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Neal Brown Press Conference, Week 7: War of Attrition

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The Mountaineers turn the page to the back half of the season and head coach Neal Brown addressed the media in week eight.

West Virginia v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

West Virginia has played half a football season and first-year head coach Neal Brown has faced more roster turnover and injuries than normal, forcing him to play more young players than he can recall in his career.

Ahead of the Mountaineers’ game at Oklahoma this Saturday, Oct. 19, Brown addressed the media in his weekly press conference.

Opening

  • “I want to start by thanking the fans for Saturday. I was worried about it being fall break.”
  • “I think they really affected Iowa State offensively, having to take a couple time outs (in the first half).”
  • “For the second week in a row, we took a quality opponent close into the fourth quarter, and for the second week in a row we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to win the game.”
  • We’re experiencing some growing pains. “I think our kids are playing with great effort… our execution and playmaking are not what they need to be, especially at winning time.”

Recap of Iowa State

Special teams:

  • We were average... We weren’t poor enough to lose the game.
  • “Lost some one-on-one battles in kickoff return...missed opportunities to make game-changing plays”.
  • The kickoff out of bounds was a key play, killing momentum off the pick six.
  • “This is the fifth week in a row we have not allowed a punt return yard.”
  • Great effort in coverage units.
  • “Our extra point attempt protection is much improved.”

Defense:

  • “We gave up too many 10-yard-plus plays.”
  • “Have to do a better job getting off the field on third and fourth down.”
  • “Positives were the pick six.”
  • “For three quarters, we had Brock Purdy off his game.”
  • “We gave ourselves a chance to win defensively.”

Offense:

“Not a whole lot better. Better on third down, but turnovers hurt us.”

Our running game wasn’t where it needed to be on Saturday.

“Had 12 negative plays on 56 snaps, including 3 sacks and 9 tackles for loss.”

Player Highlights

  • Special teams: George Campbell and Dante Bonamico had only one negative play out of 17 snaps a piece.
  • Defense: Josh Chandler played his best game of the year. “Cut his reps down, so he was able to play faster.”
  • Nicktroy Fortune “played 86 snaps, had a couple pass breakups... Really encouraging how he played.”
  • Reese Donahue “played his best game of the year”
  • Josh Norwood for “three games in a row, he was our most physical player... Was our best player in the secondary.”
  • Reuben Jones was really active.
  • Colton McKivitz was “fun to watch play” and is playing at an extremely high level.
  • Mike Brown played his best game of the year.
  • TJ Simmons has “put two games together. I thought he had some big plays.”

Roster Updates

  • Tevin Bush and I met earlier today. He’s had a rough few months, he’s a good kid. He’s been dealing with some lingering foot issues. NOT AVAILABLE to play. “He’s made the decision he’s going to enter the transfer portal... I support that decision that preserves his redshirt year. He wants to go closer to home... I support him and we’ll help him achieve that goal.”
  • VanDarius Cowan suffered and injury, had surgery, out for the season
  • Keith Washington is still questionable for this game.
  • Austin Kendall threw a little bit yesterday. “He’s definitely questionable at this time... We will not play him unless he’s 100 percent.”

Preview of OU

  • Unbeaten No. 5 team. Coming off a big win in the rivalry game versus Texas.
  • “Lincoln Riley is following a legend there and I’ve got a lot of respect for how he’s handled that.”
  • “His record speaks for itself.”

Offense:

  • They’re No. 1 in the country. 9.6 yards per play.
  • As good, probably the best in the country.
  • Praised coaching staff.
  • CeeDee Lamb: “If there’s somebody better playing the receiver position in college football right now, I haven’t seen him”
  • Jalen Hurts: “He’s got that offense really rolling right now.”
  • OL is playing at a high level despite replacing a lot of talent.
  • Depth at running back.

Defense:

  • “Much improved and I think that’s where the story is for them this season.”
  • “Their nose guard, (Neville) Gallimore is a really difficult block for everyone.”
  • “MIKE linebacker (Kenneth) Murray is making plays sideline to sideline.
  • Corners have made big strides since last year.

Special Teams:

  • They’re good on all their units.
  • Tre Brown, starting corner is the kickoff returner.
  • Lamb is their punt returner. He’s a threat any time.
  • “We need to do a good job in our coverage units.”

Closing:

  • We’re disappointed, but it’s not doom and gloom in this building.
  • We’re 3-3 and we’ve lost to three really good teams.
  • We’re playing 21 freshmen and sophomores. Started six true freshman on Saturday.
  • “Our guys are getting better, we’d like for it to happen a little bit faster than it’s happening.”

Questions

Is OU’s offense unique or just better?

  • Lincoln does some good things schematically.
  • “I don’t know if they’re running different plays from other players, but they’ve got really good players.”
  • “When a team is that balanced, they make it difficult to defend. They’ve got the speed to take you over the top, but they’re physical enough to hurt you.”

On OU’s running backs:

“They’re tough tackles. They’re both good at catching the ball out of the backfield.”

Playing a lot of Freshmen:

  • “Offensively, it’s similar to my first year at Kentucky.”
  • “Really, this is probably the third time we’ve had to go through one of these transformations.”
  • “We’ve played freshman before, but I don’t know if we’ve ever started six. “

Riley’s expansion of his game:

  • “The thing that I appreciate about Lincoln is that he’s a guy who’s earned every opportunity he’s got.”
  • “I think a lot of people use the same pass concepts, he just gets there in different ways.”
  • “They’ve ran the ball extremely well… you look at what they’ve done at an offensive line standpoint and at running the football, that’s why they’ve been in the national title hunt.”

Injuries affecting snaps of developmental players:

  • “We’ve got a couple of positions that are starting to get thin.”
  • “BANDIT is one now that VanDarius is out.
  • Need to make sure young players aren’t playing beyond their physical capabilities
  • Josh Chandler is a good example. He probably played 15 less snaps against Iowa State.
  • Exree Loo played less, “gave us quality snaps.”

Sinkfield health status:

  • “He practiced yesterday and I think he’s going to be fine.”

Pettaway’s participation:

  • “It would take something unforeseen for him to play again (this season).”
  • “I think it’s a good move for him and for our program.”
  • “Kennedy and Leddie will continue to get the primary carries at running back, with Sinkfield being the third.”

Trey Lowe’s development:

  • “We put Jack in the game because we felt that Jack gave us the best chance.”
  • “We’ve got a plan going forward for the QB position is Austin can’t go Saturday.”
  • “Trey’s getting better, but we thought Jack gave us the best chance to win on Saturday.”

Kennedy McKoy’s decrease in production

  • “If you look at NC State and Kansas, I thought he played closer to his potential.”
  • “Turned an ankle against Texas and wasn’t really effective.”
  • “I don’t think he’s playing poorly, he’s getting opportunities.”
  • “He’s gotta do a better job in the open field.”

Size of safeties in the Big 12

  • If you look around the (Big 12 Conference), there are a lot of guys who are corner bodies.
  • “I think a lot of DCs have made the decision that they’re going to recruit bigger corners and if they can’t play man coverage, we’ll put em in the back end.”
  • “We moved Josh (Norwood) back there as a necessity.”
  • “Just trend wise, people are recruiting more corners in general, then playing them at safety; that’s what we’re doing with Josh.

Josh’s “contact courage”

  • He’s got contact courage. He’s not very big... He has zero fear about going in and tackling big running backs or tight ends.”
  • “That just means he’s going in there and making tackles. Delivering blows.”

Why Oklahoma continues to breed good QBs:

“Even before that. Jason White, Landry Jones, they’ve had a pretty good run.”

“They’re Oklahoma... Where are they at in wins? Eighth.”

Tae Mayo playing

  • “Bailey has to sit out the first half.”
  • Will depend on Keith Washington’s availability
  • “If Keith Washington can’t go, then Mayo will be up, he’ll be playing a lot.”
  • “We’d still like to redshirt if him he can.”
  • If he’s going to play, he’s going to play a bunch of snaps. If he’s going to redshirt, he’s going to play those four games and that’s it.

Any other redshirts who will need to play

  • “None that I can think of off the top of my head.”
  • “As we get closer (to the end of the season), we’ll start playing those guys we intend to redshirt.”
  • Jalen Thornton is a guy you could see down the road.”
  • We’ll wait and see on offensive linemen.
  • “Bartlett is a guy you could see toward the end of the year as well.”

Kerry Martin Jr.’s development

  • “He’s fairly new to defense period. “I think what we’re asking him (to do) is really tough. He’s been pushed into that role by necessity.”
  • “What we do is somewhat complex from a secondary standpoint but he’s been able to go in and play a lot of snaps.”
  • “Played almost the whole game against NC State, played a lot versus Texas and he’ll play a lot this week.”
  • “What we’re asking him is really going to pay off.”
  • Would have liked him to be in the development program but “we’ll have to focus on that in the offseason.”
  • “The position he’s playing is basically the QB of the defense, I think that helps him from a verbal communication standpoint.”

On redzone defense

“Most of our PIs have been down inside the 30.”

“I thought we were the victim of a couple things, some calls that went against us down in the redzone defensively.... We’ve had some unfortunate things in the redzone.”

“We’ve got to do a better job defending the pass down there.”