West Virginia's Offense Struggles As Defense Returns Two Interceptions For Scores, Creates Five Turnovers Overall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It wasn't a tale of two halves nearly as much as a tale of two completely different teams.

West Virginia wrapped its second week of fall camp with a 100-plus play scrimmage on Saturday, and the disparity between effort and execution on offense and defense wasn't just palpable, it was the story of the session. West Virginia's first team offense sputtered and stumbled its way to four turnovers and zero touchdowns on 10 possessions. The Mountaineers, in fact, were shutout over their first nine times with the ball, and suffered a pair of interceptions returned for 50-plus yard touchdowns by both Jeremy Tyler and Jarrod Harper. Both pick sixes came off Skyler Howard, though the one to Harper was tipped by linebacker David Long, while the other was tipped at the line.

Add in a pair of fumbles, both lost, by Kennedy McKoy, and the 1 hour, 45 minute scrimmage felt like far more, especially in the 94-degree heat. (McKoy was pulled from the scrimmage after the second one and spent the remainder of the session doing push-ups and other calisthenics on the sidelines.) The defense, however, was engaged and enthusiastic, and was able to almost completely shut down the passing game. The Mountaineer receivers had drops drops on several possessions, and the timing and crispness was lacking even from the start. A major part of that was Tony Gibson's defense, which brought pressure throughout the scrimmage in an effort to see how a young secondary now missing free safety Dravon Askew-Henry would handle one-on-one coverage. 

The second team was better able to move the ball against the defensive reserves, and came up with a pair of touchdowns on a William Crest four-yard run and a 34-yard carry by freshman Cody SaundersMike Molina added field goals of 43, 21 and 20 yards while missing a 30-yarder. In all, the first team defense actually outscored the first team offense 14-3 thanks to the two interception runbacks, with the second and third teams combining to score 20 points against the defense.

"The defense was flying around, we should be flying around, too," said running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider said. "There's no excuse. Go finish. Ain't no excuse. You gotta get used to playing at 12 o'clock and in this heat. We got our tail handed to us. Sometimes I think we read the press clippings. We're not that good."

But lest one read too much into the scrimmage, understand that there's a natural ebb and flow to the play from both sides, and that on Friday, the offense had the goo day while the defense struggled at times. There's simply no way West Virginia's offense can be this inconsistent, with this poor of timing and execution, on a regular basis. Let's call this what it is - very bad outing - while also recognizing that this was practice 11 in a series of 29 leading to the Missouri game. And there's always the flip side, the thought that the Mountaineers got a very solid, swarming defensive performance. They deflected passes, tackled solidly as a group, got multiple players in and around the ball every snap, pressured the pocket well and just generally created a level of discomfort for both the offensive starters and reserves. 

Nana Kyeremeh added another interception, this off Crest, and Al-Rasheed Benton recovered one of the two fumbles. (Story, with two-deep, continues below.)

“It was a good day," Gibson said. "I thought we tackled well and created some turnovers, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We’re not close to where we need to be. I was happy with Jeremy Tyler, who we put in at free safety. He made some plays today. And I expect that from him. He’s an older guy who has played a bunch and he was in a battle with Dravon two years ago for that spot, so he I thought he did really well and he’s got to keep coming along." 

Gibson also moved Khairi Sharif over to bandit at times, and mixed multiple safeties in with the first team, especially towards the end of the scrimmage. On a positive note, the game was most clean, with just a handful of penalties called.

There were some offensive highlights, including a nice 30-yard pass from Chugunov to Gary Jennings, and Jovon Durante with a 40-yard catch-and-run that set-up the lone first team score. Justin Crawford also showed great balance, agility and burst in running with the first team in place of Rushel Shell (concussion). 

Though WVU released its own updated depth chart earlier, here's a look at the offensive and defensive two-deeps from the scrimmage:


QB- Skyler Howard; William Crest and Chris Chugunov

WR (X) - Shelton Gibson; Marcus Simms

WR (Z) - Ka'Raun White; Ricky Rogers

IWR - Jovon Durante; Gary Jennings

IWR - Daikiel Shorts; Devante Mathis

LT - Yodny Cajuste; Sylvester Townes

LG - Adam Pankey; Rob Dowdy

C - Tyler Orlosky; Matt Jones

RG - Kyle Bosch; Grant Lingafelter

RT - Marcell Lazard; Colton McKivitz

TE - Stone Wolfley

FB - Michael Ferns (Elijah Wellman out with injury)


DE - Christian Brown; Reese Donahue; Adam Shuler

NT - Darrien Howard; Alec Shriner; Chase Berndt

DE - Noble Nwachukwu; Jon Lewis

WLB - Sean Walters AND/OR David Long; Xavier Preston; Hodari Christian

MLB - Al-Rasheed Benton; Brendan Ferns; Justin Arndt

SLB - Justin Arndt; David Long; Adam Hensley

RCB - Rasul Douglas; Maurice Fleming

Spur - Kyzir White; Dylan Tonkery

Bandit - Jarrod Harper; Shane Commodore

LCB - Antonio Crawford; Elijah Battle

FS - Jeremy Tyler; @Khairi Sharif; Toyous Avery

Notes: Fullback Elijah Wellman, running back Rushel Shell and safety Marvin Gross were injured and did not participate. Shell suffered a concussion and is expected back soon. Offensive lineman Tony Matteo is still battling an ankle injury suffered on Tuesday, and also dd not play. That elevated Matt Jones to the second-team center spot. Martell Pettaway was in a red (no contact) jersey and was also held out. Receiver Ricky Rogers aggravated a hamstring midway through the scrimmage and did not play the rest of the time.


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