Irvin Shines Once Again
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bruce Irvin started the morning with a sack for a safety and then spent most of the rest of it in the offense’s backfield during today’s 71-play scrimmage inside Milan Puskar Stadium. As was the case with last Saturday’s scrimmage, conditions were less than ideal for the offense with cold temperatures and a light rain.
“We brought our pads, and what I mean by that is there was some great, sharp, crisp hitting,” said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. “I was really pleased with the way the pads were banging.”
Although unable to hit the quarterback, Irvin had three sacks for an opportunistic defense that came up with two interceptions and several three-and-out possessions.
“It helps a lot because you don’t have to stick with little Tavon and those other guys as long,” said safety Terence Garvin. “You stick on them for three or four seconds and Bruce is there.”
“Everybody was getting after it and running to the ball,” added defensive tackle Julian Miller. “We have a pursuit drill we do every practice that is probably one of the toughest drills that we have and I think that helps us out a lot – getting to the ball and knowing where we’ve got to be.”
Cornerback Pat Miller stepped in front of a Paul Millard pass down the near sideline and raced 85 yards for the first touchdown of the scrimmage, and later, linebacker Najee Goode made a nice play to pick off Geno Smith’s pass down the middle that was intended for Tavon Austin.
Mike Dorsey could have made it three picks, but he dropped a sure touchdown while breaking up Millard’s attempted screen pass to Trey Johnson.
“What impressed me was when the offense made a big play the defense came right back and shut them down and down at the goal line I thought they did a pretty good job all day,” said Stewart.
The lone offensive touchdown during the regular portion of the scrimmage came from Stedman Bailey, who caught a 24-yard pass from Smith down the near sideline. Bailey also caught a pretty 46-yard pass from Smith on the first play of the scrimmage, but the play was blown dead because Irvin had a clear shot on Smith.
Two other touchdowns were wiped out because of penalty – a nifty 35-yard reverse by Austin and a 13-yard Vernard Roberts run.
The first and second offensive units were flagged for seven penalties, including four for holding. A total of 11 penalties were called during the scrimmage.
“You’re going to have a hold and a pass interference or whatever because that stuff happens during the game, but to line up offsides as a defensive player, or as an offensive lineman not be lined up on the line of scrimmage, or as a wide receiver not get your feet set, it just can’t happen and I did not like that one bit,” said Stewart.
Smith completed 8 of 14 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown with one interception, all with the first group, while freshman Paul Millard was 7 of 17 for 109 yards with the twos.
Tyler Urban once again looked effective working the middle of the field, hauling in passes of 23 and 18 with the ones. Ryan Nehlen had a scrimmage-best 49 yards receiving with the twos, including a 31-yard grab that placed the football at the blue 4.
Freshman Vernard Roberts led all ball carriers with 31 yards rushing on 11 carries; Roberts got seven of his 11 rushes with the first group. All 11 of Trey Johnson’s carries came with the twos. Overall, eight different ball carriers managed to gain 59 yards on 37 attempts, although Shawne Alston was held out today with a neck injury, according to Stewart.
The offense finished the scrimmage with 285 total yards.
“Everybody is still kind of learning the defense but we’ve put more in,” said Garvin. “We’ve got more coverages and blitzes in.”
In addition to the two picks, the defense managed to produce eight negative yardage plays for the scrimmage.
“I wish we could get the ball out even more,” admitted Miller. “We had a couple plays where the guys were standing up and we were trying to bring the running back down and I wish we could have stripped the ball out more, but that is something we try to work on at the end of every practice and it’s something we will get better at.”
Later during the two-minute drill, Austin managed to get behind the defense for a 23-yard touchdown reception from Smith. Smith was 3 for 4 for 43 yards directing the two-minute offense.
Junior Corey Smith ended the scrimmage with a 49-yard field goal. Prior to that, Tyler Bitancurt missed 27-yard chip shot and Smith’s 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Garvin. It was Garvin’s second blocked field goal this spring and the third overall for the defense.
“We’re doing really what we always do – everybody take a man and somebody try and jump up and block it,” said Garvin. “We’re just getting there.”
“We’ve got to practice, pay attention to detail and do your job,” said Stewart of his field goal unit.
West Virginia will resume practice on Monday morning.
Unofficial Scrimmage Statistics
Rushing: Roberts 11-31, Redd 4-18, Johnson 11-13, Hargrett 4-12, Austin 1-10, Athey 2-minus 4, Millard 1-minus 7, Smith 3-minus 14; Total 37-59
Passing: Smith 8-14-112-1-1, Millard 7-17-109-0-1, Athey 1-3-5-0-0, Total 16-34-226-1-2
Receiving: Nehlen 3-49, Urban 2-41, Bailey 1-24, Pete Miller 1-23, Millhouse 1-20, Austin 3-18, 1-13, McCartney 1-11, Johnson 1-10, Roberts 1-7, White 1-5, Hargrett, 1-5, Total 16-226
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