MORGANTOWN, W. Va — Neal Brown’s Mountaineers were stunned Saturday as they watched Kansas cornerback Cobee Bryant streak down the sideline for a pick-six, sealing WVU’s 55-42 loss to the Jayhawks.
History was attached to the defeat as it bore several not-so-positive firsts. Brown took his first losses both in a home opener and against the Jayhawks since taking over in Morgantown, while his team moved to 0-2 for the first time since 1979.
Brown isn’t giving up, however. WVU still has 10 games left on the schedule, and its head coach says they’ll do everything they can to take advantage of those opportunities.
Here’s what he had to say Monday:
“We’re not throwing in the towel, we’re going back to work”
Brown said he understands the frustration and he sympathizes with the fanbase.
“I don’t need to be explained that,” Brown said. “I lived that, so I get it.”
He recalled his days as a young Kentucky Wildcat season ticket holder, a team that had just three seasons at or above .500 during his life before he arrived on campus in 1998. Brown described the rides home “in an old beat-up van” with his uncle as he and his friends aired their grievances about the team.
Presumably, thousands of Mountaineer fans made the same ride on Saturday, and thousands more made their voices heard on social media. The most frustration, though, was felt at the Milan Puskar Center.
“I think the thing that’s got to be understood is there’s only one way to get it fixed, and there’s only one group of people that are going to fix it,” Brown said. “The only people that are going to fix it are inside this building, and the only way it gets fixed is through work.”
“Nobody feels sorry for us. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’re not throwing in the towel, we’re going back to work.”
The most glaring issues after two games
Brown outlined three primary areas in which his team needs to improve: the turnover battle, penalties and failure to capitalize on opportunities.
WVU’s only forced turnover of the season was a recovered fumble against Pitt. Two snaps later, WVU gave the ball right back, and the Panthers turned that chance into seven points.
On the other end WVU has coughed up the ball an additional three times, each of which has turned into a touchdown.
Penalties have also killed plenty of WVU’s chances, many of which are simple procedure flags. The Mountaineers were forced to kick a field goal in the fourth quarter against Kansas after a false start penalty pushed them back five yards off the goal line. They also extended a Jayhawk drive in overtime with a roughing the passer call Brown described as “selfish.”
Third, Brown said WVU has struggled to take advantage of chances in its two games. This includes a failure to recover fumbles, dropped passes and more.
“And then you’ve got to focus on the future and what does that look like, well, we’ve got to sustain what we’ve done well because there are certain things we’ve done well,” Brown added. “We’ve ran the ball well. We’ve play pretty well offensively through two games. Our special teams, outside of kickoff return, have really been a strength of the football team so far.”
“Then we’ve got to fix our issues….We’ve got to tackle better, we’ve got to get lined up with more sense of urgency. We’ve got to do some things better defensively. I think that’s very clear after Saturday night, but it’s about next, and next is Towson.”
Towson week is about West Virginia
Brown typically gives an in-depth scouting report on his upcoming opponent in his weekly media sessions.
This week’s scouting report was briefer than usual. Brown gave a brief overview of the Tigers, praising head coach Rob Ambrose and his roster. He discussed quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who won a state championship with former WVU wide receiver TJ Simmons, and defensive lineman Jesus Gibbs.
But as much respect Brown has for FCS football, he wants to keep the blinders on his team and make sure they hit their points.
“Really, to be honest with you, the focus is on us this week, and I mean that with all due respect to Towson because I have a lot of respect for…FCS programs. I finished my career [in FCS], started my career coaching there, and I very well understand that mentality that’s going to be in that locker room when they come here,” Brown said. “This is their opportunity on a national stage to show what they can do, so I get that mentality, but it’s about us. It’s about us getting better and us improving, and finding a way to get a win.”