MORGANTOWN – Patience is a virtue.
Just ask West Virginia’s Ford Childress.
Relegated to third team duties following the preseason, the 6-foot, 5-inch gunslinger from Houston (Texas), made his first start for the Mountaineers against NCAA D-I newcomer Georgia State.
But, while the final numbers – 25-of-41 for 359 yards and three touchdowns – were acceptable, the doubts still linger as to WVU’s quarterback carousal remain despite WVU’s 41-7 win over Georgia State Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“Pretty good for the first game he has ever played in college football,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I look for different things than you (the media) do in completion percentage and yards.
“I thought his body language was good and that he handled everything well. He was communicating with the running backs, receivers, in the huddle and with coach (Shannon) Dawson. I thought he did a good job of just being in the game. That is what we are looking for. If you have a guy like that, then he can bring a lot of other guys along.”
Replacing junior Paul Millard, who led the old gold and blue to a 24-17 come-from-behind victory over William & Mary in WVU’s opener, but struggled in a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma, Childress led the team to a 42-yard field goal by Josh Lambert on his first drive under center and to a 21-yard touchdown reception by Dakiel Shorts the second time the Mountaineers had the football.
His next two opportunities to establish himself as the ‘heir apparent’ to New York Jets starter Geno Smith ended with an interception and a missed 53-yard field goal by Lambert.
“The best thing I think he did was rebound from the pick,” said the offensive coordinator Dawson. “He didn’t let it get at him. He went back out and continued to play hard.
“That’s what we want our quarterbacks to do. They have to understand that they are going to make mistakes. What they need to do is not let the mistakes dictate what they do the next time they go out on the field.”
The redshirt freshman ended his first half of action on a positive note, however, when he hit senior Ivan McCartney with a 45-yard bomb to give the hosts a 17-0 cushion at intermission.
Then, after a third-quarter lull, he led the offense to three fourth quarter scores – one coming on a nifty 23-yard reception by Shorts in the corner of the end zone.
“For the most part, I felt comfortable,” Childress said. “There were a couple of times when I could have done some things differently. But, for the most part, I felt comfortable with what the coaches were asking me to do.”
Making matters more comfortable for the first time starter was a receiving corps that saw nine different players haul in passes, led by Shorts, who finished with five receptions for 88 yards and two scores.
“It’s easy to do my job when you have receivers like we do,” continued the quarterback. “They were making plays and when they weren’t the running backs were. All of that makes my job easier.”
Childress, who threw for 3,171 yards and 41 touchdowns with only seven interceptions in 10 games during his final season at The Kinkaid School, was expected to take over for Smith, the owner of nearly every passing statistics in school history, following WVU’s 7-6 campaign in 2012.
But, it didn’t quite work out that way following a subpar spring performance and the addition of Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett.
With most of the emphasis being placed in redshirt freshman Childress making his first start at quarterback for the Mountaineers, lost in the moment was the first starts of four other players – wide receivers Mario Alford, Ronald Carswell and Kevin White and cornerback Daryl Worley.
With injuries beginning to mount, the play of those newcomers will be magnified as the Mountaineers take on border state rival Maryland at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
“Sure, we’d love to have more veterans playing,” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “But, with the injuries to some of our starters mounting, it’s nice to see some of our younger players get on the field and make plays.
“We are just going to have to have them make more as the season continues.”