MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For those who like to keep score, the Gold defeated the Blue, 39-38, in Saturday’s Gold-Blue Spring Game at Mountaineer Field.
Tied at 38-38, the scrimmage went into a de facto overtime with the winner decided by a “big man challenge” – sophomore center Noah Drummond trying to catch a pass while defended by freshman d-lineman Brayden Dudley. Quarterback Garrett Greene attempted to fit a throw to Drummond in a tight window, but Dudley slapped the ball to the ground. Thus the Gold squad laughed in celebration as the scrimmage came to a close, concluding West Virginia’s 2021 spring practices.
It wasn’t the final score that mattered, though. The real key was performance by the various units who are preparing for the season that is still four and a half months away.
Atmosphere – The day was overcast, but Mother Nature held off any rain until shortly after the scrimmage came to an end. At 61 degrees, it was pleasant enough, especially in comparison to some spring games of the past that have featured snow. A crowd of 8,312 took advantage of the seasonable weather to socially distance throughout Mountaineer Field. Considering it was only the second spring game WVU has held in the past four years (2018 was cancelled by the threat of snow and 2020 was cancelled because of COVID), it was just nice to have a Gold/Blue Spring Game where fans could gather and watch the Mountaineers. Grade A-
Offense – Because parts of the Gold-Blue Scrimmage were conducted in thud conditions (meaning no live tackling), getting a complete handle on West Virginia’s run game was tough. On paper, the two teams combined for just 65 rushing yards on 32 carries, which came out to a normally subpar 2.0 yards per attempt. But the last thing you should do is make any deep statistical analysis on a rushing attack that at times was basically two-hand touch. For the most part WVU’s offensive line got a good push, and it also held up pretty well against the defensive pass rush. In total, West Virginia’s quarterbacks completed 22 of 44 passes for 252 yards with one TD and two interceptions. As has been his norm, returning starter Jarret Doege was accurate on short passes. In all, he completed 10 of his 14 throws for 79 yards, but the junior connected on just two of five attempts longer than 10 yards, though one was dropped and one resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty. Veteran receivers like Winston Wright (two catches for 43 yards) and Bryce Ford-Wheaton (two catches for 18 yards) performed well, as you would expect, and youngsters Kaden Prather (three catches for 51 yards) and Sam Brown (two catches for 65 yards) also flashed their potential. Overall it wasn’t an incredible offensive performance, but that unit did show the possibilities of good things ahead. Grade B
Defense – Just like the offense, it’s hard to judge a defense when much of the football scrimmage was limited in terms of full contact. Still, West Virginia showed that its defense, which was one of the best in the FBS ranks last season, should remain pretty stout in 2021 despite some significant personnel losses. The Mountaineer defensive front, which was the strength of last year’s unit, again should be good, as Dante Stills, Akheem Mesidor, Jalen Thornton, VanDarius Cowan, Jared Bartlett and Taijh Alston each capped off strong springs with strong spring games. Cornerback Daryl Porter, who came away with an outstanding interception Saturday, also was a bright spot in the contest. The defense had a couple of breakdowns in Saturday’s scrimmage, but for the most part, it showed good signs, just as it had done the entire spring. Grade A-
Special teams – Though placekickers Danny King and Tyler Sumpter each connected on field goal attempts, there wasn’t enough live special teams work Saturday to really make a proper judgment. There was only one punt, no kickoffs, no full coverage teams and no returns. For the sake of keeping people healthy, that is understandable, but trying to assign a grade to a unit that didn’t do much was impossible. Grade Incomplete
Coaching – Head coach Neal Brown did some fun things that fans should have enjoyed, like having competitions in various areas from one-on-one blocking and receiving drills to even a couple focused on special teams. Probably the biggest buzz came when WVU quarterback Jarret Doege and Garret Greene were joined in a passing competition by Mountaineer basketball player Deuce McBride, who, as TV announcers constantly remind viewers, played quarterback in high school. Deuce showed pretty good form, including finding nothing but net on deep 3-pointer – er, fade pass into the end zone. Ultimately Doege won the QB competition, though. Still, it was a entertaining wrinkle, and Brown’s big-man challenge to break the tie at the end sent everyone home with a smile. Grade A