A tale of two quarterbacks
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Both West Virginia and Oklahoma are in the early stages of breaking in new quarterbacks to replace veteran starters and NFL draft picks. When the teams meet Saturday night, the players taking snaps will have a combined two games of starting experience and a grand total of 87 college passes between them.
That and the fact that both are from Texas, however, is pretty much where the similarities between Paul Millard and Trevor Knight end.
West Virginia's Millard is a junior who spent two years backing up Geno Smith without ever really getting a chance to play when it mattered. He was a largely overlooked high school recruit out of suburban Dallas who threw for almost 4,500 yards as a senior and hasn't stopped throwing since.
Oklahoma's Knight is a redshirt freshman who spent his first year in college watching Landry Jones. He passed for less than half the yardage Millard did as a high school senior in San Antonio, but was a four-star recruit because of his dual-threat abilities.
Expect to see the same differences in the two quarterbacks when West Virginia and Oklahoma meet Saturday night in Norman, Okla. - Millard throwing the football (or handing it off) and Knight running it.
"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.''
How quickly each team begins putting more on its quarterback, though, will perhaps be a testament to how the two are growing and adapting in their roles as starters. Both Holgorsen and OU coach Bob Stoops will ask more of their quarterbacks as they get comfortable and prove they can handle more.
So far, it seems, Oklahoma is asking more from Knight than West Virginia is asking from Millard. In OU's 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe last weekend, Knight ran the ball 13 times and gained 103 yards, but he also threw it 28 times. He got off to a rocky start, but finished with three touchdowns among his 11 completions.
Millard, meanwhile, was basically asked to hand off and run the offense. He threw just 25 times - among the fewest ever for a Holgorsen-coached quarterback - and went deep only twice.
"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.''
Stoops was naturally pleased with Knight's performance. What's not to like about 100-plus yards rushing and three touchdown passes from a redshirt freshman playing in his first 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 downs and gets more comfortable with the situation, I expect him to throw the ball in a better way. He made some nice throws, particularly in the second half. He's got a great arm so it's just getting him comfortable to manage and handle the situation a little bit better early.''
Holgorsen was impressed by Knight's performance, too.
"He can run. He's a talented guy,'' Holgorsen said. "His completion percentage wasn't very good, but when I watched the tape, he's pretty good. He can throw.''
Running quarterbacks have not been the norm at Oklahoma under Stoops. In his 15 seasons, Knight is just the second to run for more than 100 yards in a game.
"He's a talented quarterback and he's going to get better and better,'' Holgorsen said. "They're going to rely on him to make plays in the run and passing games. Hopefully he doesn't get things figured out this week. But I would anticipate him figuring things out and being a very good quarterback for Oklahoma."
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.