Gold Trumps Blue In Offensive Outing

Even without Steve Slaton, West Virginia's offense is clicking.

The Mountaineers rolled up 525 yards to beat the defense 58-30 in the annual Gold-Blue game Saturday. Slaton, a Heisman favorite for the upcoming season who is recovering from offseason wrist surgery, watched a trio of backups combine for 90 yards in a scrimmage shortened to 108 plays because of a lack of healthy offensive linemen.

WVU, coming off a 11-2 season and its second consecutive bowl victory, chose to match the offense against the defense for the third straight year, pitting the first, second and third team units against each other. It also used an obscure scoring system that awarded the offensive six points for a touchdown, three for a field goal, and one point each for a point after and first down. The defense gained three points each for a turnover and a three-and-out, and two points each for a stop and a safety.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez said Wednesday that the scrimmage would be among the shortest in his tenure. It was expected to last just one hour, but instead lasted more than 90 minutes and encompassed a series of special teams plays and situational snaps. The coaching staff, still trying to establish a two-deep, substituted frequently. Thirteen players caught passes, and a dozen took at least one carry before the scrimmage was halted just 20 minutes before nearly white-out conditions set in.

Quarterback Pat White completed just six of 14 passes for 69 yards, while backup Jarrett Brown, playing with the first team for much of the game, connected on 14 of 17 for 146 yards. Third-string quarterback Adam Bednarik, who has yet to play a snap over the past 20 games because of shoulder problems, lead the third team on a scoring drive covering 70 yards on just three plays. He completed a slant over the middle, then showed his much-improved arm strength following off-season surgery when he found Wes Lyons wide open along the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown. Lyons finished with three catches for 76 yards and the lone score, though it wasn't for a lack of trying. WVU threw more during the game than at in most practices this spring.

"Well, we had a lot of wide receiver prospects watching," Rodriguez said. "It was all right. We went about 20 more plays than I thought we would."

Bednarik's was the touchdown in a game played in swirling winds and 30-degree temperatures with snow squalls. Fullback Max Anderson and reserve tailback Tommy Spurlock ran for scores, while the defense was paced by three interceptions, two of which came on the final series'. Bobby Hathaway and Eric Wicks led all tacklers with seven and six stops, and Wicks also forced a fumble on the game's first possession, giving the defense a 3-0 lead.

That was erased by Anderson's score after four consecutive first downs, and place kicker Pat McAfee – who also made field goals of 48 and 42 yards – added the point after as the offense took the lead for good at 11-3. WVU also completed two passes to tight ends after not completing any in the 13 games last year, and gained nearly five yards per snap. The defense showed signs of better secondary play after being torched for 746 yards against Louisville and Rutgers last season. They were the only ranked teams West Virginia faced. But its influx of talent and depth has helped shore up the spot, and it managed to limit White and the first team offense and show no major breakdowns other than Lyons' wide open catch for the score.

The major questions over the summer will be if new offensive line coach Greg Frey can continue to develop depth and who will be Slaton's backup. Neither Eddie Davis nor Ed Collington have secured the spot, and No. 1-rated prep running back Noel Devine, who has signed a letter-of-intent to play for West Virginia, not yet fully qualified. Rodriguez has stated he would like better execution from the wideouts.

Free safety Quinton Andrews did not play. It was not immediately known why, though injury was not an anticipated factor. The game, among the earliest in school history, was bumped up one week because of the offseason turf replacement in Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field.

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