Much of the West Virginia team travelling to Austin this weekend will enter Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with fond memories.
Boasting a 2-0 all-time program record in Austin, veteran Mountaineers remember garnering a suspenseful 48-45 win in 2012 against then-No. 11 Texas. But, senior quarterback Clint Trickett travels south without any memories or expectations. After transferring to West Virginia from Florida State in May 2013, Trickett will make his Austin debut Saturday.
“It’ll be a first time for me,” Trickett said. “Every year’s a different year; we’re completely different from last year and so are [the Longhorns]. I heard it’s a fun place to play — that you can feel the atmosphere and pageantry.”
Trickett’s seen his own share of atmosphere and pageantry between his time at Florida State and West Virginia. Under the rule of then-head coach Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers didn’t recruit Trickett out of high school because, as he says, “they ran a different offense than I did.”
But when Geno Smith left Morgantown, West Virginia, Trickett saw an opening. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social science from Florida State in three years and is now pursuing a master’s in communication studies while playing football for the Mountaineers.
Even at West Virginia, Trickett has little experience playing against Texas. But the results of his minimal playing time are memorable.
When Texas played at West Virginia last year, Trickett completed only two passes for 31 yards and was sacked four times for a loss of 26 yards over the course of five plays. Before the end of the first quarter, Trickett was sidelined by a concussion.
“He got his bell rung,” said Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia’s head coach, after the game. “He was knocked out there for a bit. He was back on the sidelines a little bit later, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Eventually, Trickett was fine, but he missed the Mountaineers’ embarrassing 31-19 loss at Kansas as a result of the head injury.
Now, he faces a Texas defense led by senior cornerback Quandre Diggs, who hit Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech’s freshman quarterback, so hard last week that Tech officials were forced to administer concussion tests and remove Mahomes from the game. The risk doesn’t faze Trickett.
“[Concussions are] part of the game — I’ve had a couple,” Trickett said. “Texas will always have good players on defense. The offense will need to keep guys off my back, and it’s my job to get rid of the ball. It’s a collective effort.”
Coming off a 31-30 loss to No. 6 TCU, in which they turned the ball over five times, Trickett and the Mountaineers are playing with a chip on their shoulder. Trickett says his team isn’t turnover-prone, and they’re ready to put the loss behind them and reboot before playing in Austin.
“It doesn’t sit too well, but we’re a mature team, and we’ve won a couple like this,” Trickett said. “That’s just how college football is. Especially when playing a team like Texas at Texas, there’s no time to sit and sulk.”
For Trickett, last year’s 4-8 season and his injury were “a down.” But this season — No. 24 West Virginia sits at 6-3 with Trickett boasting a 67.5 percent completion rate for 2,925 yards and 18 touchdowns — is “more up.”
It’s his first season of sustained success at the college level but far from his first experience on a good football team. Trickett’s been surrounded by the game his entire life — his father is a former Mountaineer and current Florida State offensive line coach. He’s benefitted greatly from having a live-in coach, and Texas senior receiver John Harris sees the results of Trickett’s life of football.
“He has a lot of competitiveness to him — you can see it on film,” Harris said. “He took a big hit this weekend, [but] the kid got up and kept playing. He’s a great quarterback.”