After being largely stymied for the earlier portion of 11-on-11 drills, the first-team offense finally found some room to operate during one hurry-up drill just before WVU moved to its ball security/turnover circuit.
The ball was placed at the offense's 30-yard line and 1:35 was placed on the Milan Puskar Stadium clock.
The increased urgency in quickly lining up was noticeable, as plays that ended with players being "tackled" (no one was taken to the ground on Monday, as players practiced in helmets and shorts, with no other padding) were followed by the next snap within 8-9 seconds, typically.
The offense overcame a bad handoff from Geno Smith to running back Vernard Roberts (a fumble the offense pounced on for a loss of about five yards), using a 30-yard pass play from the quarterback Smith to inside receiver Tyler Urban to pick up a first down and move into the red zone.
On the next play, Smith found receiver J.D. Woods running clear along the back of the end zone, and Woods hauled the pass in with a diving attempt for an 18-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left on the clock.
Barring the bad handoff, it was easily the best offensive drive for WVU in several practices.
Even the Mountaineers' offensive line, which has been much-maligned in this space, performed reasonably well, at one point picking up a heavy outside rush and giving Smith ample time to step up in the pocket and read through his entire pass progression -- though the quarterback threw into traffic and his pass was batted away easily.
The defense started that drive with a solid play, as defensive lineman Will Clarke stayed home on a reverse attempt that was given to receiver Willie Millhouse, dropping the ball-carrier for a loss of about five yards.
Millard also calmly found Millhouse on a short screen pattern to convert on a fourth-and-3 situation near midfield.
The offense was in position to attempt a long field goal with six seconds left on the clock, but the practice period ended, and players instead headed to their respective stations for the ball security/turnover circuit practices end with.
That happened again Monday, when the junior college transfer took down Millard early in 11-on-11 work. That got head coach Bill Stewart a bit hot under the collar, as he took the opportunity to tell the linebacker that he needed to "learn to practice without pads" lest he "break a [teammate's] leg."
After seemingly endless days of rain and cold and wind, the sun was high in the sky over Milan Puskar Stadium. Temperatures were in the mid-to-high 60s during practice, and at least one defensive player actually complained he was hot -- surely a first during this year's otherwise-gloomy spring practice.
Offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen said that ball security has generally been good thus far in spring, but said quarterbacks are throwing far too many interceptions.
Millard almost gave one away as well, as Jewone Snow nearly grabbed an interception on a pass between the hashes that was intended for Urban.
A flea-flicker on the first play of 11-on-11 drills was batted aside. A crafty end-around play, which saw Smith fake a handoff before stepping back as if he would throw and casually flipping the ball to Austin, was snuffed out easily by the blue shirts.
Regardless, it's clear that those "gadget" plays will be used to keep opposing defenses on their toes all season long.