MORGANTOWN -While most eyes around the Mountain State were on the on-going quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress, the majority of fans located in and around Parkersburg were watching the performances of two of their own-junior holder/punter Michael Molinari and first-year offensive line coach Ron Crook-when third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen led his Mountaineers through Saturday’s Gold/Blue Scrimmage.
Molinari, who became the team’s top holder in 2011, added the role of No. 1 punter to his list of duties for the Mountaineers’ final practice of the spring.
“Overall, I’m pleased with my spring,” said Molinari. “It was tough not having any other punters in camp, though, because I had to take every rep in practice and that tends to wear on you a bit.
“But, I think I came through it okay and I was overall pleased with my performance today.”
The former Patriot was twice called upon to punt the ball away during the first quarter of action and each of his attempts traveled 43 yards with both ending in fair catches by the Blue’s return specialist. Three more times he dropped back to boot the ball away during the second quarter. But, the results weren’t as bright as the furthest traveled only 39 yards.
“I had trouble adjusting to the swirling winds,” said the punter. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse, however, because we play in some very windy places in the Big 12 so I’m just going to have to work a little harder during the summer to correct my mistakes.”
Something the junior-to-be did not encounter as the team’s holder as first-year placekicker Josh Lambert made good on all four of his PATs as well as on two of his four field goal attempts-the first from 39 yards and the final one coming from 47 yards away.
“He (Lambert) is the No. 1 guy right now and I’m OK with that,” continued Molinari. “It actually helps me because now I can focus more on my punting and with the two guys we have coming in this summer, I know that will have a lot more competition so I want to make sure that I can focus all of my attention there so I will have the best chance of being our No. 1 punter when the season opens.”
Molinari also is in the hunt for the No. 1 spot as the team’s kickoff specialist. Lambert opened the scrimmage, but it was Molinari who handled the kickoff duties to open the second half.
Making his debut at Milan Puskar Stadium was Crook.
“It’s great to be back in West Virginia,” said the former-Parkersburg South lineman. “I don’t think you can grow up and play in this state and not want to, one day, be here. It was something I have wanted to do.”
Crook, who coached at Stanford, Harvard and his alma mater West Liberty, before making the trek to Morgantown, is faced with one of several major rebuilding jobs the Mountaineers faced this spring-the offensive line.
Gone are starters Joey Madsen, Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun and the first-year assistant had to go into the spring game without his No. 1 center Pat Eger. But, the offense did signs of last year’s explosiveness as Millard and Childress combined for 354 passing yards and four scoring passes (65, 10, 46 and 24). But, the unit also surrendered six sacks which left Crook looking for some answers following the game.
“We did some good things, but, obviously, when you give up six sacks that tells me that we still have a lot of technique work to do. The good news is that every bad thing that happened out there can be corrected before we open the season.”
Words echoed by the Mountaineers’ head coach.
“The team that we will field in September will look a lot different,” said Holgorsen. “We just completed Phase 2 so the next 14 weeks (Phase 3) will be incredibly important.”