Spring Practice Notebook: Day 12

The second and final full-scale scrimmage for the Mountaineers before the annual Gold-Blue spring game was an appropriate end to a week of practice that was characterized by sloppy offensive play.

After spending most of the week being beaten up by the blue-clad defense, coordinator Jeff Mullen's offense didn't fare much better on Saturday.

The white shirts had only one sustained drive for a touchdown, going 65 yards in six plays, culminating in a 2-yard scoring rush from fullback Ryan Clarke.

That was one of three times Clarke reached the end zone in the "situational" scrimmage, but both of the other two came at the end of practice, when the offense was given the ball inside the defense's 10-yard line.

Running back Noel Devine had the highlight of the day, going 58 yards almost untouched for a score on a third-and-3 play. Devine took a simple outside zone handoff and outraced the blue shirts down the sideline for the touchdown.

The only other scoring "drive" of the day was a seven-play, 25-yard journey that ended with a 27-yard field goal from Corey Smith on a drive that started at the defense's 35.

Smith was two-of-three on field goals on the day, making a 25-yarder on the first drive from inside the defense's 10-yard line, and missing one from 30 yards away in the same situation just a couple of possessions later.

The rest of the day was dominated by defense. When possessions were starting at the offense's 35-yard line, the blue shirts earned a three-and-out on five straight drives after giving up the big touchdown run to Devine.

Showing its strength, the defense didn't allow its opposition to face any better than a third-and-9 on the first four drives of that stretch. Mullen had to try to call plays to pick up conversions on third-and-14, third-and-19 and third-and-15 on the others.

Even the relatively manageable third-and-4 the offense faced on the last of those drives ended with quarterback Coley White (who, as he has all spring, wore a gold "no contact" jersey) being "sacked" by backup linebacker Casey Vance.

White struggled to find open receivers downfield and often had to settle for simple screens and short passes, or trying to take off downfield on runs. On the positive side, he was effective in hitting targets near the line of scrimmage, as the signal-caller was 15-of-21 passing for 106 yards during the scrimmage.

Beyond the heroics of the always-electrifying Devine and the powerful Clarke, perhaps the lone bright spot for the offense was the play of back-up running back Daquan Hargrett, who had 15 carries for 74 yards. His 37-yard run on first-and-10 from the defense's 42-yard line set up Clarke's first touchdown.

Clarke rushed eight times for 17 yards and three scores, while Devine had 95 yards on his 10 attempts.

The rising senior runner would have had a few more yards to his credit, but he was held to "only" 22 yards on a carry early in practice, on a drive that started with the offense backed up against its own goal line.

Since the point of the drill was to gain two first downs and get out of the bad field position, the play was blown dead after Devine had already gained ground and was almost to the 40-yard line at that point.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • Once again, quarterback Geno Smith was unable to participate in the scrimmage due to the broken bone in his foot. But the rising sophomore took every snap in an extended pass "skeleton" drill before the scrimmage started to get some work in Saturday.

    It was a solid, if not spectacular, performance from the Miramar, Fla., native. He threw a nice ball through traffic to tight end Will Johnson, who hauled it in near the sideline for a 25-yard gain.

    Smith tossed a touchdown pass just before the end of the drill to Shawne Alston, who had beaten his defender to the corner of the end zone.

  • Among those in attendance were former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen, as well as soon-to-be WVU players Barry Brunetti and Quinton Spain. Both signees watched intently throughout the scrimmage.

    Several dozen members of the Mountaineer Maniacs were also on hand. They came down onto the field to watch the final few series of the scrimmage and joined players for pizza behind the Milan Puskar Center afterwards.

  • In the lead-up to the scrimmage, players participated in the infamous "W" (or "Oklahoma") drill. The pads were popping throughout each series of repetitions between the cones, and it showed by the end of the drill.

    Both Josh DePasquale and Andrew Goldbaugh were injured during the drill. DePasquale came to the sidelines in apparent agony after one of his reps as the runner in the drill, yelling out from pain in his shoulder.

    The severity of the injury wasn't immediately clear, but he did calm down and watch the entirety of the scrimmage from the sidelines after having his shoulder iced down.

    Goldbaugh also was held out of action after taking a big hit from cornerback Brandon Hogan in the drill. The Wheeling native stayed down on the Milan Puskar Stadium turf for a bit, but ultimately got up and was also watching from the sidelines during the scrimmage.

  • Walk-on and Mountain State native Matt Lindamood drew some applause for a play early in practice, when the fullback from Parkersburg took off upfield and lowered his shoulder to deny the tackle attempt of Hogan before finally going down after a 24-yard gain.

    It was one of just a series of solid plays this week from Lindamood, who has quietly been one of the more solid performers of the spring.

  • The Mountaineers will have Sunday and Monday off before returning to practice before the sun rises on Tuesday morning.

    That 6:00 a.m. workout will be WVU's third (and final) early effort of the spring. That will leave only a session on Wednesday evening before the Gold-Blue Game, to be held Friday night at 7:00 p.m.


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