WVU senior lineman lends a hand in freshman QB's debut

West Virginia quarterback Ford Childress fakes a handoff to running back Charles Sims on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
West Virginia quarterback Ford Childress fakes a handoff to running back Charles Sims on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
Photo by Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One is a fifth-year senior, the other a redshirt freshman.

So different. So much the same.

True, senior Pat Eger has experience, a starter of 20 games, while Ford Childress, a redshirt freshman, has started in just one game.

But Eger has made only one start at center — last week — the same number of starts as his quarterback. Eger understands his situation.

“It was a good start, obviously,” said Eger, a Thomas Jefferson grad.

It might have been better at guard or tackle. He was being asked to take one for the team, to step out of his comfort zone and do something new, something where he was vulnerable.

“I'm a team player. Wherever I need to go, I'll go. If I need to play right tackle. If I need to play center to help us win the game, I'm fine with that,” Eger said. “If they want to line me up at fullback, I'll go hit someone.”

Interestingly, Eger's efforts at a new position are absorbed without much notice because at center he is buried in the interior of the offensive line.

“Only mom knows what you are doing,” Eger said. “I've started a lot of games here and played a lot of positions. My mom, she's always 100 percent supporting me. She's always proud to see me out there on the field.”

As it turns out, Childress' mom and his dad, former NFL player Ray Childress who spent 11 seasons with the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys, also notice Eger and appreciate his role in helping their son win his first game as a collegiate quarterback.

Eger knows Childress' debut was a good one with 25 completions in 41 attempts for 359 yards and three touchdowns.

“I can remember my first start,” Eger said. “I couldn't sleep the night before. I was throwing up in the morning.”

It was easier on Childress.

“Ford came in and was very mature, took charge in the huddle,” Eger said. “He acted like a four-year starter. He took command of the offense. We all made mistakes. We have to move forward from here.”

The thing was, Eger didn't have unrealistic expectations for the freshman's first start. He did not expect Geno Smith.

“I'm behind Ford 100 percent. I think he has the ability to carry this team this year,” Eger said.

But that was only one game, and this week's game against Maryland is a big step up in class for both Eger and Childress.

“You always have to get better. If I go from this week to next week and don't improve at all and make the same mistakes, I'm going downhill,” Eger said. “In college football, you have to get better every week, and by the end of the season, you find your game is the best in the Big 12.”

Maryland will be aggressive on defense, trying to fool and confuse Eger and Childress.

“They run blitzes and twists within their blitzes that really creates confusion within the offensive line,” WVU offensive line coach Ron Crook said. “It's going to be a big challenge for us.”

Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.

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