WVU SPRING GAME: Offense Shines for Holgorsen

MORGANTOWN – All eyes were on Geno Smith, Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia offense Friday night in the annual Gold-Blue Spring game in front of an estimated 22,000 fans at Mountaineer Field.

How does 87 points sound?

Granted, in a scoring setup that heavily favored the offense – so much that if the defense wins a spring game like that, you’re in for a troubling season – Smith was a big beneficiary.

He threw for 388 yards and four touchdowns, completing 26 of 37 passes along the way before being pulled after two series in the third quarter.

It was an unpopular decision, Holgorsen, WVU’s offensive coordinator said.

”He likes to play, he really likes to play,” Holgorsen said of Smith. ”After he threw that last touchdown (a 3-yard pass to Tyler Urban), I told him he was done and he looked at me like he wanted to fight. He just has a good time out there. I’ve talked a lot about body language and things like that. He’s got tremendous body language.”

Smith’s other TD passes went to Stedman Bailey (44 and 67 yards) and Tavon Austin (38).

What quarterback wouldn’t want to stick around after that?

”It was my first spring game,” said Smith, who missed his first two in Morgantown with various foot injuries. ”I was getting a little anxious. I was happy just to be out there. I feel like we ended last season with a loss and I kinda wanted to get that taste out of my mouth.”

Smith did all of his work against WVU’s second-team defense. True freshman Paul Millard, who enrolled early and could still be in high school, threw for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 of 30 passing against the first-team defense.

There were other standouts, including another one from an early enrollee, as Vernard Roberts was the leading rusher with 64 yards on 10 carries. He also caught five passes for 41 yards.

”It was a great experience for me, and I plan on moving forward from here,” Roberts said, adding that his dad pushed him to be the best at whatever he wanted to be from the time he was a little kid.

Bailey wound up catching six passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, as he later hauled in a 47-yard scoring strike from Millard. In limited work, Brian Athey, another true freshman quarterback, completed 2 of 3 passes for 42 yards as the numbers continued to boggle the mind.

It all added up to 87 points.

”I don’t know how the scoring system worked,” Holgorsen said. ”They asked me if I cared and I said, ‘I could care less.’ I could look up there and it could say zero to 200 and I don’t care. It’s not about that. It’s about getting guys in position to make plays, and we put them in position to make plays and for the most part, they did a decent job of that.”

Here’s how it worked: The offensive points were typical of that of a regular game, save for one point issued for a first down (the Gold team had 34 of them). For the defense, points were given for a fumble recovery (3), interception (3), three and out (3), and drive stop (2).

Other scores came in the form of a 2-yard run by Trey Johnson, a 27-yard field goal by Tyler Bitancurt, and a 65-yard scoring reception by Johnson.

In scoring alone, the Mountaineers offense put up 52 points.

”At the end of the day, it’s all about making our (film) cut-ups a little bit bigger and seeing where we are and seeing where we need to improve heading into camp,” Holgorsen said.


Wellsburg’s Jim Sperlazza served as one of head linesman for the crew officiating the Gold-Blue game. There’s always a surprise in spring and this year it was former coach Don Nehlen’s grandson, Ryan, who caught five passes for 79 yards, with Holgorsen saying he’s a starter right now.

”Unless I was watching something else,” he said.

He was then asked about Ivan McCartney.

”Who made more plays?” Holgorsen asked. ”One guy made a bunch and one guy didn’t, so guess what? He might be our best receiver and we just don’t know it based on him being such a good student and is in class too much. If he was here more, we’d have seen what we saw (Friday) probably earlier.” The only obvious injury was offensive lineman Josh Jenkins leaving the game after being down for several minutes.

Old Timers

They played an Old Timers Game prior to the start of the Spring Game with a who’s who of former Mountaineers greats dotting the rosters of both the Blue and Gold teams, including starting quarterbacks Pat White (Gold) and Major Harris (Blue). The Blue team won, 6-0, on an interception return by Aaron Beasley. Of note, former Wheeling Park standout Zach Abraham, who was wearing a Mike Logan t-shirt, was the intended receiver on back-to-back plays on throws by Greg Jones, but Abraham wasn’t able to haul in with either.