MORGANTOWN — Quarterbacks are always lightning rods for criticism, and despite his West Virginia roots, Clint Trickett is no exception.
Even while playing with a severely damaged shoulder last year, he received many barbs for off-target throws and the inability to spark WVU’s offense. While the criticisms were far more off the mark than any of his passes, he still bore the brunt of the failure of the Mountaineer attack.
Over the offseason, Trickett made the news for being named the starter before ever throwing a pass in a 2014 practice. He also got some very undeserved fire for making an offhand joking remark on Twitter, and again received attention for noting that Nick Saban’s daughter was his first kiss.
Such rancor is common in today’s media cycle, where getting hits and retweets is more important to most than actual journalism, but it did serve to keep him in the spotlight, even if it had nothing to do with his quarterback play.
None of that mattered, however, when Trickett took the field for the Alabama game.
Again showing what he can do when healthy, the slender senior threw for 365 yards and a score, while avoiding an interception. That exceeded his performance in his one fully-healthy game against Oklahoma State last year, when he helped engineer an upset of the 11th-rated Cowboys.
Suddenly, all the criticism of his throwing arm, his ability to withstand hits and his leadership vanished.
To be sure, he wasn’t perfect.
He misfired on an attempt to Elijah Wellman that would have resulted in a score (“I cost him his first touchdown,” he said afterward), and he made a couple of reads and choices that he’d like to have back again.
But overall, he demonstrated that he’s not just a “game manager.” He can get the ball down the field, and he can even run it if the defense peels away to flood passing zones.
All that has to be extremely satisfying to Trickett, who is a competitive sort that takes challenges head on.
While he was clearly unhappy with the loss — that was his first mention out of the locker room — it’s also clear that he believes this West Virginia offense is going to erase memories of last year’s painful performances.
He’s the first to note that it’s a team effort, but there’s no doubt that he just delivered a performance that addressed all of the doubters in spades.
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