Defensive squad dominates the 2017 Gold-Blue Game

The Mountaineers’ defensive squad outplayed the offense during this year’s Gold-Blue Game in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN — With the exception of two long plays that resulted in touchdowns, the West Virginia defense controlled this year’s Gold-Blue Game played before mostly overcast skies and warm temperatures at Milan Puskar Stadium.

The defense was awarded 44 points based turnovers, negative yardage plays and stops while the offense recorded three scores, although one of those came in the fourth quarter when former Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith was inserted into the game for one play.

Smith, wearing street clothes, fired a long-arching pass to Shelton Gibson, also wearing street clothes, and he out-ran the defense to the end zone for an 85-yard scoring play.

“I got bored,” joked Holgorsen afterward. “I looked over to the sidelines and I said, ‘He’s made a whole bunch of plays, he’s made a whole bunch of plays, he’s made a whole bunch of plays and he’s made a whole bunch of plays, they never played together, so I said to Jake (offensive coordinator Jake Spavital), ‘Get those guys out there.'”

In terms of regular game action, senior Justin Crawford ripped off a 51-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the scrimmage while the other offensive score also came from the ones right before the end of the first half.

Former Florida transfer Will Grier fired a 60-yard pass to Ricky Rodgers that placed the football at the Blue 3. Two plays later, Martell Pettaway bounced in from there.

“The first series I didn’t think we tackled very well and we gave up the big run to Crawford,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “But after that, I thought they settled in and got their feet under them a little bit.”

Grier played the entire first half and the first series of the third quarter and finished the scrimmage completing 12 of his 18 pass attempts for 202 yards.

“He looked pretty good to me,” Holgorsen said. “He’s as good as advertised. I just like the kid’s demeanor. He’s got complete control of the huddle. It’s going to be different when it’s live because we’re obviously protecting him right now. There have been a bunch of spring games and spring practices over the course of the last four years when I was protecting the quarterbacks.

“Grier, right now, we’re not going to let anyone come close to him.”

Former Mountaineer quarterback David Sills V was the recipient of six of Grier’s aerials for 96 yards, including a 34-yarder early in the third quarter.

“David has a starting quarterback mentality,” Holgorsen said. “He’s extremely football smart and that rubs off on the guys in the huddle and that connection has been fun to watch. Over the course of the next two years I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”

Backup quarterback Chris Chugunov completed 10-of-22 passes for 98 yards, mostly with the twos.

Crawford was the leading ball carrier for the scrimmage, gaining 66 yards on just six carries. Pettaway carried seven times for 34 yards.

In addition to Sills, junior Gary Jennings produced five catches for 46 yards and junior Jovon Durante grabbed four passes for 52 yards.

Defensively, Jovanni Stewart was credited with a scrimmage-best five tackles.

Gibson’s group produced seven tackles for losses, broke up six passes and recovered a fumble in the red zone to turn away another scoring opportunity for the offense.

“I just wanted them to be out there without coaches on the field,” said Gibson. “This was really the first time we’ve turned them loose in a game situation. We’ve had some scrimmages but it’s been all situational stuff so we just put the ball down and let them go play to see how they would react.”

Satufday’s scrimmage concludes spring work for the Mountaineers. West Virginia will kick off the 2017 campaign against Virginia Tech in Landover, Maryland, on Sept. 3 in a in prime-time game that will be televised nationally on ABC.

It will be the first meeting between these two longtime rivals since 2005.

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