Howard and the first team offense controlled the majority of the scrimmage, jumping to a 21-20 lead via three early touchdown receptions by Elijah Wellman, Shelton Gibson and Gary Jennings. Gibson set-up the first score with a 27-yard catch down to the two, and then kept the offense in the game with a 12-yard score two possessions later in finishing with four grabs for 59 yards. The wideout broke free multiple times against a struggling first-team secondary, and was a major threat on the outside for Howard, who flashed his understanding and comfort with the offense while completing 18 of 26 passes for the trio of touchdowns and a lone interception.
The fluidity of the first team offense was the highlight of a game which saw four picks - three by the reserves - and numerous big plays in the air as WVU's rebuilding secondary was tested. In all, the team ran approximately 100 plays in 100 minutes, with very limited special teams work in front of an estimated crowd of 6,000.
"We wanted to be able to show Mountaineer Nation just a little bit of what to expect from these guys," head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Our team will continue to evolve as far as players go, and getting these guys healthy."
Gary Jennings rang up 88 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown off a catch-and-run, and Daikiel Shorts caught a game-high five passes for 86 yards in first-team action. Rushel Shell added another 50 yards on nine carries as the starting offense scored three of the first four times they touched the ball. But the game was flipped in second team action, as the defense had five straight stops of the offensive reserves, including a pair of first half interceptions by Shane Commodore. Those came against reserve quarterback William Crest, as the rising sophomore completed just 2-of-5 passes for 17 yards with one touchdown and the two picks.
That allowed the defense to stay in the game that used a convoluted scoring system that awarded the offense in traditional scoring (6 pts for a TD, 3 for a FG, 2 for a 2 pt conversion and 1 for a PAT) while the defense received six points for a score, five for a three and out, three points each for for stopping a drive, a fumble or an interception. Because of the first team's offensive outbursts, and the defensive domination during second and third team work, the game score jostled back and fourth, the biggest lead coming for the defense at 40-21 midway through the third quarter after a Hodari Christian interception, and three consecutive stops.
The offense rallied from there, however, as true freshman receiver Marcus Simms scored on three straight second-team possessions, catching a 29- and 25-yard passes from reserve quarterback Cody Saunders and a 13-yard score from Crest. Simms had missed much of the spring in dealing with the death of his older brother. His scores pulled the offense within 46-43 after Howard's interception to Antonio Crawford, and set-up the "game-winning" drive by Sills, who took the offense 75 yards in nine plays, capping the scoring with the 34 yard touchdown pass to Ricky Rogers.
The coaches had seen enough from there, and ended the scrimmage with 90 seconds left on the clock. It was, by all accounts, a game of two sides, the offense clearly having the upper hand in first team work while the defense was able to rally back using the second and third team snaps. That's likely how most fans and pundits saw the contest going, as WVU's offense should be ahead of its rebuilding defense at this point. The primary concern came from corner, which has struggled with talented Mountaineer receivers throughout the spring. The wideouts, Gibson especially, were able to get behind the secondary and Howard took advantage, threading balls down the hash and into the flats for routine completions.
The second team offense found far less success, and was unable to run the ball at all save on some of the keepers by Crest. Overall, passing dominated the game, even as WVU tried to grind the ball early with Shell and later attempted to get back-up Kennedy McKoy more involved. Crest finished with 89 yards on 12 carries, and McKoy added 57 on eight rushes. Deonte Glover carries eight times for 50 yards. There were no rushing touchdowns.
Besides the first team threats of Gibson, Jennings and Shorts, Simms caught five passes for 52 yards, and Sills had three for 50 yards. Rogers finished with three catches for 38 yards and the clinching score, and four others caught at least two passes as the offenses tried to spread the ball to numerous players. Saunders completed six of seven passes for 92 yards and the two late scores. Billy Kinney punted five times for 177 yards, a 35.4 yard average. His longest went 42 yards.
West Virginia was without wideout Ka'Raun White and back-up quarterback Chris Chugunov, who were both out with shoulder injuries after practicing for most of the spring. Safety Jarrod Harper, offensive lineman Jacob Buccigrossi and defensive lineman Xavier Pegues also missed time, and did not play in the spring game, because of shoulder issues. Nose tackle Darrien Howard was attending a funeral and did not play.
Check out some additional footage with these pair of clips from both the first and second teams as West Virginia's offense and defense work against each other in the second half. First, another clip of the first team offense.
And finally, a last look at the scrimmage, this matching the second teams.