More highlights followed Saturday as the defense beat the offense, XX-XX, before an estimated crowd of about 8,000 on a fall-like afternoon at Mountaineer Field. Not certain about the score. Try and follow me here.
We saw a little suspense as the offense took the field at its own 35-yard line down 35-27 with 4:21 to go.
K.J. Dillon applied the hit of the day when he arrived with the ball as Cody Clay tried to catch a second-down pass out in the flat. A third-down run by Dreamius Smith set up a fourth-and-2, which Smith picked up seconds later.
WVU picked up two more first downs, but Paul Millard was sacked for a loss of seven that moved the ball back to the defense’s 39 with 33 seconds left. Millard completed a pass to Devonte Mathis for a gain of 15 before a 24-yard touchdown to Jordan Thompson with no time remaining.
This was high drama in a game we often label as meaningless. The offense called a timeout to draw up a two-point play. It was a run to the right to freshman Wendell Smallwood that was shut down quickly. Dillon made the play and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was not too happy with his quarterback.
Not that it matters, or that it would have mattered. The score was actually 39-27 when the final drive started. The game would end 39-33, we think. It wasn’t clear. As Dave Hickman summarized, “Defense beats the offense, score debatable.”
More notes …
- Millard started at quarterback and played the first three series.
- WVU worked on special teams extensively at the start of every practice before the specialists went off to work on their own. The first and third drives ended with Josh Lambert missing a field goal.
Not to say covering spring football passionately is a waste of time, but …
- The second series ended with a three-and-out.
- To be fair, Lambert would atone with 39- and 47-yard kicks.
- The first turnover came on the fourth drive when Ford Childress underthrew a pass to Dakiel Shorts in the middle of the field. Safety Travis Bell got underneath Shorts to make the interception, which seemed weird because Bell was running with Shorts the whole time. Turns out Bell is a cornerback now.
- The first offensive score, or highlight, really, came early in the second quarter and with the defense up 20-0. Thompson found a seam in the middle and caught a pass from Childress for a 65 yard touchdown. Thompson had barely crossed the goal line when the stadium PA blared an air raid siren. That’s a new feature for 2013, I would guess.
- Childress made his first check on the next drive. It was a 7-yard loss on a run by Dustin Garrison and preceded a three-and-out.
- Thompson’s touchdown catch from Millard on the following possession was followed by the train whistle.
- Greatest reception of the first half was the reception in the press box when the first half was called with 28 seconds to go, that following a failed fourth-down conversion.
- My my first-half tat-keeping, which should not be completely trusted, but should me trusted more than these halftime stats, WVU threw 32 passes. Seven were true boundary to boundary and nine were true boundary to field. The Mountaineers were in the middle quite a bit. On the whole, a lot of things went to the left.
There were seven swing or screen passes. Three were boundary to boundary and four were field to boundary.
There were 12 runs. Five were boundary to boundary and four were boundary to field. A lof of that went left, too.
- I didn’t track this in the second half because I wanted to pay attention to the defense, but WVU puts its formation on the boundary a lot and likes to run into it.
- Fun moment: Junior college transfer Kevin White caught a screen (formation to the boundary, pass boundary to boundary!) and weaved his way for a 46-yard touchdown. He went Primetime Sanders for the final seven or so yards, which should have been a penalty and 15 yards from the spot of the foul.
- The game totally unraveled in the third quarter. And it was hard to gather much about the defense because the offense went with different situations (red zone, for example). But WVU used a two-person defensive line and a “four-man line” with the ends standing above the tackles. That was sometimes accompanied by an extra cornerback coming onto the field to move a cornerback to a safety position.
- Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was quite likely keeping things vanilla, but he showed some panache with his pressure. Stunts, two linebackers, three linebackers, varying fronts, so on and so forth. If nothing else, you can trust they’ll be more inventive.
- Thompson muffed the first punt of the second half, inexplicably backpedaling against no coverage. It was inconsequential, because, again, WVU didn’t cover punts, but it was notable.
- Iron Mountaineer Awards for offseason workout performance went to Connor Arlia, Isaiah Bruce and Will Clarke. And just for notation purposes, Bruce did not play in the game.
- The Tom Nikolich Memorial Award for the top walk-on went to Arlia. Interesting story about this award, which is named after the former walk-on (1979-82) who died from cancer in 1983: Moe Fofana won in 2002 and was emotional about it after the game. Hertz had to tell the poor kid the award was not a scholarship.
- Arlia is the second player to bean Iron Mountaineer and win the Nikolich. Matt Lindamood pulled off the double in 2010.
- The umpire wore a special hat with a camera on it for the game. It was a Big 12 activity as part of a study. He looked exclusively in the backfield, so figure they’re studying something to focus on in 2013.