MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Now that West Virginia football (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) has a conference win under its belt in 2023, the team finally has a foundation to dispute their offseason reputation within the conference.
WVU head football coach Neal Brown won his third straight game at WVU for the first time since he came to Morgantown in 2019, but, as most coaches do, he believes there is plenty of room to grow as conference play heats up.
Below are the biggest takeaways from Brown’s weekly media session:
For the second week in a row, all eyes will be on WVU’s quarterback situation as junior Garrett Greene (ankle) could miss his second straight game.
“I really don’t want to play him until he’s fully healthy, and he didn’t make a whole lot of progress from Wednesday to Saturday,” Brown said. “He worked with our trainers [Monday]. We’ll see what he has Tuesday and Wednesday. I really don’t have anything more than that. If he practice full-go on Tuesday and Wednesday, then he’ll play.”
Redshirt freshman Marchiol proved that he’s capable of winning conference games for WVU with his victorious effort against Texas Tech in his first career start. He threw for 78 yards and a touchdown and ran for 72 more yards in the win.
Brown noted last week that freshman Sean Boyle would be the backup if Marchiol started against Texas Tech, but he rescinded that comment Monday, and he made it clear Greene was available to play last week as the emergency backup. Should Marchiol start again Saturday, that will likely be the case once more.
Brown and select players talked at length Monday about learning how to “win ugly” in low scoring, one possession games. Defensive success in crucial situations – such as third and fourth downs – usually goes a long way in one score games.
“We’re doing a better job in our zone coverages, and some of our eight-and-seven man drops we’re doing a better job of covering people,” Brown said. “I think that’s part of it. I think we’re creating more pressure as well. Whether we’re sending three, four, or five, we’re creating more pressure, and we’re getting into some more friendly down-and-distances.”
Offensively, red zone execution is one of the paramount indicators of a team’s success. WVU went 3-for-3 in the red zone Saturday, and they put up 17 points on those three attempts. Texas Tech went 2-for-3 with 10 points.
“We’ve kind of had a four-down mentality down there a lot, and so when you go into that with the anticipation [that] you’ve got four downs, you treat first and second down a little bit differently, and so that’s kind of the way we’re attacking it,” Brown said.
He also noted that the Mountaineers’ playbook opens up in the red zone with some plays, formations and motions that aren’t relevant closer to midfield or near their own end zone.
Now sitting at 3-1, WVU is on-pace to silence the critics who picked WVU to finish 14th (last) in the Big 12 in the conference’s preseason poll.
“We’ve got to go win,” Brown said. “I think the whole goal is [to] get in November with a chance to win your league. That’s kind of the way we talk about it. I’m not sitting there in the team meetings saying that, but I think – from a staff’s standpoint – that’s the goal. You want to get into November [where] you’re competing to go to Dallas.”
The Mountaineers did not receive one vote in the national rankings from AP voters this week, but Brown believes that could change with a few more performances like the ones of recent.
“We got to prove that we’re a contender,” he said. “We’re 1-0 [in conference play], but I’m not sure that we’ve grabbed national attention or anything yet. We got to continue to win games.”