Spring Game Watchers' Guide

WVU's Gold-Blue game, with its offense vs. defense format and modified scoring system, doesn't lend itself to viewing as a normal football game does. However, it does give Mountaineer fans a chance to watch some things they might normally miss during the regular season.

Sure, you're going to watch Steve Slaton, Pat White, Brandon Myles and Owen Schmitt when they have the ball in their hands, because they might do something spectacular. However, the spring game provides the perfect opportunity to drag your attention away from the ball and study some of the other parts of the game. Follow this handy-dandy guide, and you will amaze your fellow Mountaineer fans with all the knowledge you gleaned from the 100 or so plays West Virginia will run on Saturday.

1) Concentrate on the matchups

West Virginia is going to run two types of plays on Saturday. One set will be the base plays and formations that WVU ran last year. The second set will include a few gimmicks and fun things for the fans to call (the first play of each series is again set to be called by a fan from a list provided) – but I'll bet most of those will never be seen in a Mountaineer game plan this fall.

So, rather than following the ball, watch individuals. Focus in on players that are battling for positions (e.g., Damien Crissey and John Bradshaw at offensive tackle, or Abraham Jones and Quinton Andrews at free safety). Follow them from start to finish on several snaps, and then compare their play after the game. Involve those sitting around you, and assign different players to each, then share your info during breaks in the action. Granted, the performances in the spring game aren't going to determine who starts in September, but you can get a good idea of where each player stands at this point in the process.

2) Watch individual players, and judge for yourself

We get dozens of questions here about how so-and-so is doing. Here's your chance to answer your own questions. Concerned about WVU's pass rush? Watch Johnny Dingle several times in a row to see if he's getting pressure, and how he's accomplishing it. Still worried about the passing game? Zoom in on the wideouts and see if they are getting into their patterns cleanly. Are their breaks sharp? Are they coming in and out of them as quickly as possible? There's much to learn here on the individual level – and this is your chance to watch the game like a coach.

3) Pick of the basics of some schemes

As noted above, WVU isn't going to show anything beyond its base offense (except for, perhaps, the odd triple reverse option pass), but if you're puzzled by West Virginia's zone blocking scheme or how the linebackers fill gaps against different offensive formations, here's your chance. Watch the units, and you should be able to see, at least in a general sense, how they work together to create successful plays. Again, we probably won't be seeing lots of blitzing or anything exotic, but taking the time to watch how the offensive and defensive lines work together from the snap of the ball can be quite constructive.

4) Sneak some peeks at the sidelines

Team chemistry, without a doubt, was one of the biggest reasons for WVU's success a year ago. Does it exist again this year? While one afternoon's look certainly can't answer that question in full, you can usually tell a lot about team camaraderie in how the act around each other when they aren't in the game. So far this year, it seems as if the Mountaineers are again pretty much united in their support of each other, but as we've seen in past years, this trait can be fragile at best.

5) Don't bail out early

Sure, there won't be many appearances by the first-teamers in the second half. But this is the chance for the backups to shine, and for the guys who won't play again this year to get their moment of glory. They deserve your support. And won't you look smart when you identify Bill Ray as the linebacker who made that big hit or Scott Macerelli as the wide receiver who produced a nice catch and run?

6) Use your time on the field after the game

Yes, you can go down on the field after the game, run into the end zone and get some autographs. But you can also take this chance to ask a few questions. Wondering what Pat White looks at when he runs the option read? Like to know how a play gets down from the booth to the sidelines and then onto the field? Here's your chance – take advantage of it! But don't forget to do a snow angel on flying WV at midfield, or recreate Major's run from the 1988 Penn State game.

7) If you watch the game on ESPNU, ignore the announcers.

They won't have a clue as to what WVU is doing, and will likely try to spot trends in certain formations or plays that the Mountaineers are running, when they're not merrily nattering away about topics that have nothing to do with the game. (Wonder how many times they'll mention West Virginia's schedule?)

8) Make your own calls

Finally, remember that these are just suggestions. Don't be limited by them. Pick out things you are interested again, and watch the game in a different way. You'll almost assuredly learn things you might not have even noticed before. But above all, savor those hits, collisions, speed runs and great moves, because it's going to be three-plus months before we see them again from our favorite team.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories