Offensive Outing

Patrick White and Jarrett Brown combined for 205 yards passing as West Virginia's new-look offense beat the defense 59-15 in the Gold-Blue spring game Saturday.

The Mountaineers threw 35 times to 45 running plays, a balance largely unseen in past regular seasons, and used the play calling to pick up 17 first downs – along with a touchdown and two field goals – in the initial nine possessions. The numbers might not read like much, but by that time, using a scoring format which award the offense a point for each movement of the chains, the Gold led 32-12.

New offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen was harnessed a bit by head coach Bill Stewart, who demanded none of the spread offense's motion be shown because of the filming of the game and the estimated 18,000 attendance, the second largest in school history. But even that failed to limit the Gold, which finished with three touchdowns and 336 yards even with the drives often being stopped in mid-possession due to the drills being run. WVU was able to move the ball out from its own goal line and finish inside the red zone. The lone struggles were with the second team, which was forced into three timeouts in its first two series'.

"I was frustrated early with the seconds," Stewart said. "But we got better at blocking, tackling, hitting and hustling. We've got a pretty playbook, all decorated and all that, we have a great coaching staff, I challenge anyone to find better. But what we are working on is chemistry. It's people doing the right things the right way. There is a method to the madness, and we do it every day."

Indeed, the offense, especially the receivers, seem to have ad added bounce to their step since the reinvention of the passing game. AS they have throughout spring, White and Brown distributed the ball well. Eleven wideouts caught passes, led by Brandon Hogan's six for 49 yards. Bradley Starks and Kendall Washington caught scoring passes of 23 and four yards, respectively. Mike Poitier led all rushers with 54 yards on 17 carries as he lessened the load of Noel Devine (six carries, 33 yards). Brown ran for the lone touchdown on the ground.

"You saw where we tried to put the ball: over the ‘backers and in front of the safeties," Stewart said. "We have to keep people off us and out of the box, and not just by throwing in the flats. We have to do more than throw bubble screens."

Indeed they did. Still, the defense had a solid game despite the lopsided scoring which has always created offensive blowouts since its inception. Reserve linebacker Najee Goode led the defense with 10 tackles, five solo. Fellow linebacker Pat Lazear had four tackles and the lone interception of White on a long pass to the goal line that was the quarterback's worst decision of the scrimmage. Two of Lazear's stops came on the opening drive, with the starting units paired against each other. The defense finished with six sacks overall, a product of the quarterbacks not being hit and plays being blown dead when they were touched.

"I feel like we all have learned a lot this spring," Lazear said. "We are still putting some things together, but all of us are really starting to get it on defense. It seems like we are progressing very well. Things were put in in the first two days and we got that down. We played a little sloppy early, but once we settled we did fine."

The scrimmage lasted a total of 90 minutes for 80 offensive plays. WVU finished 14 of 33 on third down, with the worst offensive aspect being securing the ball during a catch. Numerous passes were dropped that could have led to major yardage chunks, and with those plays the offensive outburst would have been far greater.

"I saw a lot of good things on both sides of the ball," Stewart said. "I also saw some bad; some motion, some holds. But that said, it was very productive. We put the ball on different hashes, we did third and two, third and five, third and eight. We did the hurry-up field goal. We got some work done."

Pat McAfee finished four of four on field goals with a long of 47 yards. Backup Chris Glenn went one for two, splitting his attempts from 39 yards. Ben Rios also chipped one in from 30 yards out. There were no punts or kickoffs, as the Mountaineers chose not to even start possessions with any sort of kick. Instead, they began the scrimmage from the 20-yard line with the first teams.

The offense quickly took a 5-0 lead on Pat McAfee's 47-yard field goal after it picked up two first downs for a pair of points. White's keeper was the longest play of the series, as the staff mixed a ratio of two or three passes per run. Lazear made two early stops on the rushing plays, and Scooter Berry was credited with a "touch down" of White to stop the drive.

Brown entered on the second possession, but the offense failed to pick up a first down after an incomplete (dropped) pass and a throw short of the sticks on third down when Goode and defensive lineman Joshua Taylor pancaked wideout Tito Gonzales. Taylor delivering a solid body shot, and kept Gonzales two yards shy. The three and out pulled the defense within 5-3 entering the third series. Brown remained at quarterback to spearhead a match-up between the second teams on both sides and immediately ran for a first down. But Thor Merrow, who flanked out from his fullback position into the slot, appeared confused on a second and five play later in the drive, causing the offense to call its second timeout in the first 15 minutes of action. The offense did convert, however, when Brown hit Hogan over the middle to move past midfield – only to have to call another timeout because of clock issues caused by an NCAA rule change.

The now-40 second play clock starts when the previous play is blown dead, provided a ball can quickly be secured. If not, the clock operator can choose to allow the officials additional time to ready the ball. The rule, similar to that of the NFL, scraps the previous setup. Officials used to ready the ball for play, then start a 25-second clock. Stewart has said through spring drills that his team, and others, had struggled with the new timing, and that was apparent Saturday.

"We have to get that down," Stewart said. "We called around to a lot of teams and spoke with some colleagues and it has been an issue all over the country. So we're working on that, we're working on it."

The third team, led by Charlie Russell, finally entered a half hour in, but went three and out on a trio of stretch running plays as the defense pulled within 9-7. The coaching staff then worked red zone drills, both coming out and going in. The first teams matched up with the offense starting at the two. Devine chipped away for five before White hit Hogan to move the ball to the 10-yard line and setup a third and two. The senior scrambled for a first down on a busted play on the next snap, and Devine busted loose on the resulting first down for 20 yards. The staff then reset the possession at the two for the second team sets with the offense ahead 12-7.

The defense got a needed stop, "sacking" Brown on third and long to make it 12-9. The third team match-up was essentially a stalemate. White then moved the offense, via a series of passes to tight end Will Johnson and others, into field goal range from the 20. McAfee hit another field goal, and the offense surged to an 18-9 lead. Brown reentered on the next series and, on second down, threw deep into the end zone to draw interference. That eventually led to Brown's touchdown toss to Washington for a game-sealing 28-9 lead. The defense never got closer than 16 points afterward as the team began to drill third downs ranging from two to eight yards.

The scoring bogged down for a bit, with Lazear intercepting White on a long pass to the goal line a few series' later before Sidney Glover recorded a sack for the Blue team's two major highlights.

"We're still trying to find out how to line up and run some plays," Mullen said. "That was the most important thing for us this spring. I feel okay about that. That's something we needed to address and get put in."

McAfee added a third and fourth field goal approximately one hour in for a 39-15 Gold lead. White was able to punch his unit in a play later in goal line work, hitting Starks for the final legit scores of the day and a 48-15 advantage. West Virginia finished with more red zone work and snaps from inside the five-yard line as well as a handful of two-point conversion plays.

"I think the chemistry is good," defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "But that's something you are constantly working on over the summer and into fall camp."

Let the bonding begin.

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