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April 21, 2012

Defense reigns over offense

MORGANTOWN--A drab, rainy overcast day at Milan Puskar Stadium was properly complimented by a crest-fallen, sloppy offense that succumbed to an opportunistic defense, 43-34. The first-team offense faltered the second-team defense, and the first "D" harassed the offense's second-stringers.

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SCORING VALUES

+ Defensive
- TD: 6
- Three-and-Out: 5, plus 3, 8 total
- Drive Stop: 3
- Fumble Recovery: Add 3, 6 total
- Interception: Add 3, 6 total

+ Offensive
- TD: 6
- Field Goal: 3
- Two-Point Conversion: 2
- Extra Point: 1
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The white-adorned offense started quick, with a short pass right to Andrew Buie for a minimal gain. Geno Smith rushed to the line, and connected with schoolboy teammate Stedman Bailey for a 43-yard streak pass over Cecil Levil.

After a pair of plays yielded three yards, Andrew Buie took another swing pass upfield. The 3rd-and-7 conversion was earmarked by, well, an earmark shot by Shaq Petteway on the rusher that got the defense crowing.

Next, J.D. Woods took a screen pass down to the two-yard line, an 18-yard gain spurned by Buie's helmet-to-thigh block on a chasing Tyler Anderson.

Bailey capped the nine-play drive with a stutterstep leading to a mercurial slant, Smith's sixth consecutive completion.

Paul Millard broached the second-team huddle, and quickly found early-enrollee Jordan Thompson. The Texan frosh led all receivers with eight catches for 66 yards, including three on the opening drive.

The first converted a third down, as Thompson broke before a Millard pass to barely reach the first-down marker. Another reception occurred on a cross-drag, a 30-yard gain that had four Mountaineers pursuing Thompson as he turned up the left sideline.

Shawne Alston, who alternated first-team duties with Buie each quarter, capped the drive with a one-yard score. Alston led all rushers with 52 yards on 11 carries, none for a loss.
Buie accrued 32 of the team's 66 yards on 38 carries (1.7-yard average), but lost 10 yards on 12 runs.

The defense, incensed by two lengthy drives, responded. The first-stringers faced a three-and-out, needing seven yards when Nick Kwiatkoski rushed Smith.

Buie chopped the rusher, who flew head first over the blocker, but Smith felt rushed. No contact is allowed, but referees will blow their whistles if a defender approaches the quarterback.

The quarterback stare down Bailey's curl-out, and Matt Moro broke. The safety had rolled over to sideline coverage, snagging an interception and a 14-6 game.

Millard took reigns, and fired a first-play screen to Thompson, asymmetrical to the practice drill. Avery Williams curled around a blocker then leveled Thompson, flailing his arms upward as the ball popped out.

Williams recovered for a 14-12 contest. Smith orchestrate an 11-play, 56-yard drive, but one of two Chidoziem Ezemma sacks coagulated the effort at the 26. The blue-clad defense totaled five sacks on the day, with Josh Francis, J.B. Lageman and Sean Walters. The first-team offensive line relented four of those stops.

Bitancurt's try was good, and that would be the offense's last points before Smith struck Jordan Thompson with two minutes remaining in the scrimmage. Paul Millard found Dante Campbell on the game's final drive, a jaunt that head coach Dana Holgorsen continued after the game clock expired.

Two three-and-outs followed, and the defense dominated a 28-17 game. This despite a West Virginia offense that passed for 534 yards during a 38-for-66 performance. Smith converted 23-of-29 passes for 281 yards and two scores. Millard parlayed 253 yards and a score with a 26-for-35 day, but threw two interceptions to Smith's lone miscue.

Millard got one more try before the first half closed, with about a minute remaining. The West Virginia defense, however, altered coverage sets. The team went with a 2-4-5, placing Will Clarke and J.B. Lageman as the interior linemen, while Josh Francis rushed right tackle and Tyler Anderson attacked the left.

Isaiah Bruce, who topped the team with eight tackles, manned center, over Clarke and often protecting the center field. Doug Rigg aligned over Francis on the right side, protecting the shallow zone and left flat. A lack of speed to the outside summoned Barber to replace him.

The defense then swapped out Lageman, bringing Barber back inside more and inserting Matt Moro. Wes Tonkery closed on the line of scrimmage, while Moro dropped back, creating a 1-5-5 set.

Millard handled this iteration well at first, waiting for Jordan Thompson to drag across and force Bruce to lean leftward. Andrew Buie delayed his streak route, creating a small pocker fo a 10-yard gain where Bruce previously resided.

But, the defense won out, with the 1-5-5's feigned pressure forcing Millard to wait. He slung a cross-field out-pass to Thompson, a throw his arm needs more cushion to convert than corner Brod Jenkins permitted..The interception closed the half for a 34-17 "Blue" advantage. .

Millard began the second half, and while the rules were noticeably different, the offensive sluggishness remained.

Quarters were now 10 minutes instead of 12, and the clock continued to run on incompletions and blown whistles. Millard pushed a drive to midfield, but Will Clarke timed his jump and intercepted at the line of scrimmage, 40-17.

Smith pushed his unit down to the 27-yard line before a Bitancurt field goal created a20-point contest. Another stop gave three more points to the D, too.

Next, Terence Gourdine earned the day's play, a weaving, willowy 84-yard gain off a Geno Smith pass on the signal-caller's final drive. Four defenders whiffed before Gourdine was tackled at the five.

The defense looked to keep Smith without a touchdown, but a 3rd-and-5 effort was for not. Smith demonstrated his matured pocket presence, strafing around his linemen for eight seconds before striking an open Jordan Thompson for the score.

Millard took over as the clock ticked down, and his throw to Campbell provided the final, 43-34.

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NOTES

+ A producer for Fox Sports Southwest was on-hand. The network covers the Dallas metropolitan area, including BIG XII football in Texas an Oklahoma. This, however, was the first Spring Game the producer has attended "in a while."

FSN SW is putting together summer capsules for each BIG XII program, airing in July. The West Virginia-TCU episode will be the only episode shot on location, acclimating the conference stalwarts with the newcomers.

The producer highlighted the conference's excitement, mainly due to the unknown location and entity that is the Mountaineer program. Still, baseball must be addressed, he said.

Example: a beaver building a dam in the river surrounding Baylor's baseball stadium has its own twitter account.


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