WVU football: Millard sloppy in Mountaineers' loss at Oklahoma
MORGANTOWN,W.Va. - Had Paul Millard been as accurate with his arm during the game as he was with his words after it, the West Virginia quarterback might not have been grieving the 16-7 loss to No. 14 Oklahoma.
The junior, making his second start, accepted plenty of blame for the mistakes he made as WVU finished with its lowest point total since the Champs Sports Bowl in 2010, but he also acknowledged that which could not be ignored.
"This one is going to be hard to swallow," he said. "We lose the game by nine points, but I know there were a lot of missed opportunities. There were throws where I had guys wide open and I just didn't make the throw."
The Mountaineers (1-1, 0-1 Big 12), who lost their conference opener for the first time since 2007, had plenty of other errors by other players. There were penalties that derailed drives in Sooners territory and mistakes on special teams that led to 10 points. Multiple receivers dropped passes, one coming by Ivan McCartney in the end zone. The offense, which has 31 points in two games, was 3-for-13 on third down, and Holgorsen, who runs the offense, bungled timeouts and wasted a challenge.
The one review that mattered most, though, was the decision to stick with Millard. Holgorsen said earlier in the week he had plans to use Clint Trickett against the Sooners, partly because he'd played them before when he was at Florida State and was familiar with the size and speed of the defenders.
It never happened, despite Millard's shortcomings. Holgorsen said he "almost" made the switch and "thought about it a bunch," but stuck with Millard because he was better able to handle the offense and the way it was tailored for the Sooners.
Holgorsen said OU Coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, longtime adversaries at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State before WVU, knew his offense better than any other opponent.
The Mountaineers made some changes to make sure the Sooners couldn't intercept signals, and they huddled far more often than normal for added security. Holgorsen said WVU didn't feel confident that Trickett could handle the nuances as smoothly as Millard.
"At that point, the guy who's taken the most reps in the game was who we felt like we had the best opportunity with," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said.
Dawson said no thought was given to what impact a switch might have on Millard.
"We're trying to win a football game, not make anybody happy," he said. "I'm not worried if a guy gets upset if we're going to yank him. This isn't junior varsity football. You've got to have thick skin. You've got to grow up and start making plays."
Millard finished 21-for-41 for 218 yards with a bad decision on an interception and a lost fumble when he was sacked. Both occurred in Sooners territory.
The fumble, the second in as many games for Millard, came in the second quarter when the Mountaineers were driving following a Sooners touchdown. The interception came when Millard had completed four straight passes in the third quarter.
Millard had a receiver open above the coverage, but his throw was very short and went right to the free safety.
"I thought the safety was playing over the top, but it was a big mistake at a big time," he said.
His coaches were also disappointed with things Millard missed, either with short throws, decisions to not throw or not seeing open receivers. The Mountaineers had just three plays of 20 yards of more, that after getting just one in the season opener. One of Saturday's big plays was a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter from Dreamius Smith - and he carried once more and finished with 77 yards on three attempts.
Running back Charles Sims had a 24-yard reception, but finished with 26 yards, and receiver Ronald Carswell had a 33-yard reception, but finished with 44 yards.
There were chances for the offense, though.
"When you've got guys wide open running down the field, in my mind that's an opportunity, an opportunity for a big play," Dawson said. "We had four or five opportunities with guys running down the field wide open and we didn't take advantage of them.
"You can't not take advantage of them and win the game. If you take advantage of two of them, you might win the game. If you take advantage of one of them, you might win the game. Just give me something."
Dawson spread the blame around, saying Millard made poor throws on some occasions and hesitated and threw late on others, but he also said Millard made good throws and receivers didn't make plays. Others made mistakes, like Kevin White, who lost a fumble after a reception.
Nevertheless, Holgorsen said the starting quarterback job remains open for both Trickett and Millard for next week's noon home game against Georgia State (0-2), but maybe also for redshirt freshman Ford Childress.
"It's going to remain that way," he said. "We'll evaluate Paul and see where we're at with it. We're not happy with seven points, but I thought we did some good things periodically. Guys have got to make plays, too. He put the ball there for some guys to make some plays and we didn't. We've got to take all those things into consideration and evaluate it and see where we're at.
"Maybe Ford gets reps next week. Maybe Clint gets reps next week. I don't know. That's why we practice and that's what we'll do."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.