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Gold prevails over Blue 22-21 as Mountaineers put aggressive offensive approach on display in spring game

(Gane highlights)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In need of a spark offensively following last season’s 6-7 finish, West Virginia brought in Graham Harrell to direct the unit. To place your bet as a fan, you can rely on sites like 카지노.

“It was really important that we have another voice in that room,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “Graham has brought a confidence. He has good swagger, but he’s humble. That’s been really effective in that room.”

While some of the personnel is likely to change before Harrell guides the offense in a meaningful game, his scheme was on display for the first time Saturday in the Mountaineers’ annual Gold-Blue Spring Game before 12,678.

The Gold team, led by running backs coach Chad Scott, prevailed with a 22-21 victory on the strength of Markquan Rucker’s 11-yard touchdown run with 4:40 remaining, combined with Danny King’s point-after kick that broke the 21-all tie.

“The pleasing thing for me was relatively clean football,” Brown said. “All 3 quarterbacks didn’t make all the right decisions or throws, but operated pretty well. Defensively, in the second half we played more like we’re capable of playing. We were purposely vanilla in each phase. I was pleased. We came out of it healthy and didn’t have injuries. Some people we needed to play well today played well.”

(Neal Brown postgame press conference) 

Much of the discussion in the moments after spring practice concluded centered around what Scott described as a “player-friendly offense” that showed so signs it’s likely to be more aggressive in how it attacks opposing defenses.

While contact was limited and tackling off limits against the top unit, West Virginia allowed quarterbacks Will “Goose” Crowder, Garrett Greene and true freshman Nicco Marchiol to air it out early and often as the approach offered an abundance of opportunities for wide receivers to win 1-on-1 matchups on the perimeter.

“It’s always risk-reward on that. We made the decision with that first group that we weren’t going to tackle and we were just going to thud it, but that helps the defense and it’s harder to run the ball,” Brown said. “We wanted to throw the ball.”

Five WVU wideouts hauled in a pass of at least 27 yards, while Bryce Ford-Wheaton accounted for receptions of 44 and 31 yards on consecutive plays to start the second half — the latter of which resulted in a touchdown thrown by Garrett Greene.

“That’s something we have to improve on. When we won last year, we had explosive plays,” Brown said. “When we didn’t and when we played some of the better defenses we played, we struggled with those.”

Ford-Wheaton’s touchdown grab marked the only second-half points for the Blue team and gave it a 21-15 lead it maintained until Rucker’s TD run.

Crowder, a redshirt freshman, led the Gold squad on a four play, 75-yard drive to start the scrimmage.

He found Reese Smith for a gain of 12 on the first play, before connecting with Preston Fox for 50 yards on the very next play. The 50-yard grab by Fox marked the longest play for either team, and the Morgantown native made the catch with true freshman cornerback Tyrin Woodby in coverage.

“We’re going to take a lot of shots and try to score a lot of points,” wideout Kaden Prather said.

Two plays later, Clemson transfer Lyn-J Dixon reached pay dirt from 7 yards for the game’s first points, giving Gold a 7-0 lead at the 13:02 mark of the opening quarter.

Blue responded with what looked like a quality drive, reaching the Gold 25-yard line before consecutive 5-yard penalties forced it into a second-and-20.

Greene then inadvertently launched a deep ball in the direction of wideout Sam James, but it was read well and intercepted by safety Aubrey Burks.

Marchiol got his first work on the the third series of the contest and rushed for 10 yards on the first play, before the next three resulted in a loss of 1 yard to force a punt.

Gold ultimately led 12-0 before Blue scored on the third play of the second quarter — a 31-yard pass from Crowder to James on fourth-and-7.

Following King’s 53-yard field goal attempt that missed, Marchiol led a 64-yard drive that he capped with a 7-yard touchdown run on third-and-5.

The highlight of the series was a 27-yard pass from Marchiol to Graeson Malashevich that put the Blue team on the brink of reaching the red zone.

Gold got the ball back with 1:26 remaining in the half, and Crowder led a 73-yard drive that finished with King’s 19-yard field goal as time expired.

The Mountaineers continued their aggressive approach to start the second half and the Greene to Ford-Wheaton connection needed only two plays to reach the end zone and put Blue back on top 37 seconds into the third quarter.

“Graham likes to take shots. and we feed off of that,” offensive lineman James Gmiter said. “That’s what our offense kind of lacked last year is confidence in what we were going to do.”

That score stood for nearly 25 minutes of game play, before Rucker provided the winning score to finish off a 70-yard drive.

Greene, Crowder and Marchiol — the team’s top three quarterbacks until the arrival of Georgia transfer J.T. Daniels — got reps for both teams.

Combining play for both sides, Crowder finished 14-of-24 for 199 yards and one touchdown.  Greene was 5-of-10 for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Marchiol completed 10-of-19 passes for 75 yards and rushed five times for 15 yards.

“Today was the best day Crowder has had all spring, which is encouraging in a game-like atmosphere,” Brown said. “He made some nice throws down the field and got off to a good start. Garrett had a bad interception where he didn’t read the safety, but he made some plays with his feet. Nicco had some flash plays. He has really good ability, but he’s a high school senior. He’s going to be a lot better in fall camp and we have to continue to work. He showed some signs running the football today which was good and that’s how he played in high school.”

Fox led all receivers with 117 yards on five receptions. Following the spring game, he was awarded a scholarship in the locker room.

“He had an opportunity and made the most of his opportunity over 15 practices to earn his scholarship,” Brown said.

Ford-Wheaton hauled in six passes for 98 yards and a score. James had five grabs for 56 yards and Prather added four receptions for 43 yards for the Blue team.

“The offense last year was a little more conservative,” Prather said. “We took our time, but with coach Harrell, we’ll take a lot of shots. It’s going to be a more exciting game.”

Redshirt freshman Jaylen Anderson was the game’s leading rusher with 41 yuards on seven carries for Gold.

Bluefield High alum Sean Martin was credited with the only sack, which came on the third to last play.

— — — — —

As is custom during the spring, West Virginia announced several award winners at halftime.

The Iron Mountaineer Awards were presented to Malashevich, offensive linemen Zach Frazier and Doug Nester and bandit Jared Bartlett for being the most outstanding performers in the team’s offseason strength and conditioning program.

Offensive lineman Nick Malone, a Morgantown native, was the recipient of the Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award, presented by the Blue & Gold News.

The Nickolich Award is given to a walk-on who distinguishes himself through attitude and work ethic.

“It’s very nice,” Malone said. “Most linemen, we don’t get as much recognition and we get a lot of blame. Being a walk-on as well, it’s a very good feeling.”

(Gold team head coach Chad Scott postgame press conference) 

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