In weather conditions that resembled a late fall day – temperatures in the high 40s and under overcast skies and a threat of rain that thankfully didn’t materialize – the West Virginia University Mountaineers concluded 2015 spring practice before approximately 1,500-2,000 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium. Fans looking for offense fireworks went away from Mountaineer Field disappointed as the defense essentially dominated the game, winning the scrimmage by a score of 42-10. The unique scoring arrangement for the game was as follows:
- Touchdown (offense) = 6 points
- Field Goal (offense) = 3 points
- Point After Touchdown = 1 point
- Three-and-Out (defense) = 5 points
- Drive Stop (defense) = 5 points
- Recovered Fumble (defense) = 3 points
- Interception (defense) = 3 points
The defense wore blue jerseys with gold pants and gold helmets; the offense wore white jerseys, blue pants and blue helmets and the offense occupied the sideline typically occupied by WVU opponents.
Prior to the start of the scrimmage head coach Dana Holgorsen led several individuals associated with the WVU Children’s Hospital onto the field for a photograph taken with himself and several of the players. For several years the WVU Children’s Hospital has been the beneficiary of proceeds from the annual WVU Gold-Blue game that concludes spring football practices.
Recognized before the scrimmage began was redshirt junior linebacker Justin Arndt, from Martinsburg, West Virginia who received the 2015 Tom Nickolich award. The Tom Nickolich award is presented each year to a walk-on who distinguishes himself through excellent attitude and work ethic. Nickolich was a WVU walk-on (1979-82) who died of cancer in 1983. Arndt’s efforts resulted in his being awarded a scholarship earlier in the week. Also recognized before the game were the Iron Mountaineer Award winners – redshirt senior linebacker Jared Barber, senior safety Karl Joseph and redshirt junior center Tyler Olosky. The Iron Mountaineer award goes to players who excel in the off-season strength and conditioning program.
In all, the offense ran 88 plays – 45 rushing and 43 passing. Skylar Howard ran the first team offense and had, by his own post-scrimmage admission, a mediocre performance, connecting on just 9 of 22 passes for 121 yards, 48 of which came on a long sideline completion to Shelton Gibson from the 49-yard line to the 1-yard marker. From there, on second down, Jacky Marcellus dove in from a yard out for the lone offensive touchdown of the afternoon. Taking away the long completion, Howard’s yards-per-completion average was a pedestrian 9.1.
One of the more interesting developments from the scrimmage was the utilization of William Crest. The redshirt freshman saw action at quarterback, slot receiver and running back, and even returned punts (which were essentially fair caught all afternoon). True freshman Chris Chuganov was the second quarterback onto the field and finished 1-of-3 for 23 yards. Fellow true freshman David Sills saw considerable action, finishing 1-of-6 for just 6 yards, but did show athleticism by scrambling to the tune of 71 yards on 8 carries. Crest did take some snaps at quarterback and finished 3-of-5 for 31 yards. Austin Hensley rounded out the quintet of quarterbacks that saw action, finishing just 1-of-7 for a single yard. Sills and Hensley both suffered an interception. The WVU quarterbacks were sacked three times.
Neither Rushel Shell nor Wendell Smallwood participated in the scrimmage, so the bulk of the offensive carries went to redshirt freshman Dante Thomas-Williams, who finished with 92 yards on 15 carries (including several after first contact) and Jacky Marcellus, the wide receiver convert, who carried 12 times for 51 yards. Thomas’ longest run was 18 yards; Marcellus’ longest gainer was for 16 yards.
Shelton Gibson was the leading receiver with 84 yards on 4 catches, followed by Crest with 3 receptions for 31 yards, Daikiel Shorts with 3 catches for 29 yards, Jordan Thompson with 2 catches for 8 yards and Devonte Mathis, Vernon Davis, Jr. and Ricky Rogers with one catch each for a combined total of 36 yards.
Usually dependable placekicker Josh Lambert even struggled to generate points, missing 2 of 3 field goal attempts.
Defensively, interceptions were recorded by reserves Charles Adid and Mykal Manswell.
The leading tackler for the afternoon was Nana Kyeremeh with 5 solo stops while Xavier Preston and Larry Jefferson had 4 solo tackles and 1 assisted tackle each. Jefferson had two of the three sacks and Preston the other.
The defense also forced 4 fumbles – one each by Preston, Shaq Petteway and two by Jaleel Fields.
Following the game head coach Dana Holgorsen stated that the wide receiver production this spring exceeded that of the previous spring, noting that Kevin White and Mario Alford were involved in last year’s drills. While many fans may lament the lack of offense, it is typical that defenses tend to be ahead of offenses in spring games and this year’s Gold-Blue game was no different.
Holgorsen noted that the players will now take a few weeks off to concentrate on finals and to “get away from football for awhile.”
At halftime it was announced that the award winning Pride of West Virginia – the WVU Marching Band – would be adding another honor to its long list of achievements by being selected to travel to New York City to participate in the 2016 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time ever. The Pride was selected from among 175 applicants for one of the ten (10) bands that will march in the prestigious parade.
West Virginia fans will now begin counting down the 133 days until the season opener against Georgia Southern at Mountaineer Field on September 5th and the beginning of fall practice in August.