MORGANTOWN - Perhaps Dana Holgorsen wasn't overstating things or trying to provide motivation after all when he praised the work of West Virginia's defense early last week.
After spotting WVU's high-powered offense a 14-0 lead on the first two possessions, the defense dominated the rest of the way in Saturday's Gold-Blue game.
Using a scoring system skewed toward the defense - it was given points for any series in which it kept the offense from scoring - the revamped defense went on a 40-3 run and went on to a 43-34 win.
The game marked the end of West Virginia's spring drills, and afterward Holgorsen didn't seem overly concerned that his offense sputtered more than it surged. It did manage those two early scores and then two at the end of the roughly 90-minute workout in front of a smallish crowd - officials estimated it at 10,000 - kept down by rain and dropping temperatures that forced the cancellation of a planned old-timers game.
"From an offensive perspective, we made some plays but we turned the ball over,'' Holgorsen said. "From a defensive perspective, we gave up some plays but we got some turnovers. Somewhere in the middle of that we're going to be a good team. We've got three months of summer and 30 days of fall camp before we play a game.''
In a pass-heavy scrimmage, quarterbacks Geno Smith and Paul Millard combined to complete 49-of-65 passes for 534 yards and three touchdowns. Smith, the senior starter and an All-American candidate, was 23-for-29 for 281 yards with the first offense. Millard, the sophomore backup, was 26-of-35 for 253 yards.
But they also combined for three interceptions, two thrown by Smith. Brandon Jenkins picked him off to end the first half and defensive end Will Clarke intercepted him to end the first drive of the second half.
Matt Moro also intercepted Millard and Avery Williams forced a fumble when he slammed into freshman receiver Jordan Thompson.
Those two turnovers came on back-to-back plays after the offense had scored on its first two possessions to take that 14-0 lead. After that, the offense was never really the same, struggling to sustain drives as it gave up the lead and eventually lost on the scoreboard.
No one, though, seemed alarmed at the offensive inefficiency. Holgorsen cited a defense that, after 15 practices, knew all of the calls and the checks the offense made, although he said "that's not an excuse.''
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who called all of the plays while Holgorsen watched from on the field behind the offense, said he would have been surprised had it turned out any other way.
"I've been doing this a long time and I can't remember a spring game when we did well,' Dawson said.