Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 1, 2013

Mountaineers escape with late score to beat Tribe

MIllard glad to begin with a win

MORGANTOWN — Wendell Smallwood’s two-yard touchdown run with 3:22 to play and Darwin Cook’s interception 13 seconds later helped the West Virginia Mountaineers to a 24-17 come-from-behind win over the William & Mary Tribe in the season opening game for both teams, Saturday afternoon before 56,350 spectators at Mountaineer Field.

“We have a long way to go on all three sides of the ball,” said Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. “Shout out to Nick O’Toole, talk about flipping the field. He averaged over 50 yards a punt, which when you are talking about hidden yardage, our defense was in great field position the whole day.

“One turnover on offense put them in a little bit of a bit of a bad situation, but we held them to a field goal there.”

It was a hot, humid and overcast day for the opening of the 2013 college football season. After West Virginia forced a three-and-out, Paul Millard led the WVU offense onto the field and the question of who would start at quarterback was answered. Millard found out late Friday that we would start the game.

“The closer it got to game day, the communication between Paul and me was better, that is his experience on seeing the signals and communicating them,” Holgorsen said. “Clint (Trickett) has more game experience, but without being able to experience it in our offense, I felt more comfortable with Paul out there.”

The second play was a 15-yard completion to Dakiel Shorts to midfield and a later pass to Devonte Mathis gave WVU a first down on the Tribe’s 24. Charles Sims, the touted transfer from the University of Houston ran the final 11 yards for the score and the Mountaineers were on the board.

West Virginia’s defense forced another three-and-out and the offense took over on its own 27. Millard, who completed his first eight passes, was able to drive the Mountaineers to the 38, but Josh Lambert’s 55-yard field goal attempt was short.

The Tribe offense began moving on its third possession. Marching from its own 38 the Tribe sent 62 yards in eight plays to tie the game. Key plays were a 13-yard run by Jarrell Cooper and a 40-yard pass from Michael Graham to Tre McBride that gave the visitors a first and goal at the WVU three. Graham passed one yard to Darnell Laws for the score and the kick knotted the game at seven.

West Virginia’s defense resembled that of the 2012 season to open the second quarter as William & Mary, 2-9 last season, effortlessly drove 88 yards to take the lead. The Tribe converted on three third downs before Graham passed 28 yards to McBride for a first down at the Mountaineers’ two. He capped the drive with a keeper from two yards out to give William & Mary the lead.

Trickett took over as the West Virginia quarterback for the next two possessions, with O’Toole forced to punt on both occasions, one of which was for 67 yards.

Millard returned to the game with just 90 seconds left in the half, but was stripped of the ball after a 13-yard gain by Sims. William & Mary’s Jasper Coleman jumped on the loose ball at the WVU 34 with 1:11 showing on the clock.

The Tribe settled for a 29-yard field goal by John Carpenter with 25 seconds left on the clock to take 17-7 lead into the break.

W&M had possession for 11:18 of the second quarter, with The Tribe having 201 total yards to 165 for the Mountaineers. Millard was 9-of-12 for 99 yards while Trickett was 0-2.

The Mountaineers took the second half kick and drove 70 yards in 15 plays, settling for a  22-yard field goal with 8:44 to play. West Virginia would pull even when Millard caught William & Mary on a blitz and found Ronald Carswell for a 69-yard touchdown strike. Lambert’s kick tied the game at 17 with 3:15 left in the quarter.

William & Mary had a chance to take a lead into the final period, but Carpenter missed a field goal attempt.

West Virginia was stopped on consecutive possessions by The Tribe, but O’Toole pinned them back with punts of 56 and 60 yards.

The Mountaineers’ game-winning drive began at midfield with 7:02 to play. Two runs by Smith and one by Sims moved the ball to the 31 and Millard hooked up with K.J. Myers for a first down at the 16. Myers lost the ball on the hit, but it was recovered by Shorts.

Sims carried for seven, then six yards and a one yard gain by Smith put the Mounties on the two. Smallwood then bulled his way into the end zone and Lambert’s extra point kick was good, capping a WVU comeback.

West Virginia sealed the victory when Darwin Cook stepped in front of a Graham pass at the W&M 40, the Tribe’s first turnover of the game.

“We’re obviously excited to get out of the game with a victory,” Holgorsen said. “Hats off to William & Mary. They were exactly what we thought they were. They were very well-coached and didn’t make mistakes. I expect those guys to win some games.”

Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock talked about his team’s performance.

“If you told me coming up here that we’d be tied going into the fourth quarter, I’d probably take it,” Laycock said. “It was disappointing at the end of the fourth quarter. To have offensive and defensive guys that, I don’t know if they ran out of gas, the depth, the hot got to us or whatever, we just couldn’t make the plays we needed to in the fourth quarter.

“Overall I thought our effort was outstanding and I thought we had a number of guys who stepped up and played very well. Graham executed well on offense. Tre (McBride) made some great catches.

“Obviously we’re disappointed that we lost, but to come and play against this crowd and this team and play like we did, I hope we can take a lot of positives away from it and go on from there.”

Millard finished his first start as WVU quarterback 19-of-25 for 237 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception.

“I thought his (Millard’s) tempo was really good most of the drives, especially that first one which we marched it down and scored,” Holgorsen said. “The next two drives we moved the ball, it fizzled out, but we moved the ball. After Paul got going a little bit my plan was to put Clint in during the second quarter, but after two three-and-outs, I thought it was appropriate to go back to Paul.”

Shorts was the Mountaineers’ leading receiver with seven catches for 63 yards. Carswell had two for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Sims, in his West Virginia debut rushed 23 times for 126 yards and a score.

O’Toole, in his first game punting for the Mountaineers, kicked five times for an average of 50.6 yards with a long of 60.

Graham was 18-of-27 for 207 yards with one interception and McBride caught three passes for 108 yards. Darnell Laws had eight catches for 45.

West Virginia travels next Saturday to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in a prime time game televised nationally by Fox. William & Mary will host in-state Virginia foe Hampton.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com

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