MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s offense demonstrated itself to be a work in progress in the Gold-Blue spring game, and it will likely require plenty of work in August camp for progress to be realized.
“I think it was a typical spring game,” said first-year coach Neal Brown. “I think there were some really good aspects on the field, and some things that obviously we need to get corrected before we line up and play James Madison at the end of August. We are a work in progress.”
The Gold team, quarterbacked by Austin Kendall, beat Jack Allison’s Blue squad 25-9 in a scrimmage played with 10-minute quarters. The Gold roster was primarily composed of the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense, while the No. 2 offense and No. 1 defense filled the Blue ranks. Each team was awarded two extra points before the scrimmage based on pre-game challenges.
Kendall, the graduate transfer from Oklahoma, didn’t end up throwing the ball all that much. He finished 7-for-12 for 154 yards, with a large chunk coming on his 60-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Simmons.
Allison was 11-of-24 for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Trey Lowe, who led the Gold offense for three series, finished 4-of-7 for 51 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“I want to go back and watch this. Will we have a pecking order after this? We may,” Brown said. “I think we made strides at quarterback. I don’t think we’re ready to go play a game just yet. Some of that is because we’ve divided reps and some of that is because none of them have played a lot of meaningful snaps.”
Kendall looks like he belongs atop the pecking order to open August camp, though he didn’t make it a stone-cold lock Saturday. Each of his three biggest plays came with a little bit of help.
His 39-yard completion to Sam James should have been offensive pass interference on James, but the nearest official was inadvertently tripped running down the sideline and didn’t see James push off on Hakeem Bailey. James later had to adjust on a slightly underthrown ball to pull in a 40-yard catch later in the game. James finished with 85 yards on four receptions.
Kendall’s touchdown to Simmons was more about his strength selling the play-fake than his arm. Safety Derek Pitts bit on the play-action thinking it was a handoff, allowing Kendall to find Simmons six yards clear of any defender, despite a wobbly throw.
Kendall did show off his sleight-of-hand skills on one other occasion, getting the entire defense to bite on a fake handoff before strolling untouched for a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“He’s does a really good job with play-fakes and moving his body weight,” Brown said. “What we have to eliminate from Austin is the negative plays. He had one where he spun out and took a sack. He didn’t throw a pick today, which he did early in spring, so he’s growing in that regard. And his feel in the pocket [has to grow]. It just takes reps.”
Kendall’s 1-yard score ended up being one of the more successful runs of the game for the Mountaineers.
With sacks taken out of the equation, Blue and Gold combined for 84 yards on 43 carries. The defense had a combined 12 tackles for loss despite not running any blitzes. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning described his game plan as “vanilla.”
The Gold team accounted for nine of the TFLs against the No. 2 offensive line as defensive end Stone Wolfley, linebacker Exree Loe and defensive tackle Brenon Thrift had two apiece.
“The defensive line is one of the bright spots of our entire spring,” Brown said.
Sophomore Leddie Brown was the most consistent ball carrier for the Mountaineers, managing 34 yards on 11 carries with a long of 13 yards.
The coaching staff has touted the running backs as the strength of the offense all spring, but those backs will need better blocking in front of them to live up to their potential this fall.
“We just didn’t block very well in the run game,” Brown said. “The one series where we did, Leddie Brown got going. He did a good job being patient and bouncing runs outside. We just weren’t as good in the run game as we were in Tuesday’s practice, which is disappointing.”