MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Throughout a month of intersquad scrimmages, the West Virginia defense enjoyed most of the chest-thumping moments as the offense lurched and stammered.
But during Saturday’s sun-splashed Gold-Blue game, the offense took some revenge, delivering a turnover-free 95 snaps and closing the spring with a 37-27 win.
Paul Millard, the likeliest challenger to injured front-runner Clint Trickett in the quarterback race, threw two touchdowns and walk-on Logan Moore directed three scoring drives in the No. 2 role. Third-string newcomer Skyler Howard produced his sharpest scrimmage by completing 9-of-13 passes, part of the trio’s combined 33-of-53 passing day for 308 yards and three scores.
“I would say the offense won overall because they scored a lot more than we expected them to,” admitted linebacker Isaiah Bruce. “The defense didn’t get any turnovers at all today, and that’s a downfall for us.”
Even with Trickett still recovering from shoulder surgery, head coach Dana Holgorsen turned loose the defense and made the atypical decision of subjecting his healthy quarterbacks to full-contact. With the defense no longer limited to “touch” sacks, the quarterbacks seemed to operate better in live-game situations.
“I thought it was fun—it was fun watching those guys get hit,” Holgorsen said. “They weren’t making the progress we wanted, so about six practices ago, we let them get hit and the sense of urgency picked up.”
Millard connected on touchdowns of 6 yards to Kevin White and 1 yard to Elijah Wellman and finished 14-of-19 for 129 yards.
Moore, a transfer from Division II Fairmont State, was presumably an afterthought in the quarterback race. Yet he completed 10-of-21 for 109 yards and had a potential scoring pass dropped. He also ran three times for 35 yards— highlighted by a 28-yard scramble—and said coaches consider him a legit contender.
“With the work I’ve put in and what I’ve proven I can do, they have to give me a shot,” Moore said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Though Dreamius Smith sat out the game with a tender shoulder—an injury running backs coach JaJuan Seider deemed non-serious—West Virginia’s ground game still averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Dustin Garrison had 47 yards on 10 carries, while Wendell Smallwood ran 10 times for 45 yards. Pitt transfer Rushel Shell gained 37 yards on eight carries.
The offense piled up 483 yards total, averaging 5.1 per play. It scored on seven of 15 possessions.
“Today was a success,” said Garrison, building upon his impressive performance in last Saturday’s scrimmage in Charleston. The offense made a lot of plays.”
Kevin White paced the receivers with five catches for 42 yards, while Jordan Thompson made four receptions for 57. Daikiel Shorts added four for 36 yards—one of those a 6-yard Jet sweep from Howard that went for a score—and KJ Myers caught four for 32 yards.
Holgorsen would have liked more connections with Mario Alford, who ripped off a 99-yard return on the opening kickoff but was otherwise quieted to two catches for 12 yards.
“(Alford) probably didn’t make as many plays at receiver as I would have liked,” Hogorsen said. “We have to get Mario the ball quite a bit more.”
Then again, Holgorsen said Alford was blanketed by sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley, who continues to “make play after play after play.”
“Daryl Worley has had a phenomenal spring—a phenomenal spring,” Holgorsen said. “Mario’s confidence is a little down right now because he has had to go against him so much.”
The defense was led by Justin Arndt’s seven tackles, while Nick Kwiatkoski made five stops before being spotted on the bench with ice on his neck and shoulder. Backup safety Dayron Wilson also registered five tackles, as did Rickey Rumph and Bruce.
The defense’s sacks came from nickel back K.J. Dillon and punter-turned-linebacker Houstin Syvertson, while Darien Howard and Edward Muldrow split a sack.