Offense starts to find stride Saturday

West Virginia wrapped up another week of spring practice Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.

With the Gold-Blue Spring Game getting closer and closer as each practice passes, the Mountaineers are continuing to focus more and more on contact and getting into live situations to help simulate what will be happening in games.

WVU spent the last majority of the final hour of the practice doing pass skeleton and running drills where the offense got to go up against the defense before moving on to a full 11-on-11 scrimmage to close out the practice.

After struggling last week to find its rhythm, the West Virginia offense wasted no time getting rolling this week when the Mountaineers lined up against each other.

Skyler Howard started things off with a bang, hitting Shelton Gibson for a 30-yard touchdown strike on the first play from scrimmage. The offensive fireworks didn’t stop there, as the Mountaineer offense continuing to hit against the defense that gave them so many fits last weekend in Shepherdstown. Donte Thomas-Williams returned from an injury earlier in the week and was able to get going quickly, scoring two touchdowns on the ground while working with the second-team offense.

Following his arrest earlier in the week, Kyle Rose was replaced in the first team defense by Darrien Howard - who joined Christian Brown and Noble Nwachukwu along the defensive line.

Howard went on to throw two more touchdown passes, both on fades to Daikiel Shorts from inside the 5-yard line, and rising junior Wendell Smallwood took a fourth-down run 22 yards for a touchdown.

After missing a few kicks last week, WVU’s kicking game was perfect. Josh Lambert was 4-for-4 on PATs and hit a 42-yard field goal and Morgantown native Bill Kinney hit a field goal from 21 yards out.

The practice began as it did last week in Shepherdstown. The Mountaineers began with position drills, focusing on different fundamental aspects. After struggling to force a lot of turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s unit focused much of this time on drills centered around forcing turnovers and capitalizing on their chances when they arise.

The defense had its players going around their side of the field through a circuit of drills. One, led by Gibson, had each player coming through and sacking the quarterback and then either stripping the ball from them or getting up to recover the fumble. Safeties coach Joe DeForest had players working on stripping the ball from ballcarriers. Brian Mitchell put players through a drill in which they would intercept a pass while defensive line coaches Bruce Tall and Damon Cogdell worked with players in their drill on scooping up fumbles and returning them for scores.

After missing last week, Thomas-Williams returned for this week’s open practice while Daryl Worley, Jarrod Harper and Dayron Wilson remained sidelined.

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