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Neal Brown Press Conference, Week 9: Small Margin of Error

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The head man of WVU Football spoke to the media with a more direct tone on Tuesday.

NCAA Football: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

After an embarrassing 38-17 loss at home to Texas Tech, West Virginia football head coach Neal Brown discussed the prominent struggles the team endured on Saturday and what it can do to improve going forward during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

More so than previous weeks, Brown directly addressed certain aspects of the teams performance in his remarks and answers, but still evaded the key question fans and media members want to ask: what’s the plan for the quarterback position?

Opening

  • “I want to start by wishing belated happy Veterans Day to all the men and women who served in our armed forces. I thought our people did a really good job of recognizing those individuals and game captains on Saturday. I appreciate those who were involved.”
  • “We talked about it with our players and we greatly appreciate their service... It’s because of them that we get to do what we love to do.”

Recapping Texas Tech

  • “Usually when you watch video after a game, it’s not as bad or as good as you thought it was. And that’s the case on Saturday.”
  • “Our margin of error is really small, we’ve talked about that.”
  • “When you aren’t mentally or emotionally locked in on every play, when we don’t do what we’re coached to do and don’t make the routine plays that are there, you get exposed and that’s what happened on Saturday.”

Special Teams

  • “I thought it was a very average day. It wasn’t poor, it was just average.”
  • “We didn’t do anything in that piece of the game that changed the outcome.”
  • “Where we’re out right now is that we’ve gotta make plays on special teams to change the game. That’s our motto on special teams: ‘Change the game.’ We didn’t do anything that changed the game.”
  • “We had two penalties on special teams, one was a selfish penalty.”
  • “We had poor coverage on the first kickoff, meaning we started the game poorly... That was the first defensive play that led to the opening touchdown.”
  • “Punt coverage—which has been great all year—it was just OK. We have expectations to better.”
  • “Our miscommunication by kickoff returners… we had a couple opportunities to hit a big one and miscommunicated.”

Defense

  • “Defensively, I was disappointed in how we played.”
  • “I don’t think we handled the success versus Baylor well at all, especially on the defensive line.
  • “We played poorly from the start, gave up touchdowns on the first five drives of the game.”
  • “I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a game like that as a head coach. We obviously weren’t ready to go.”
  • Missed tackles. Slow to the line. Third and fourth down execution was not very good in those opening series.
  • “We did show fight, we did show positive fight, in really only giving up a field goal from the mid-second quarter on, but at that point the damage had been done.”

Offense

  • “Offensively, really we played well in the open field. If you look at it all the way to the 20, we played well.”
  • “The best we’ve played probably since the middle of the game against Texas.”
  • “We struggled in the red zone and that was the difference in the game. They were successful in the red zone we were not.”
  • “I thought that was the best performance by our quarterbacks and receivers. I’m excited about the future with those receivers, they’re getting better.”
  • “We had some drops—we’ll talk about those, I’m sure—but that group is playing better.”
  • “Our pass protection was solid; it’s been solid. We’ve struggled to run the ball but our pass protection has been really solid.
  • “For us to have sustained success offensively, we can’t have missed assignments, we can’t have drops, we can’t do things at the end of drives to ourselves.”

Wrapping up TTU

  • “Not the outcome we wanted or expected and what I’m looking for, and how I’ve defined success when y’all have asked on several occasions, is I want to see improvement and I want to get better. At this point, we’ve made some serious improvements.”
  • “If you go back, and I always do this on Sundays (for my own sanity sometimes), and look at another game from previous in the year or look at camp, we’ve made a lot of improvements.”
  • “I do believe that we’ve gotten better and we’ve made progress. However, on Saturday, on special teams and defense, I don’t think that showed. It wasn’t good enough.”

Looking at Kansas State

  • “They’re coming off a disappointing loss to Texas, a close loss in a three-point game.”
  • “I think Coach (Chris) Klieman has them playing very well right now; before that loss to Texas on the road, they had won three in a row, including that huge win over Oklahoma that caught national headlines.”
  • “They’ve been ranked on and off as the year’s gone on.”
  • “They’re a veteran team, they play extremely disciplined. I think that’s been the culture in that program for a long time.
  • “They do a good job of evaluating, they’ve got a great walk-on program—I think that’s why they play special teams so well over the course of a number of years.”
  • “They don’t beat themselves and they play extremely hard.”

Offense

  • “Things that stick out, they have eight seniors that start on that unit, five redshirt seniors that start on the offensive line; 10 out of their 11 are upperclassmen. “
  • “I think the story there is their offensive line is playing really well. They have a lot of continuity there. They do a good job of sustaining blocks and done a good job in pass protection as well.”
  • “Their quarterback, Skylar Thompson, is a dual threat. He’s playing really under control. He’s calm and he’s been really good on third down. He can run, he’s got good long speed, he’s a natural runner. He’s done a good job throwing the ball effectively downfield.”
  • “They’ve got two nice receivers. (Dalton) Schoen and (Malik) Knowles have made big plays for them, they’ve been timely.”

Defense

  • “Again, a veteran group. Six seniors and three juniors; nine of the starters are upperclassmen.
  • “They’ve been playing well all year. They’re at or near the top of the Big 12 in almost every category.”
  • “They’re third in the country on third downs. That’s significant.”
  • “Very talented on the defensive line. One of the best, if not the best best, defensive lines in the conference.”
  • “They’re talented at defensive end, they go three-deep there. The (Reggie) Walker kid (51), (Wyatt) Hubert and (Kyle) Ball; all three of those guys are great pass rushers… I would put them right there up against those guys at Baylor as the top defensive ends we’ve played this year.”
  • “In the secondary, they’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re putting them in a lot of man situations on third down, and they’re having success, which is why their third down rate is so high.”

Special Teams

  • Solid.
  • “I think that’s been a cultural piece there for a long time.
  • Talented kickoff returner. “They’ve returned two kicks for touchdowns.”
  • Placekicker (Blake) Lynch :has only missed two kicks in three years... Their punter has a really strong leg.”
  • “Blocked a punt against TCU... that was one of the defining points in their win there.”

Personnel Updates

  • Sean Ryan: “Will practice this week. We’ll make a decision at the end of the week whether he’s in a position to play or not.” QUESTIONABLE
  • Josh Chandler: “Practiced a little bit last week, we didn’t feel like he was ready to go in the game.” ACTIVE
  • Dreshun Miller: OUT
  • Evan Staley: “We’ll make a decision later in the week. Hopefully he’ll kick a little bit today and we’ll see how that goes.” QUESTIONABLE
  • T.J. Simmons: “Jogged a bit yesterday and we’ll see how he progresses this week.” QUESTIONABLE

“Looking forward to playing better football this week. Looking forward to another opportunity to get out there and prove ourselves against another quality opponent.”

Questions

See any improvement in run game for offensive line?

  • “We’re getting better. Our pass protection is better.”
  • “We actually fit up some runs the other day, we had some pass concepts off of it and some screen concepts off of it. So it looks on paper, we threw the ball 61 times, but all those weren’t necessarily pass protection plays.”
  • “I thought we fit up things better in the run, obviously still didn’t create enough room.”
  • “I thought our running backs played better and they showed up a little bit in the stat sheet in the run game, more-so in the pass game. I thought they played much better; made some plays, created some holes that weren’t there and, outside of two plays, played better in the protection game.”

Special teams coverage goals?

  • “We want to lead country in fair catches, that’s what we talk about on our punt team. Obviously we had two punts returned the other day. One of them might have been for three and six, maybe?”
  • “On kickoff coverage unit, we want to keep them inside the 22 or 23, depending on where the kick is located. “
  • “Our kickoff coverage outside the first one was really good. We missed a kick—Casey (Legg) didn’t kick one very well early in the game—but we just didn’t set the tone.”
  • “We talk about the kickoff coverage unit setting a tone. You’re always going to start a half with that unit and we had a couple missed assignments on that team. The guy fumbled it and, really, we should have started that drive inside the 10, they should have been backed up, and he got it out to almost to the 30.”
  • “So we didn’t set a very tone with our kickoff unit there.”

How Neal Brown identify and hire Blake Seiler (special teams coordinator and linebackers coach)?

“We’ve got mutual friends and he’s good friends with a guy who was on our staff at Troy... He GA’d for Vic (Koenning).”

“When making this transition, I wanted to make sure we had some people with Big 12 experience. I knew a couple guys in our background offensively had some connections in this league but I wanted to hire somebody who had recent defensive history in this league.”

“Blake was part of that culture (at Kansas State) that was really important—you’ve heard me say that... Blake had done a really good job recruiting the southeast and they were getting some really quality players... He had a good reputation as a recruiter.”

“He’s done a great job for us. He’s led our special teams and I think that’s been the bright spot of our entire football team. He’s been in on a lot of our higher-ranked recruits.”

“I’m pleased with him. He’s extremely attentive to detail, does a good job mixing with the kids; holding them accountable but also caring about them.”

“He has ties (at Kansas State), obviously he went to school there. I don’t think it was anything negative, I think he wanted an opportunity to coach... I’m not gonna answer that, you can ask him.”

Coaching Sam James

  • “I coach him harder than anybody on our team because I think he has a huge ceiling.”
  • “I’ve coached him that way since I got here and we went to winter workouts. I liked his high school film, I like the film that our GAs made when they played scrimmage last year in his redshirt year, I liked the talent I saw last year in the winter and in the spring you could see glimpses.”
  • “I think you have to coach your best players the hardest. Obviously, we game-plan to get him the ball a lot. I think he’s one of our top players on offense.
  • “I think our players understand that we’re trying to get him the ball schematically. You’ve gotta hold those guys to a higher standard.”
  • “Do I think he played well on Saturday? I think there are some things he did really well.”
  • “The most proud I am of him is that he overcame negative plays really for the first time in his career. He was able to overcome a drop, he was able to overcome a bad run.”
  • The very first play of the game we get him the ball and that thing has a chance to get out. Everybody blocked and he got two yards. He knew as soon as he ran out of bounds that it was a bad play.”
  • “In the past, early in the year, he might have been done for the day but he came back, we gave him the ball the next two plays... then he kinda got going. He had to two drops back-to-back, but then he made a huge play and made a nice run after the catch.”
  • “I’ve got huge expectations for him... He could have had 18 catches for 300 yards!”

The incompletion or fumble

  • “I didn’t understand that to be honest with ya.”
  • Argued that the team had four turnovers.
  • “As we talk about stats, this is just to have on record: If a ball hits a receiver in the chest and it pops up, it should be a fumble. If it’s a dropped pass for an interception, it should be a fumble.

Jarrett Bartlett playing the rest of the season and his redshirt

  • “He will not play in one of them. I not gonna say which one he’s not gonna play, but he will not play in one of them.”
  • “As we talk about our freshmen, we struggled in that game. I don’t know if we had a true freshman who played anywhere close to their capabilities that game.”
  • “Really, our worst game collectively as a group that we’ve had thus far.”

Seeing Klieman’s system in Kansas State or seeing more of Snyder’s philosophy?

  • “I didn’t watch them really on offense or defense. My memory of K-State is ‘10, ‘11, ‘12, what they were doing.”
  • “I watched a little bit of them defensively going through the process of hiring Blake (Seiler) because he called the defense there a year ago but I don’t want to speak to it. I wasn’t in the same league watching them year in and year out.”
  • “I don’t want to speak for Coach Klieman as well, but he probably took over a group that—and sometimes veteran groups are harder to take over because they have a process for how they’re doing things—but I think that they had a culture in there where discipline and accountability were really in there. And obviously that transition is going well.”
  • “They have some really good players, too. The defensive linemen are talented, the quarterback is talented, and they have a lot of experience on the offensive line.”

QB situation going forward?

“First of all, did you see the flea-flicker at Texas? That’s the only time I got a laugh the whole day Saturday... They hit it for a touchdown and mine gets picked.”

“We’ve got a plan, I don’t think it does me any good to share it with you all or with Kansas State, but I do have a plan. We’ll start it today and go.”

We’ve got issues on offense. Our quarterback play hasn’t been tremendous but it hasn’t been the reason why we’ve struggled. I don’t think that of the areas we’ve gotta get fixed, that’s not No. 1 on the list.”

Reintroducing Chandler to defense

  • “It will definitely help.”
  • “I used the word ‘hopeful’ last week. We were hopeful he was gonna play and he just didn’t get to a point by Wednesday where we thought it was the best thing for him.”
  • “He practiced today, he’ll practice Wednesday full speed. Barring anything unforeseen, he’ll play.”
  • He’ll be a tremendous help against these guys. This is a ‘backs game.’ They’re a power running team, they’re one of the leading rushing teams in the country. That’s carried over from their identity at North Dakota State.”
  • “We’re going to need him to play and play well. It’s been a while since we played a team that can line up and run gap schemes at you.”

Is Chandler a future MIKE?

  • “He’s progressing to that for sure.”

Keys to beating a team that doesn’t beat themselves?

  • “It works both ways.” They’re doing a really good job. If you look at them statistically—that’s one of the first things I do every Sunday when I turn the page—you go through and see OK, but you get to third downs and they’re really good on third down offensively converting. The big reason for that is because they have so many third-and-fours or less.”
  • “They’re really good on defense on third down stop rate because they have a lot of third-and-six-pluses.”
  • “They’re able to keep the clock moving and chains moving because they convert those third and shorts, then they get off the field defensively... it works together.”