MORGANTOWN - Bill Stewart was not at all pleased with West Virginia's first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason Saturday, and with good reason.
"Sloppy tackling, not breaking on the ball, not doing back-side cutoff blocks, not hustling, drops, exchange snaps,'' Stewart said by way of listing WVU's deficiencies. "I'm not real pleased. [We] didn't play up to our standards today.''
Still, the afternoon was not a total loss by any stretch of the imagination for a couple of big reasons.
Noel Devine was one and Bruce Irvin the other. Two players who are expected to deliver big this season did just that right from the start during Saturday's 60-minute scrimmage.
Devine, the Mountaineers' All-America candidate at tailback, broke a 79-yard touchdown run during the No. 1 offense's third series. He pretty much retired after that with 99 yards on just four carries.
"It's good to practice good habits and I think that's going to be a good habit this year,'' Devine said of breaking the day's biggest play. "I think you're going to see long runs like that.''
Devine would play just one more short series after that and then sat down.
"Noel was electrifying, as always,'' Stewart said. "We got him out of there early because I've seen what he can do.''
What Stewart hadn't seen, at least in the semi-formal setting of an officiated scrimmage, was what Irvin could do. And that became apparent even before Devine's long run.
The first two times the No. 1 offense had the ball, they faced early passing situations - first a third-and-7 and then a third-and-12 after a penalty. Both times the No. 1 defense went with its 40 package that includes four pass rushers, Irvin and Will Clarke being the ends.
And both times Irvin rushed quarterback Geno Smith for sacks. On the first he was nearly untouched because linebacker J.T. Thomas was also rushing from the left side. On the second, he simply bull-rushed new right tackle Jeff Braun.
It was enough to leave even Devine in awe. He was explaining afterward how the offense needs to work more on pass protection and was asked if he specifically meant line play or blocking by the backs.
"I think it's just a good job by Bruce Irvin,'' he said, shaking his head. "He's something. He's got strength and quickness.''
Thomas, who had missed much of the last few days of contact because of a sore neck, played every snap with the No. 1 defense and marveled at the play of Irvin, too.