By Cam Huffman
The last time the West Virginia University football team took the field in front of Mountaineer fans, snow was pouring from the New York City skies and Syracuse was running on the Mountaineer defense as if it was participating in a cross country meet, not the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The weather — and the football, Mountaineer fans hope — should be a little better today when WVU takes the field for the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game at 2 p.m. today at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“Spring games are tough,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, who is preparing for his third season on the Mountaineer sidelines. “You want it to look good for the fans that come. It is going to be a festive day, and we want it to resemble football.”
The format for today’s game will be an offense vs. defense contest, with the offense wearing gold and the defense wearing blue.
Many of the eyes in the stands will be on the quarterback spot where Paul Millard and Ford Childress appear to be the front-runners to take over for record-setting quarterback Geno Smith.
“We will mix them,” said Holgorsen of how the rotation will work at that position. “What we have been doing in previous practices is Paul will go with the first team then Ford will go with the first team.”
The WVU defense, with new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson leading the way, will also be closely evaluated. One of the worst defenses, statistically, in all of college football last year, fans are anxious to see some signs of improvement. Safety Darwin Cook has promised that’s what they’ll get.
“The big difference in our defense is that our safeties and defensive line have gotten better in applying force and pressure,” said Cook, who made a name for himself by returning a fumble 99 yards for a touchdown in the Orange Bowl victory over Clemson in 2012. “There is a lot of emphasis on tackles for loss from (defensive line coach) Erik Slaughter, so you can give him credit for that.
“As far as us in the back end, we play on our corners to give them more protection up top — more than we ever did last year. The big difference is that we give them that protection and they are comfortable, so they can be more aggressive.”
Gates will open today at 1 p.m., and tickets will be available for $10 each. They can be purchased at the Milan Puskar Stadium North and West Gates with cash or check. A portion of the proceeds will benefit WVU Children’s Hospital.
Parking lots will open at 8 a.m., and all parking for cars and RVs will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Mountaineer gear sale will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility. Football and basketball gear from the past five years will be on sale to the general public.
There will not be an autograph session following the game this year, and fans will not be permitted on the field. The team will conduct its annual fan day in August, giving fans an opportunity for pictures and autographs from their favorite Mountaineers.
Temperatures in Morgantown are expected to be in the mid 50s with cloudy skies. Some light wind is expected with a 10 percent chance of rain.
Blast from the past
As many as 200 former Mountaineer football players are expected to be in attendance today as part of the Spring Football Alumni Reunion Weekend. The players — many of whom participated in a golf outing that honored former WVU quarterback Chris Gray, who was killed in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center — will be recognized during the game.
Want to watch?
If you can’t make it to Morgantown, there’s still a way to catch the action. The game will be televised live on WVNS television in the Beckley area.
Follow on Twitter
The Register-Herald will be at the game and will be tweeting about the action on and off the field, including the unveiling of the Mountaineers’ new Nike uniforms, scheduled for 12:30 p.m.. Follow along by following @CamHuffmanRH.
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