By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
August 22, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bill Stewart got a mixed bag from his football team during its 90-plus-play scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“I think you saw a lot of movement and a lot of competition out there today,” said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. “Now, competition is really going to pick up this week. I am going to find out who can do the mental part. I’ve seen who can do the physical part.”
The offense scored four touchdowns, three from the first offense, the defense got interceptions from Anthony Leonard and Eain Smith, there were enough yellow flags thrown on the ground to make a nice sized bed sheet, and the Mountaineers may have found their backup quarterback in Geno Smith.
Starting quarterback Jarrett Brown was an efficient 8 of 11 for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Noel Devine and Tyler Urban. Devine’s 11-yard touchdown catch culminated a long scoring drive on the first offense’s second series. Urban’s catch was an instinctive play by Brown, who evaded the rush and flipped the ball to Urban in the corner of the end zone.
Smith, who began the scrimmage by throwing an interception to linebacker Anthony Leonard, settled down to lead the second offense by completing 7 of 12 passes for 75 yards. Smith hit passes of 21 and 18 yards to Tavon Austin, who finished the scrimmage with six catches for 57 yards.
Smith could have had a long touchdown pass to J.D. Woods, who got behind the secondary but Woods was unable to hold onto a perfectly thrown ball by Smith.
Stewart said afterward that Smith has played well enough to keep Bradley Starks at receiver. It appears Smith will be the team’s backup when the Mountaineers open the season Sept. 5 against Liberty.
“Right now, if we were playing, I would say that Geno has stepped up pretty well,” Stewart said. “That’s why he took some snaps with the ones today.”
The second offense’s touchdown was scored by Mark Rodgers on a seven-yard burst up the middle. Rodgers led all rushers with nine carries for 40 yards working with both the first and second groups.
The threes got 15 plays with Coley White under center.
During goal line scrimmaging, the offense was once again sharp scoring touchdowns on three of four cracks. Rodgers scored a two-yard touchdown with the first group, Shawne Alston (two-yard run) and Tavon Austin (eight-yard run) also scored TDs with the twos during goal line.
“We were eighth in the country in red zone defense last season and I think our offense did a good job today,” Stewart said. “We went down and had 11 plays each and our offense did pretty well.”
The defense’s stop came when Tyler Bitancurt’s 27-yard field goal try was tipped at the line of scrimmage - one of two blocks on field goal tries for the afternoon.
At the beginning of the scrimmage, Bitancurt and Lider took turns attempting field goals in the 40-45-yard range.
“Kicking field goals for us right now would be Tyler Bitancurt, with Josh Lider a close second,” said Stewart. “Both have done very well on kickoffs, too. Punting right now would be Scott Kozlowski with Greg Pugnetti behind him. Snapping is Cody Nutter with Jeremy Kash holding. I feel OK with all of those guys.”
Stewart was unhappy will several silly penalties flagged on both sides of the ball, including three red zone holding penalties on the offense.
“Penalties like holding in the red zone? Unbelievable. I’m not pleased with that at all,” said Stewart. “Three holding penalties in the red zone takes you out of scoring position. A facemask penalty by a defensive player in the red zone? David Lockwood, Steve Dunlap and Jeff Casteel haven’t taught that. They did that because they were being lazy.
“I am going to find out who is mentally tough this week.”
Today’s scrimmage concludes two-a-day practices. Mountaineer players and coaches will take their team picture tomorrow afternoon and then will meet the fans inside the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility for Fan Day, scheduled to begin at 2 pm. The fall semester begins on Monday.
“This has been a very physical camp and now we have time for our bodies to heal,” said Stewart.
“I felt like our football team has worked very hard and I am really proud of them,” Stewart said. “I told them that after the scrimmage. There is a survivor mode and a get-better mode. I really feel that our guys took the get-better mode and I am pleased with that.”
“He is going to be fine,” Stewart said.
Smith also took a few snaps with the ones late in the scrimmage.
The most exciting play of the scrimmage was a nifty 14-yard bubble screen to Austin where he shook free from three defenders to get a first down. However, the play was called back because of an illegal block in the back.
“I saw toughness from them today,” he said. “But I saw mental weakness, holding a little bit.”
True freshman Shawne Alston has looked impressive in short yardage situations with Clarke sidelined. Today Alston had three carries for 12 yards including a carry with the ones at the minus-two.
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