Coming off the much-celebrated 70-33 thrashing of Clemson in the Orange bowl, this year’s version of the Gold-Blue Spring game was highly anticipated by many West Virginia University football fans. An unusually warm spring had fans planning tailgates for weeks leading up to last Saturday’s festivities. As it often happens with these spring games in Morgantown, the anticipation was the highlight as weather and the reality of the scrimmage conspired to dampen the fireworks.
Recent temperatures have approached 90 degrees, but on Saturday a cold rain fell most of the day and the game was played with temperatures in the 40’s. The defense won the game 43-34 as the offensive fireworks were limited. That doesn’t mean much in this situation though. The offense scored four touchdowns and two field goals in six trips into the red-zone, so that is efficient. Plus, rarely will a coach put much of his playbook on display in one of these games.
WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen didn’t mince his words, "We're playing with a whole bunch of people who won't be playing in games," Holgorsen said. "The guys in there? If we're playing with them in the fall, we're not going to win."
A slightly more curious quote was, "There's a collection of about 16 people that are actually going to play in a game," Holgorsen said. "We've got an idea who probably 14 of them are. I think once we figure out who the other two are, we'll be all right offensively."
The number 16 sounds like a small number to rely on in the offensive rotation. That is the starting lineup plus five more bodies. Seems like using all of the two deep would be ideal. One freshman that served notice that he intends to be in the offensive mix was the diminutive Jordan Thompson who hauled in eight passes for 66 yards.
At 5-8, 160 it doesn’t take one long to compare Thompson to Mountaineer senior Tavon Austin and with good reason. Thompson is an early enrollee, meaning he left his high school classmates behind in Katy, Texas, and it will be hard to keep him on the bench, even if it is returning kicks.
“We were able to answer a few questions on some of the guys,” said Holgorsen. “To sum it up, we’re about 33% into how we’re going to look before we play the first game. Our depth is not very good right now, but that will change after we’re able to evaluate everyone. From where we’re at, we’ve got a long ways to go.”
“From an offensive perspective, we made some plays, but we turned the ball over. From a defensive perspective, we gave up some plays, but we got some turnovers,” said Holgorsen.
So, the defense did score 43 points in the scrimmage using the scoring system devised for the game. Holgorsen said the defense performing well has been the trend in recent scrimmages and that was again the case on Saturday in the spring game.
“The first 10 practices, we did good things offensively, but in the last five or six practices the defense has been doing a lot better,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve seen the defense dominating the offense, because they go against each other every day. They know our calls, they know our checks, but we don’t use that as an excuse at all. There are a lot of low scoring football games when it comes to the spring.”
If the defense is really trending upward, that could allow for a special inaugural season in the Big 12.