WVU-Oklahoma QB battle should establish tone in showdown
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A football game never boils down to one quarterback as opposed to another. Someone has to catch his passes, block, tackle and cover the receivers, while others kick and return kicks.
Saturday's West Virginia-Oklahoma Big 12 game at 7 p.m. at Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., can best be seen as a confrontation of two first-year starting quarterbacks in the Mountaineers' Paul Millard and Oklahoma's Trevor Knight.
They are different yet the same.
Millard is known as a thrower, a “gunslinger” in high school who, in his debut as a starter, completed 19 of 25 passes (76 percent. As a runner, Millard carried once for minus-14 yards on a sack.
“I don't think anyone is going to get a kick out of watching Paul Millard run the triple option or the speed option,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “There are obvious differences in what we're asking from them. Not putting too much on the quarterback is important.''
Knight is known as a runner. In his first start, he led the Sooners with 103 rushing yards on 13 carries.
But his passing was lacking as he completed just 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) for 86 yards. In truth, Knight has more of a chance to become a passer than Millard has to become a runner.
“His completion percentage wasn't very good, but when I watched the tape, he's pretty good. He can throw,” Holgorsen said. “I would anticipate him figuring things out and being a very good quarterback for Oklahoma. Hopefully, he doesn't get things figured out this week.”
But Millard and Knight are also the same.
Both are limited by a lack of playing time, and with that lack of experience comes a lack of confidence from the coaches until the quarterbacks prove themselves.
Holgorsen admitted Oklahoma put more on Knight than WVU did on Millard.
“They're asking Knight to do a lot more different things than we're asking,'' Holgorsen said. “Look at what we did last year. We were throwing the ball all over the place last year, and this year, we're running the ball a lot.''
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, by nature of his offense, had to have Knight do both. If he shows a reluctance to throw, it will take away much in the running game.
“He did some things really well, obviously, with his legs when you rush for over a hundred yards,'' Stoops said. “That part was really good. Throwing the ball early wasn't very good.
“But I've got great confidence in how he does throw the football. Once he settles down and gets more comfortable with the situation, I expect him to throw the ball in a better way.''
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.