Defense Impresses in Charleston

After focusing a lot on individual and position-specific drills for a large portion of the first two open practices of the spring, West Virginia used the majority of Saturday's practice at Laidley Field in Charleston to go 11-on-11 and work in different situations in an extended team session.

Fourth-year head coach Dana Holgorsen said before the practice began that he was excited to see the team get to scrimmage in front of a crowd of approximately 3,000 Mountaineer fans while treating the practice like a makeshift road game after getting off the bus and getting ready to come out and play quickly.

West Virginia took a little bit of time to get adjusted to things on the offensive side of the ball early on. It took the Mountaineer offenses seven possessions to find the end zone for the first time. That first offensive score came in the form of a 31-yard strike from Logan Moore to Devonte Mathis.

Moore, senior Paul Millard and sophomore Skyler Howard all had at least two series at quarterback with the first-team offense Saturday, with Moore being the only one of the three to throw a touchdown.

The star of the day for the Mountaineer offense was possibly junior Dustin Garrison. A starter as a freshman, Garrison took a medical redshirt a year ago and is looking to find his way into the rotation in a crowded WVU running back room. He ran hard and finished his successful day with touchdown runs from eight and nine yards out.

While the offense struggled to find consistency throughout the day, the defense picked up its play and made life hard for the Mountaineers as they were trying to march down the field at times.

Noble Nwachukwu was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line with the second unit. Nwachukwu was able to get through the backups on the offensive line to get to the quarterback and into the backfield for a few tackles for loss.

The defensive line was the position that saw the most changes to the first team Saturday. Tom Bradley's D-line unit which had been rolling out Kyle Rose, Christian Brown and Eric Kinsey from left to right came out with Rose, Darrien Howard and Dontrill Hyman for the first series of the team session.

Later on in the scrimmage, during a portion of the practice when the Mountaineers were starting drives near the goal line, Brown was able to sack Howard in the end zone for a safety and the first of two scoring plays for the defense.

On the drive after Garrison's second score of the day, WVU got its other defensive score after a handoff was fumbled as Moore went to give it to Andrew Buie. Ishmael Banks scooped the fumble up and took it 74 yards for the touchdown.

Rose also made a big play, forcing a fumble as the offense was threatening to score.

Josh Lambert continued his strong spring, hitting three of four field goals – his only miss coming on a 55-yard attempt in which he had plenty of leg but hit the goal post.

Although Holgorsen said before the practice that the Mountaineers have been relatively healthy so far this spring, two WVU players went down during the team session. Grant Lingafelter and Dreamius Smith both came off the field dinged up during the practice, but both seemed to be fine.

The next time media members and fans will get to see the Mountaineers will be next Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium for the Gold-Blue Spring Game.

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