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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett finally has his chance to face Oklahoma.
A year after watching from the sideline as the Mountaineers struggled against the Sooners, Trickett is on a roll and will lead West Virginia (2-1) into a showdown with No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0) in their Big 12 opener in Morgantown on Saturday night.
Trickett has shown remarkable improvement in seizing the leadership of the offense after the Mountaineers spent last season shuffling among three quarterbacks.
The senior ranks fourth in the nation with 408 passing yards per game.
That all could come to a grinding halt against an Oklahoma defense that is allowing an average of 11 points and 209 yards through the air.
"They are exactly what we think they are," Trickett said. "They are a traditional powerhouse. There is no such thing as an unbeatable team. We just have to find whatever weaknesses they have, if there are any, and try to exploit them."
He's been doing that on a weekly basis, something that didn't seem possible considering how his 2013 season went.
Trickett was still learning West Virginia's offense a year ago after transferring from Florida State when the Mountaineers lost at Oklahoma 16-7. He didn't get his first start until the fifth game in late September, leading West Virginia to a win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State.
The rest of the year was a bust — he struggled to make changes at the line of scrimmage in a high-tempo offense. He went 2-5 as a starter and finished with seven TD passes and seven interceptions before undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
"Everything was hard to grasp," Trickett said. "But now I think I got it."
Trickett has thrown for at least 300 yards in four straight games. While there are some things left to improve on such as red-zone efficiency, the occasional missed read and turnovers that almost proved costly last week at Maryland, Trickett and the offense are light years ahead of where it was a year ago in moving the ball.
"We're in a position where the timing is better," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "The rapport with Clint and these guys is a lot better. Our pass protection is night and day different. We're just in a much, much better place, which is what our expectations are. "
Expectations that are similar to two years ago when Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey made opponents look silly.
The Mountaineers have surpassed 600 yards of offense in their last two games. Last week Trickett threw for a career-high 511 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-37 win at Maryland. The yards were second in school history to Smith's 656 against Baylor in 2012.
Trickett is quick to shift credit to his receivers.
"I barely even did anything," Trickett said. "I just facilitated — those guys are the ones making the plays. I throw it two yards, and they run it 90."
Kevin White, who had 35 receptions last year, already has 32 catches for 460 yards, ranking second nationally in both categories. Mario Alford has 21 catches after getting 27 the entire 2013 season. Defenses that double team those two might fall prey to West Virginia's other receivers or the running game.
"You don't know which one to guard," Trickett said. "I'm not complaining one bit. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. "
Still, there are tough challenges ahead as West Virginia tries to quash preseason predictions of finishing near the bottom of the Big 12.
And Trickett, whose father is Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, said he's not done figuring out new ways to win.
"You never stop learning," Clint Trickett said. "My dad's been coaching 40 years now and he tells me every day he saw something he didn't know.
"When you stop learning is when you need to stop playing."
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