint Trickett, the junior transfer from Florida State, really did not look ready. That’s understandable, though. He is new to the WVU offense and sideline play signals.

Millard, a redshirt junior, backed up the great Geno Smith for two years. He’s well-versed in third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen’s play style, Trickett apparently isn’t yet.

So Holgorsen decided to stick solely with Millard after giving Trickett just two series, both of which were three-and-out.

But no one has given up on the Morgantown native, who had two starts in two seasons for the Seminoles, who beat Pitt on Monday night.

He simply needs more reps in WVU’s style of communication and plays, according to Holgorsen. Hopefully, it’s still a two-QB race.

Millard performed very well, I thought, in his first collegiate start.

He completed 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked once.

Trickett tried just two passes, which were incomplete, and he was sacked once.

West Virginia showed a decidedly different twist by rushing the ball 44 times – possibly a three-year high. That probably was in the plans for 2013, though.

Charles Sims, 6-foot-0, 213 pounds, was the leader – as expected – with 22 rushes for a net of 126 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The stable of RBs reportedly is strong.

However, WVU managed just 100 yards more than the Tribe, 409 yards to 309, on 71 plays compared to only 58. William & Mary had more possession time, 30:15 to 29:45.

That’s not encouraging, obviously, if the Mountaineers expect to win more games than they lose this go-round.

Coach Holgorsen readily admits that “We’ve got to get better on all three sides of the ball.” There’s one striking exception, though.

That’s the punting of sophomore Nick O’Toole. He was most impressive, averaging 50.6 yards per punt. And just two of his five were returned for no more than three yards.

While the Mountaineers need a better pass rush, junior safety Darwin Cook came up with an interception late in the fourth quarter. It couldn’t have been better timing, coming on William & Mary’s last drive.

The defense still needs to improve. It can’t afford to give up two 40-yards pass completions, as it did against the Tribe.