MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If last week was Clint Trickett’s second chance to make a first impression, Saturday’s game against Towson is his first shot at a second opportunity.
West Virginia’s 7:30 p.m. home game at Mountaineer Field (Root Sports) will be the senior’s ninth start with the Mountaineers. That one, on the heels of his personal-best 365 yards passing in the season opener against No. 2 Alabama, will be the first time he’s been able to take momentum forward.
“That’s definitely a positive, and not just for me, but for the whole team,” Trickett said. “Everyone’s understanding of the offense is improved, including mine, and that will help us all. It’ll help the team win games and it’ll help individuals in their careers moving forward.”
Trickett was injured at the end of his winning performance in his first start against Oklahoma State last season. That drained the excitement from the win just when it seemed WVU had found a fit with the third starter of the season, because everyone knew he couldn’t be quite the same the rest of the way.
He was as healthy as he’d get for the Iowa State game, where he passed for 356 yards, but that was the final game of the season, and he’d have three injuries to his throwing shoulder repaired in the offseason.
Trickett was named the starter June 24, and the loss to the Crimson Tide, in which he completed 29 of 45 passes, dropped his record to 2-6 as the starter. He’s just never been positioned for success like he his now with a healthy body and a potent mind that combine to control the offense.
The way the Mountaineers feel about their quarterback and their offense before his second start this season is much different from how they felt before his second start last season.
“He’d probably admit this, too, but his focus and his ability and willingness to come in here and spend a lot of hours with us on days he really doesn’t have to, that’s increased,” offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. “That’s a product of being happy. A lot of times after he got here (last year), it didn’t unfold exactly like he wanted it to unfold.
“I had conversations with him about that last year, though. He started the Oklahoma State game and I talked to him about it before that game. ‘Things in life seldom happen the way you want them to. That’s how it is. You’ve got to take what’s given to you and make the best of it.’”
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JORDAN THOMPSON wasn’t guilty of the incomprehensible. He was a witness to it.
The junior receiver is also WVU’s punt returner, a job he won and secured last season because he caught punts that others had let bounce to surrender field position. Thompson also had a habit of catching punts too close to his goal line, and he seemed to do the same against Alabama.
WVU’s defense forced a punt in Alabama territory and figured to take over in a good spot, but Thompson ended up catching the punt over his shoulder at his 11-yard line and getting tackled at the 6.
Thompson was as shocked as anyone else, but for a wholly different reason. Alabama punter J.K Scott punted the ball 73 yards — 62 on the official kick, plus the 11 yards he was standing behind the line of scrimmage when he made contact.
“It was his first college kick,” Thompson said. “That’s a true freshman back there punting the ball for the first time. We saw him punt in the pregame. Forty-five yards. He’s not going to boot it 70 yards.”
Scott did and caught Thompson off-guard, something Thompson had no problem admitting.
“I was originally at the 35-yard line,” he said. “I was already 45 yards deep when I went back, and then I lost count. In my head, I’m thinking, ‘All right, he out-kicked his coverage. I’m going to have time to catch it and turn around and they’ll probably be 40 yards out.’ After looking at it on film, they were 40 yards away — except the two gunners. The gunners were right on me.”
Thompson didn’t expect that, either. He knew one was close because he heard safety Landon Collins yelling, but since the kick was on the left, Thompson didn’t expect the gunner on the right side to also be down there after a long kick.
“The first guy wrapped me up and then the other dude was there and got me,” he said. “When I got up, I was like, ‘Dang.’ ”
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SOPHOMORE CORNERBACK Darly Worley was similarly impressed with Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, who caught 12 passes for 130 yards and “might be the first overall pick in the draft,” according to Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said.
“Great guy, great opponent, great sportsmanship — everything he’s billed up to be, he was it,” Worley said. “It was a great experience for me being younger getting to take on a guy like that. If anything, it boosts my expectations because if I was able to go against a guy like that every play, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to take on any other guy.”
Worley made nine tackles, but missed many tackles in the first half before fixing that after halftime. He said he was perhaps too prepared, which made him anxious and led to plays where Cooper got Worley out of position. That improved, too, and Worley’s patience led to an interception with WVU trailing 30-23 in the fourth quarter.
Worley left Cooper to go after a pass to tight end O.J. Howard. It was the first ball thrown to Howard, but Worley recognized it from his film study and waited until quarterback Blake Sims made the throw Worley expected.
Worley brought the interception back from the Alabama 41 to the 31, but a questionable holding call against linebacker Wes Tonkery gave WVU possession at its 49. Worley said he didn’t see the hold, but “at the same time, I shouldn’t have even taken the ball to that side of the field. I should have taken it up the near sideline.”
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.