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'Greatest spring player of all times'

Dale Sparks
WVU receiver Jordan Thompson had six catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns in the Gold-Blue Game Saturday in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Apparently in his newfound commitment to learning about and passing along to his players much of the history of West Virginia football, coach Dana Holgorsen has yet to come across the name of Shawn Terry.

That's an understandable oversight, of course. While Terry would eventually finish his career just over a decade ago with four kickoff return touchdowns, it was his play in scrimmage games that was so contradictory to his real contributions.

In one spring game in 2000, Terry caught four passes for 97 yards. In a junior varsity game in Charleston a couple of years before that, he caught six passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns. But in his best actual season as a receiver his total yards gained amounted to 10 fewer than in that one JV game.

The thought of Terry came up Saturday, though, because Jordan Thompson had just a monster of an afternoon in West Virginia's Gold-Blue scrimmage. In front of a rather disappointing crowd of 8,000 at Mountaineer Field and in a game the defense would win 41-33, Thompson caught six passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

Impressive? Well, not to Holgorsen.

"He did [the same thing] last spring, too,'' Holgorsen said. "He will go down in the history books as the greatest spring game player of all times.''

In many ways, Thompson's performance was pretty much a microcosm of everything that happened in Saturday's conclusion to WVU's spring drills. That is to say what those 8,000 and a state television audience saw is not necessarily what they will get in September.

For instance:

  • Paul Millard and Ford Childress split pretty evenly the snaps at quarterback and combined to complete 30 of 48 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. Millard was 16 for 27 for 185 yards and three scores, 10 and 24 yards to Thompson and a short screen that junior college transfer Kevin White turned into a rather dazzling 46-yard score. Childress was 14 for 21 with a 65-yard TD to Thompson on a wide-open pass in the middle of the field, and he threw the only interception of the day.
  • But neither was impressive enough to even begin thinking about earning the job as Geno Smith's replacement. In fact, quite the opposite, given that they combined to be sacked six times.

    "To spend five or six seconds in the pocket and give up a sack [without getting rid of the ball], that can't happen,'' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "If they can't do better than that, neither one of them is going to play.''

  • The defense, even though it mounted a 20-0 lead to start the game (scoring points by getting stops and turnovers), still showed cracks. True, the retooled unit essentially was playing just base formations with few frills and pressured the quarterbacks, but the running backs also averaged 5.2 yards per carry (minus the sacks) and the quarterbacks threw for those 354 yards while completing 62.5 percent of their passes.
  • New defensive coordinator Keith Patterson wasn't even willing to express much of an opinion on his unit's performance.

    "It's like a practice,'' he said. "I never like to comment before I watch the video.''

  • And while guys like Thompson and White (five catches for 72 yards) seemed to fill the need for explosive offensive players, Holgorsen wasn't so sure that by the end of summer others won't catch up to and perhaps surpass them. He mentioned specifically incoming receivers Shelton Gibson, Ronald Carswell and Mario Alford and running back Jacky Marcellus.
  • "We'll have guys who will make plays,'' Holgorsen said. "They just might not be here yet.''

    While one of them might be Thompson, no one is ready yet to anoint him a playmaker until he does it when it counts. A year ago he caught eight passes for 66 yards and a score in the spring game and then averaged one reception for 6.5 yards per game during the season.

    "I'm not talking about Jordan,'' Dawson said. "If I talk about him he's going to go thinking he's got it figured out like he always does. I wish everybody would not talk about him and just let him be.

    "He had a good day, I'll give him that. He needs to have some good days on big days before we start talking about him.''

    Holgorsen, who refused to allow the media access to Thompson (as well as White, Dreamius Smith and several others following Saturday's game) concurred.

    "Until he plays like that in a game, we're going to call it like it is,'' Holgorsen said. "I haven't seen him play like that in a game yet. Until he does that in a game, we're not going to talk about it.''

    Briefly

  • One of the most surprising sights Saturday was safety Travis Bell lining up at cornerback, often with the No. 1 defense. He was the one who intercepted Childress on a badly underthrown pass.
  • "We just made the switch two days ago,'' said Holgorsen, who also scratched Bell from the interview list after the game. "He's not a 210-pound guy [like a safety]. He's 178, 180 pounds and he has great conditioning and runs fast. We'll continue to look at it.''

  • Conner Arlia's day couldn't have gone much better. The junior from Weirton was named the winner of the Tom Nickolich Award as the program's top walk-on, was one of three Iron Mountaineers honored for work in the weight room (Isaiah Bruce and Will Clarke were the others) and then he started and caught four passes for 39 yards.
  • It's difficult to keep track of the modified scoring in the spring game, so near the end of the fourth quarter the scoreboard showed the defense leading 35-27. The offense scored on the last play and then failed on a 2-point conversion. In reality, though, the final score was listed as 41-33. Holgorsen might well have been playing with the score in the fourth quarter to provide the offense an incentive.
  • Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

    Offensive scoring summary:

  • Touchdown - six points
  • Field goal - three points
  • 2-point conversion - two points
  • Extra point kick - one point
  • Defensive scoring summary:

  • Touchdown - six points
  • Three and out - five points
  • Drive stop - three points
  • Fumble recovery - three points
  • Interception - three points
  • Scoring plays

    Second quarter

  • Thompson 65 pass from Childress (Lambert kick)
  • Thompson 10 pass from Millard (Lambert kick)
  • Third quarter

  • White 46 pass from Millard (Lambert kick)
  • FG Lambert 39
  • Fourth quarter

  • FG Lambert 47
  • Thompson 24 pass from Millard (run failed)
  • Offensive statistics

  • Rushing: Garrison 7-51, Smith 7-38, Smallwood 7-25, Davis 1-0, Childress 2-minus 16, Millard 5-minus 32
  • Passing: Millard 16-27-0, 185 yards, 3 touchdowns; Childress 14-21-1, 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Thompson 6-123, White 5-72, Arlia 4-39, Shorts 4-31, Mathis 2-21, Myers 2-17, Clay 2-13, Davis 2-12, Moore 1-14, Smith 1-8, Garrison 1-4
  • Defensive statistics

  • Tackles: Walters 5, Petteway 5, Kwiatkoski 4, Dillon 4, Cook 4, Kinsey 4, Ezemma 4, Harper 3, Greaves 3, Rose 3, Hodari 3, Banks 2, Gayeski 2, Rigg 2, Anderson 2, Rumph 2, Rowell 2, Nwachukwu 1, Jenkins 1, Bell 1, Napoleon 1, Hope 1, Demko 1, Macioce 1
  • Sacks: Rose 2, Walters 1, Rowell 1, Hope 1, Demko 1
  • Interception: Bell 1
  • Passes broken up: Dillon 2, Kinsey 1, Banks 1
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