Finding The Rhythm

Physicality and offensive explosion highlighted West Virginia's spring scrimmage Thursday, the final one before spring break begins this weekend.

The Mountaineers went 90 minutes, working punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return inside Mountaineer Field for fear that impending rain could move drills indoors, where kicking is impossible. The rain held off, however, allowing for nearly one hour of full 11-on-11 work outside that was controlled, if not dominated, by the offense.

The first highlight was a collision between cornerback Antonio Lewis and fullback Owen Schmitt. The latter plowed over the smaller skill player, setting up his scoring run a few players later during first-team work. Lewis was aggressive on the play, flying to the ball with his head up and delivering a blow, but Schmitt's strength and weight were simply too much. Fullback Sam Morrone had a touchdown catch a drive later, thrown by Adam Bednarik, who looked especially crisp running with the third and second teams. The quarterback tossed three scores during the scrimmage, one with the second time when backup Jarrett Brown was elevated to the ones with starter Patrick White watching.

Much of the snaps came from 25 yards out, with offenses looking to punch in heading into the red zone with the defense tightening up. On the first play from that area, White found Tito Gonzalez on a flag route in the deep right corner of the south (scoreboard) end zone for a touchdown. Gonzalez got past Vaughn Rivers and bodied the DB just enough to create separation at the end for an over-the-shoulder catch on a great rainbow toss from White. Eric Wicks came over from his safety spot, but could not make up enough ground to impact the play.

The second team settled for a 42-yard field goal by Pat McAfee after going three-and-out and getting stuffed on a swing pass out of the backfield. On the next series, Wes Lyons, running with the third team, leveled a linebacker on a reverse play, then caught a touchdown pass from Bednarik by outleaping Kent Richardson in the back of the end zone. The coaching staff again switched things up after the score, placing the pigskin at the six-yard line and forcing the offense to score on a final play from scrimmage. Brown got a chance with the first team on the initial series and nearly tossed a score on the snap, finding Ed Collington on a check down pass after everything was covered. The back ran over two defenders and gained nearly six yards, getting the ball within inches before being driven down just short, according to the linesman right on top of the action.

Bednarik took the snap with the second team on the next play, but threw incomplete. The first team came on again, this time with White. The lefty took the snap and surveyed the field, looking off the free safety before delivering a strike to Darius Reynaud in the middle of the end zone on a crossing pattern. The wideout made the grab just in front of Wicks, half sealed to the inside. But the senior ripped the ball away at the last second and the pass was ruled incomplete, setting off a mild celebration by the defense while the offense protested for the second time, the first coming when Collington was ruled short.

Brown was sacked on the next snap, which could be credited to both the rushing ends, which got off the ball well via nice snap timing, and the secondary, which blanketed the wideouts for the first three seconds, forcing Brown to scramble. He backpedaled, then took off to the left before being swarmed under when he reversed field. He was never hit, however, due to WVU making quarterbacks off limits. Reserve quarterback Markell Harrison entered with the third team for the final play of the scrimmage and threw incomplete to end it.

West Virginia now starts its spring break, with classes being held for the last time Friday. The team will be due back on Sunday evening, April 1, and will practice Monday and Wednesday, April 2 and 4 before the Gold-Blue spring game, April 7 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $5, with proceeds, as they have in previous years, benefiting the WVU Children's Hospital.


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