Defense Stars in Scrimmage

West Virginia's new defense stunned the Mountaineers' high-paced offense in the 2012 Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday in a rainy and overcast afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.

The Mountaineers scrimmaged for nearly two hours in front of a disappointing estimated crowd of 10,000. The offensive teams scored just two touchdowns and had two field goals, as well.

The offense didn't score a touchdown after the first quarter until the final few mintutes of the fourth quarter, as the defense took over for the rest of the game.

"We're about 33 percent into where we will be by the first game," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "Our depth is not very good right now … From where we're at, we have a long ways to go. We made some plays and scored some touchdowns, but we made some turnovers, too. Somewhere in the middle of that, we have a good football team."

Starting quarterback Geno Smith finished 23-of-29 for 281 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Backup quarterback Paul Millard was 26-of-35 for 253 yards and one touchdown. He also had two interceptions.

"The defense played really hard, and they're doing a great job," Smith said. "There's not just an offense out there … The more practices we've had out there the better they've gotten."

West Virginia used a fast-paced offense and scored a touchdown on its first drive. Smith hooked up with Bailey for a 43-yard gain around mid-field. Later, the two found each other again, this time for a two-yard touchdown.

The Mountaineers' second-team offense sped down the field on its first drive. Freshman inside receiver Jordan Thompson caught three passes including a 32-yarder from Millard. That drive was finished off by a 2-yard touchdown run from Shawne Alston.

When Smith came back out on the field, he tried to throw toward wide receiver Stedman Bailey, but senior cornerback Matt Moro had solid coverage, jumped the route and picked the pass off for the second-team defense.

Smith came back on his next drive and led the team down for a field goal. Alston broke a 20-plus-yard gain after the right side of the offensive line opened up a gigantic hole. Smith missed a wide-open wide receiver Ryan Nehlen that would've been a touchdown and two sacks from linebacker Chidoziem Ezemma made it tough for the offense.

"We just went out there and did what we had to do," said cornerback Brodrick Jenkins. "We can keep building and building, and I think we can show a lot of people what we can do."

On third-and-long, Smith found Austin for a decent gain, but it wasn't enough for the first down. That brought kicker Tyler Bitancurt in for a 36-yard field goal

From that point, the defensive units started to take over a bit. The offense wouldn't score in the second quarter.

Millard was able to find transfer receiver Terrence Gourdine, a former Miramar High School player, for 28 yards on one drive. Later in the quarter, freshman defensive back Sean Walters sacked Smith for the second-team defense. Senior defensive back Cecil Level also made a nice tackle on wide receiver J.D. Woods on a screen pass from Smith.

The second-team offense had some success on the last drive of the first half. Led by Millard, the offense drove down the field with catches from redshirt freshman Dante Campbell, Thompson and Buie. On the last play of the first half, Millard tried to fit a pass into Gourdine, but it was intercepted by Jenkins, who returned it past midfield.

"We came out with a lot of energy today. We proved that we can be physical," Jenkins said. "We have to show everybody that it's not just an offensive team."

On the first play of the third quarter, redshirt freshman inside receiver Cody Clay caught two passes including a first-down play in which he carried a few tacklers. Millard was intercepted by redshirt junior defensive end Will Clarke later in the drive, however, to end the scoring threat.

Smith found redshirt senior wide receiver Ryan Nehlen on a 15-yard gain on the first play of the first-team offense in the second half. An eight-yard run by redshirt senior running back Pete MIiller put the ball at the defense's 45-yard line. On the next play, redshirt senior defensive back Lawrence Smith was called for passing interference with coverage on Nehlen. Thompson caught another pass for a seven-yard gain. Senior linebacker Josh Francis sacked Smith later and that led to a field goal attempt by Bitancurt. His 37-yard field goal was good.

After another punt forced by the first-team defense, Smith found Gourdine for an 82-yard gain. He had three catches for 118 yards to lead the team. Later, Smith found Thompson for a five-yard touchdown to end the scrimmage on a nice note for the offense.

Thompson led WVU with eight catches for 66 yards and one touchdown. Alston led the offense with 52 yards on the ground.

Defensively, the Mountaineers were led by redshirt freshman linebacker Isaiah Bruce who had eight tackles.

Offensive lineman Jeff Braun, Clarke, Nehlen and linebacker Taige Redman were named Iron Mountaineers this spring. Lineabcker Tyler Anderson was named the Nickolich Award winner, sponsored by the Blue and Gold News.

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