MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Paul Millard threw touchdown passes of 10, 46 and 24 yards and Ford Childress fired a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Thompson during Saturday’s hour and a half Gold-Blue Spring Game at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The defense won the scrimmage, 41-33, on a scoring system that credited the defense with points for stops, turnovers and three-and-out possessions.
“We got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “I really commend the fans. The turnout was fantastic and the players enjoyed it just getting out there and playing football.”
Thompson, a sophomore from Katy, Texas, caught three of the scoring strikes – including a pretty 65-harder down the middle of the field, splitting two defenders and out running them to the end zone to finish the afternoon with six catches for 123 yards. Thompson’s other two scoring grabs came from Millard, including a 24-yarder to conclude the scrimmage.
Junior college transfer Kevin White added a 46-yard touchdown reception on a bubble screen from Millard when he eluded three tacklers and out-raced the rest of the defense to the end zone. White showed five catches for 72 yards.
Millard and Childress each had similar numbers: Millard was 16 of 27 for 185 yards while Childress went 14 of 21 for 169 yards. Childress threw the only interception of the scrimmage when Travis Bell picked off his first-quarter pass down the middle of the field.
“They’ve got to keep getting better,” said Holgorsen of his two quarterbacks. “That’s how we’re going to treat those guys right now.”
Both quarterbacks looked good at times in the pocket, while at other times they missed open receivers and took unnecessary sacks that could have been avoided. There were also some drops by a young and inexperienced receiver corps and some busted assignments and missed tackles on the other side of the ball that led to a couple easy touchdowns for the offense.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Holgorsen. “It’s good to see a couple of guys step up and make some plays offensively and defensively we did some good things. The team that we field in September is going to look a lot different. We’ve got so many new guys coming in and we’ve got so many young guys who will continue to evolve. Phase two, which is spring ball, is over. Phase three is going to be incredibly important.”
“I like where we’re at at running back,” said Holgorsen. “(Andrew) Buie was having a good camp before he popped a hamstring. Garrison looks like the guy he was two years ago. Wendell Smallwood has exceeded all of my expectations coming straight out of high school. All four of those guys showed glimpses of being able to carry the ball and they all bring something different to the table.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape there – the best shape we’ve been there since I’ve been here,” added Holgorsen.
After missing his first two goal attempts in a stiff wind, Josh Lambert ended the scrimmage with a pair of makes from 39 yards with the wind and a 47-yarder against the wind.
“After 75 plays of live football, one, you want it to resemble football and I think it did resemble football – I’m not saying it was football at a high level – but we came out of it healthy and got out of it in good spirits,” said Holgorsen. “The guys now need to turn their attention to academics for the next two weeks and we talked about that as well.”
An estimated crowd of 8,000 showed up for today’s game.
Buie and center Pat Eger did not play for the offense while linebacker Isaiah Bruce was held out for the defense.
Overall, Holgorsen said he saw some progress this spring.
“I love their attitude and I love their willingness to learn and if you get a group like that that wants to keep getting better then we should just keep getting better,” said Holgorsen.
Today’s game concludes spring football work for the Mountaineers.
Briefly: Junior wide receiver Connor Arlia was named this year’s recipient of Tom Nickolich Award, presented by the Blue & Gold News to the top walk-on player, while Arlia, Will Clarke and Isaiah Bruce were named this year’s Iron Mountaineer Award winners by the Mountaineer strength and conditioning staff.