Childress Takes Advantage of Chance at QB

After a stagnant performance in a loss to Oklahoma last week, the West Virginia offense went back to the drawing board – opening its quarterback competition up to all three signal callers on the roster.

Once that happened, it didn't take long for a winner to emerge as the player who would be lining up with the starters when Saturday's game against Georgia State kicked off.

And it wasn't the player many people expected it to be.

It was redshirt freshman Ford Childress, who entered the season in third behind both Paul Millard and Clint Trickett, who took the reins of the Mountaineer offense for Saturday's win over the Panthers.

Childress took advantage of his opportunity. The Houston native completed 25 of his 41 pass attempts and became just the fourth quarterback in West Virginia history to throw for more than 350 yards with at least three touchdowns in a game.

"He was pretty good for the first game he ever played in college football," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. "I thought his body language was good and that he handled everything well. I thought he did a good job of just being in the game.

"That is what we're looking for. If you have a guy like that, then he can bring a lot of other guys along."

Much like Holgorsen believed with Millard a few weeks back, the third-year head coach is coming away from a home game thinking that he's got his starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

This time, he might be right.

Of course, it's difficult to take too much from Saturday's win against a GSU team that has lost to Samford and Chattanooga in its first two games of the regular season.

It's a major step down in competition from what the Mountaineers are going to see the rest of the season, which is why it's safe to say that you might need to wait until next week's showdown against Maryland before making any judgments about Childress – or the offense as a whole for that matter.

There were plenty of things Childress did well Saturday. He managed the game well, he got a lot of people involved and he wasn't afraid to take shots downfield when they were open.

But the last two things are what gave the Mountaineers some trouble.

Of his 16 incomplete passes, a handful of those could be attributed to dropped balls from the receivers.

And a handful of his passes down the field weren't quite what the redshirt freshman has come to expect out of himself.

Even though he got the win in his first start, there is plenty of room for improvement as he enters his first full week of practice as the No. 1 quarterback on the Mountaineer depth chart.

"I tend to underthrow deep balls because I don't want to underthrow them. I want to give (the receiver) a shot," Childress said. "I just need to let it go.

"I need to improve a lot on them, but today they were playing really aggressive. I need to throw better balls for my receivers."

It's hard to tell how good Childress is really going to be right away, at least if you're just using what you saw Saturday as the basis. There were plenty of plays when Childress was able to drop back and pick from a handful of players who were open.

That's not going to be the case from here on out now that West Virginia is getting into a tough non-conference game against Maryland and then jumps into the bulk of Big 12 Conference play.

But I do think Childress will be the starter moving forward. Until he proves otherwise, the coaching staff believes he gives them the best chance to win games.

And it's difficult to really believe much otherwise. The throws that Millard struggled to make against Oklahoma were the ones the Mountaineers executed the best against Georgia State. Those quick, five-yard plays that get receivers the ball in open space and allow them to get yards after the catch. Executing on those medium routes can set up the deep passing game and the effective running game.

On an offense that has plenty of "potential," Childress could give the Mountaineers their best chance to reach that ceiling. At least there's a good possibility of that.

It'll be interesting to see how it goes next week when WVU lines up with Childress to start against Maryland. There will be no more Georgia State teams on the schedule.

That's when you'll really get to see if he's deserving of the job and will finally put this quarterback race to bed.

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