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What I Think About Failing To Capitalize On A Great Opportunity

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Did Texas win without its best players or did West Virginia hold close to a tough opponent?

Texas v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I Get That Neal Brown is Protecting His Quarterback

I fully understand that head coach Neal Brown is protecting Austin Kendall in the media by giving alternative reasons why Kendall was not at fault for the interceptions. He did the same thing previously against Missouri and has generally been very positive when he reviews Kendall in the media. With the limited options at his disposal, he can’t risk starting a mutiny in this locker room by stating that Kendall isn’t getting it done but then playing Kendall every week. Kendall is Neal Brown’s quarterback. Brown recruited him and convinced him to transfer to West Virginia. He was not recruited by Holgorsen so Kendall’s failures are on Neal Brown.

I think Brown is wrong and I’m sure he knows that Kendall is more at fault than he lets on. But stating so in the media doesn’t buy Brown any goodwill in his locker room and could potentially start a quarterback controversy. Brown needs Kendall to be serviceable this season and he needs a quarterback who can lead these players. He can’t risk losing the guy he convinced to come to WVU.

The Defense is Ballin’

Coming into the season, the hope was that the defense would be good enough to keep the team in games while the offense found a way to make just enough plays to win some games. That has certainly been true against NC State and Kansas and was nearly true against the Texas Longhorns. Specially Keith Washington and Darius Stills played like #GAM.

Darius Stills started the game out with an Aaron Donald presence. Still is credited with only four tackles, but one of those was a sack and three were tackles for loss. On the season Stills is 14th in the nation with 8.5 TFLs. Darius has been a big reason why the defense has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

On the back end of the defense, Keith Washington has made life for quarterbacks difficult. Washington has made timely interceptions which have sealed two games and nearly had a third that put the Mountaineers in position to win the game. Washington had several third down plays and picked off a poor decision by Sam Ehlinger.

Conservative Halftime

Why oh why were we so conservative on that final drive before half? Was it because we knew Texas was expecting us to go for a shot down the field therefore the intermediate passing lanes were available? Was it because Brown knew that Kendall’s downfield accuracy is mediocre at best and that the Texas secondary, despite being down some starters, was still good enough to pick off passes and an interception going into half could kill any momentum?

For right now, it makes sense to play conservative at half and not risk losing the chance at points. The drive ultimately failed when Evan Staley pushed his second field goal of the game wide right but the drive worked in that it gave the offense a chance to come away with points. Against Texas, it made sense to be conservative and not take too many chances and lose the opportunities to come away with points. Against other teams, like Baylor and Oklahoma, it may be more crucial to be push the envelope and take shots downfield especially if the games are close. It will become even more crucial in the later portion of the schedule when playing conservative could mean the difference between a win and a loss and that necessary sixth win to bowl eligibility.

Decision Making

Can we please throw the dang ball past the third down marker? Too many times this season we have thrown an out route, or a curl, or a stick route one to two yards short of the marker. This falls on coaching. You have to teach these players that if the down is 3rd and 4, you gotta get past the marker. We cannot continue to let drives die because we threw short.

This also goes into Kendall’s decision making later in the game. We were near the goalline and we ran 5 wide, double crossing pick plays and a stick route at the goalline. I understand the concept, trying to clear out all of the defenders and give Kendall an easy throw. Except the stick route was double covered. If you are going to run this concept, the quarterback has to make better decisions. If you have a crossing pattern with a trailing defender, you need to make that throw, rather than try to force a short throw into double coverage.