Smith throws 2 TDs in WVU spring game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's defense wants to be known as a positive just like its proven offense as the Mountaineers enter their first season in the Big 12.
While the defense lost some key starters from last season, there were several standout plays in the annual Gold-Blue spring football game on Saturday.
Defensive backs Matt Moro and Brodrick Jenkins and lineman Will Clarke had interceptions as the Blue defense defeated the Gold offense 43-34.
With a modified scoring system, the defense earned its points for three-and-outs (five points), drive stops (three), fumble recoveries and interceptions (three apiece).
"I feel we're not done yet, and if we can keep this up we're going to show a lot of people something this year," Jenkins said. "Last year we tried to be real physical as a whole, but this year we just come at it as a young, energetic team that makes plays and forces turnovers."
West Virginia's defense will be the team's biggest question mark entering the fall. The unit ranked next-to-last in the Big East in points allowed and last in rushing yards allowed last season.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said the defense's play Saturday was a continuation of some solid showings over the past few weeks.
"The trend lately has been the defense getting after the offense for about the last five practices," Holgorsen said. "The first 10, offensively we did some good things, but probably in particular, the last five or six practices, the defense has been doing a lot better."
The defense is breaking in several new assistants along with a 3-4 scheme after using a 3-3-5 system. Holgorsen hired defensive coordinator and safeties assistant Joe DeForest, co-coordinator and linebackers coach Keith Patterson and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter in the offseason following the departures of three assistants to Rich Rodriguez at Arizona in January.
"I think our kids bought in all spring and it showed today," DeForest said. "Four turnovers is a lot in a spring game. I think our kids did a great job from Day 1 to Day 15 (of spring ball) and I think the kids bought into the system and bought into the coaching staff."
Geno Smith completed 23 of 29 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns, while backup Paul Millard went 26 of 35 for 253 yards. Smith was intercepted once, while Millard threw two.
The offense returns Smith and other playmakers from the team that beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. And they hope to get contributions from freshman Jordan Thompson, who caught eight passes for 66 yards and a score Saturday.
Other offensive contributors Saturday included walk-on Vince Colaianni, who caught seven passes for 63 yards. Tavon Austin, who caught four TDs in the Orange Bowl, had five catches for 47 yards while redshirt freshman Dante Campbell had four catches for 45 yards and a score.
Shawne Alston was the leading rusher with 52 yards on 11 carries and Andrew Buie ran 12 times for 42 yards.
"Our depth is not very good right now, but that will change after we're able to evaluate everyone," Holgorsen said. "From where we're at, we've got a long ways to go.
"We made some plays, and we scored some touchdowns, but we had a lot of turnovers, too."
Rain fell in Morgantown leading up to Saturday's kickoff and the announced crowd was 10,000, although there appeared to be fewer fans in the stands.