Spring Scrimmage - II

West Virginia's second spring scrimmage Saturday yielded an offensive explosion as the quarterbacks and wideouts utilized a shortened indoor field.

The Mountaineers, in the Caperton Indoor Facility for the second consecutive day because of snow showers and 30-degree weather, went live for the full 75-minute session after it drilled special teams to open the weekend practice. The coaching staff initially started the offenses at the opposite 40-yard line within the 80-yard building, giving it a shortened 60-yard field. With the staff offering instruction between plays, the first, second and third teams got multiple drives to improve and impress.

Receiver Nate Sowers caught a rifled pass from Jarrett Brown in second-team work when he broke free on a slant pattern. Dorrell Jalloh finished the set when he hauled in a 30-yard scoring pass, getting inside the defensive back and hauling in the ball before accelerating to the end zone. It was one of two scores on the day for the wideout. The third and first teams went three and out, and WVU began to exchange players on the first and second team units. Brown took snaps with the first team, while Adam Bednarik, who showcased his increasing arm strength with a 50-plus yard toss down the sideline, alternated between second and third teams, playing much of the time on the former after head coach Rich Rodriguez limited the snaps of the entire third unit because of multiple penalties.

Sowers did manage another grab, this a 40-yard over-the-shoulder effort on a well-thrown ball by Bednarik. Sowers sealed the defender well to the outside before being knocked out of bounds. That moved the ball to the 15-yard line before Erick Wicks recorded a sack on the next play. Ed Collington then fumbled, and the defense recovered to end the push. Collington ran mostly with the first team, though Eddie Davis and Jet Best also saw top-level reps as players mixed in and out in an effort to find the best 11, both together and separately at individual positions.

Reserve quarterback Markell Harrison, who is also the backup holder, threw a gorgeous 30-yard rainbow for a big gainer. That was followed by two runs between the tackles for Jason Gwaltney, who bulled his way for solid yardage. Once the 60-yard drives were finished, West Virginia practiced an overtime session, starting the ball at the 25-yard line and working in with all the OT rules in place. Brown took snaps with the starters in this series, as Patrick White rested initially.

The first team was stuffed on the first two plays before Brown got around the end on a broken play and converted a third and eight into a first down. Cornerback Antonio Lewis, complaining of holding by Wes Lyons, was beaten inside by the big wideout on the very next snap to move the ball inside the five. Lyons scored on the next play. The second team went through the same drills, then the format switched to an eight-point deficit in overtime. Now, the offensive squad was forced to both score and convert the two-point try to tie.

White entered on the first series on this setup and WVU promptly went backward in two plays. But on third and 11, the lefty showed his escapability, running around the end for 17 yards to move the ball to the nine, a first and goal. Collington finished the drive by plunging in up the middle and White ran in a keeper for the two to tie. Gwaltney had another nice gainer within second-team work to setup a first and goal, but a fumbled snap by Brown and the resulting recovery by Eric Wicks ended the threat. The second team got another chance, and Jollah caught his second score, this in the very back right of the end zone.

The third team got its final shot when the drill changed to a two-point situation from the three-yard line. It scored via a pass in the flats before Lewis picked off the first team on the next series. White, being rushed, backpedaled and then lost 15 yards of ground before lofting the ball into the end zone, where Lewis broke on it and threatened to return it for a score before being wrestled to the ground. The scrimmage finished when Bednarik found Sowers in the end zone for two points, the Martinsburg, W.Va. native's third catch of the day, the second for points.

The scrimmage, described as average by Rodriguez, was pass heavy and did not focus as much on the running game. That left a logjam of players still competing for the backup spot behind Steve Slaton, though it seems the lead wideout group is likely Jollah, Sowers, Darius Reynaud – who was very quiet but blocked well – Lyons and Tito Gonzales. Lewis and Larry Williams (who also had an interception) have had especially solid springs for the secondary, according to the coaching staff, and the search for a backup punter and kicker behind Pat McAfee still continues.

West Virginia will practice again Monday, then finish with three consecutive days of drills before spring break. The Wednesday-Thursday-Friday finish will be the lone time the Mountaineers hold sessions for three straight days. There are eight more practices left, including the spring game, held April 7 at 12:30 p.m.

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