WVU offense weathers conditions

| Sunday, April 17, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It wasn't the best day for West Virginia to show off its new offense, as the Mountaineers dealt with wind and heavy rains Saturday in their first spring scrimmage.

Despite the conditions, West Virginia's top two quarterbacks, starter Geno Smith and freshman Paul Millard, combined to finish 18 of 31 for 245 yards and one touchdown.

"(The offense's) communication is still getting better, but I think we're picking up more and more as the practices go on," Smith said. "This was the first time we got a chance to put it all together, and I feel like we did a pretty good job."

The offense also had success on the ground. The Mountaineers' skill players finished with 157 yards rushing, led by freshman Vernard Roberts' 57 yards.

Sophomore running back Trey Johnson scored the scrimmage's first touchdown from 1 yard out with the first-team offense. Later, the first-team scored on a 3-yard run by junior running back Shawne Alston.

The lone touchdown pass came from the second team on the scrimmage's last play, when Millard found tight end-turned-slot receiver Tyler Urban in the end zone for a 7-yard score.

"We still have a ton of things to work on — route running, getting to where they want us to be, holding on to the football — there are a ton of little things," said Urban, a former Norwin High School star. "I feel, at this point, we're doing pretty well."

The Mountaineers were without starting receiver Brad Starks, who suffered a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder during Wednesday's practice and had surgery Friday. He will be out 12 weeks. West Virginia also is playing without its starting offensive tackles, Don Barclay and Jeff Braun, and safety Eain Smith, all of whom had offseason surgery.

"I left a happy guy today. Are we sloppy• You bet. Did we make mistakes• You bet. Did we put the ball on the ground• You bet. But we also made some plays," coach Bill Stewart said. "I saw us competing, running and tackling. There's give and take on both sides."

The defense, which is replacing seven starters from last year's unit, struggled at times, but was highlighted by multiple sacks from defensive linemen Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, a fumble recovery by sophomore cornerback Pat Miller and an interception by sophomore safety Mike Dorsey in the end zone.

"I thought our defense ran to the ball well and tackled well. There were a few missed tackles in the open field, which is very difficult to do," Stewart said. "By and large, we wrapped up really well."

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