WVU quarterback Ford Childress completed 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns in his debut Saturday.
MORGANTOWN - The act of installing Ford Childress as West Virginia's starting quarterback didn't really begin until last week. It was accomplished more or less in a couple of days of practice, when he and Clint Trickett were given equal opportunities in practice and Childress emerged - according to Dana Holgorsen - as the clear leader.
In truth, though, the process began long before Holgorsen opened up the competition. It was a slow build, of sorts, since right from the time Holgorsen originally demoted Childress to third team and limited the competition prior to the first two games to Trickett and Paul Millard.
"When we [told him to] sit back and watch, he sat back and watched,'' Holgorsen said. "And in his mind he was like, 'Dang, I could be playing right now.' He sat on the sidelines and said, 'I can do that,' or 'I would have done this.' He convinced himself that it was his time to play and he got out there and played well.''
Indeed, in his first-ever appearance in a college football game, Childress played well enough to complete 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's 41-7 rout of hapless Georgia State. He was certainly not perfect, much of his success directly related to the level of competition he and the rest of the offense faced, but Holgorsen saw it as a good start.
"He's a redshirt freshman and he's got a lot of potential,'' Holgorsen said. "He played well. He'll keep getting better and better.''
What Holgorsen liked most about Childress' performance was the way he handled himself. No, his throws weren't perfect, nor were his reads. Holgorsen still doesn't like the tempo of the offense at times, either, and part of that falls on the quarterback.
But the intangibles were all good. In fact, that's one of the things that helped give Childress the job, again even before the competition really began in practice last week. A week ago at Oklahoma, when all around him seemed to be losing their cool, Childress wasn't.
"Things were tight and it was a high-pressure situation,'' Holgorsen said. "He was the one that I saw being poised and being calm.
"I like his mentality more than anything. That gives me a start. We all know he's got some talent and he's big and he's all that. But I need his mentality to be good. And I really liked his mentality.''
Again, there were times when Childress was anything but spot-on with his throws or reads in Saturday's game. Even most of the long passes he completed were only average-thrown or even poorly thrown balls, but were to receivers who were so open that precision wasn't required.
Holgorsen will look at those and no doubt demand better throws. But that's not all he's looking at.
"I look for some different things than what you guys look for,'' Holgorsen said. "Completion percentage and yards and all that stuff I really don't pay much attention to. I thought his body language was good. I thought he handled the huddle pretty good. Coming to the sidelines he was communicative. Whether it was O-line, running backs, receivers, me, [offensive coordinator] Shannon [Dawson], I thought he did a good job of just being in the game.
"That's what we're looking for. If you've got a guy like that who can handle those situations and understand the game of football and understand what's going on out there, then you can get to the sidelines and you can bring a lot of other guys along with you.''
Perhaps Childress understands that, too. Even when the offense went into a lull against Georgia State Saturday - just one touchdown in seven possessions in the second and third quarters - he maintains he wasn't worried about being lifted in favor or Trickett or Millard.
"I didn't really feel that way,'' Childress said. "I've got good enough players around me that I can just hand the ball off to them or throw the ball to them and they'll make a play for me.''
Certainly Holgorsen is of the mind that the job belongs to Childress. That could change if the quarterback struggles for an extended period, but the tip-off that the job belongs to Childress and Childress alone was when neither of the other quarterbacks even sniffed playing time against Georgia State.
"If it's not [his job] then I'm not very smart,'' Holgorsen said. "I just gave him a hundred percent of the reps.''
BRIEFLY: West Virginia plays its final non-conference game of the season Saturday in Baltimore against Maryland. The game is at the Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium and kicks off at 3:30 p.m. It was announced Sunday that the game will be televised on ESPNU.
Maryland is 3-0 after Saturday night's 32-21 win at Connecticut. The Terps previously won lopsided games over Florida International and Old Dominion.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.