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Neal Brown Press Conference, Week 9: Getting better?

The head coach of WVU Football addressed the media in his weekly Tuesday press conference.

Texas v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Opening

“Tough emotional loss on Thursday night. I thought our guys played extremely, extremely hard. I thought we prepared well and gave us an opportunity to be in that game. We missed a great opportunity on the road against the No. 12 team in the country on national TV. I don’t want to take away from how our guys played, which I was proud of the effort and intensity.”

Recapping Baylor

Special Teams:

“I thought our special teams played really well. Probably our best game overall. Had a huge advantage on special teams.”

Negatives:

  • Our penalty on opening KO return put us in a bind there, having to start inside the 10-yard line.
  • Offsides penalty on a kickoff.
  • Blocked FG at the end “where we didn’t take our proper steps and were late off the ball.” “It cost us big time.”

Positives:

  • We had a kickoff return, the first one here since 2014.
  • We’ve blocked kickoff return well all year, we just hadn’t done a good job in the return game. “Obviously we didn’t pick the right guy.”
  • “Winston (Wright) got it, took the first one to the house. Obviously, he will be the KO returner for the rest of the year.”
  • Fumble recovery on our punt coverage team.
  • “Our punt coverage has been excellent all year. That game they had negative punt return yards and we had a 43.6 net punt, which is really impressive.”
  • “Our kickoff coverage was really good. Punt block team was the best all year. We affected two punts.”

Defense

  • “That’s the best we’ve played from start to end of a game all year. There’ve been times where we played at a high level defensively, but that’s the best we’ve played for a whole game.”
  • “Credit to our defensive staff and our players. We had a great scheme and our players executed that.”

Negatives:

  • Missed too many tackles.
  • “Had several opportunities at the end of the game on that drive where they were able to kick the field goal. We’ve gotta do a better job in that area.”
  • “Then, we had a couple critical alignment errors that allowed them to convert third downs.”

Positives:

  • “I thought our D line was dominant and I know Coach Rhule talked about that.”
  • “We had eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss, a goal-line stand before the half that was huge and we forced two fumbles. I thought we played really physical.”

Offense:

  • “We physically got whipped up front and we didn’t play well enough to win at any position offensively.”
  • “Our margin for error is really small offensively and we continue to beat ourselves. Whether it’s procedure penalties, drops, we had two bad snaps; critical errors at inopportune times.”

Top performers

  • “I thought defensively, these guys all played at a high level: Jeffery Pooler and Dylan Tonkery played their best games they’ve played all year.”
  • “Obviously, Darius Stills, I saw that he won in one outlet player of the week. That’s well deserved.”
  • Reese Donahue has played well the whole month of October.”
  • Sean Mahone and Noah Guzman, those guys played their best football of the year.”
  • “On Special Teams, two guys that stood out: Winston Wright, obviously, and Josh Growden had his best day punting the football.”
  • “Offensively, really the only guy was George Campbell. He did some good things and he’ll be more involved.”

Personnel Updates:

  • Ricky Johns and Jack Allison have entered the portal
  • “(Jack) graduates in December. This is a decision that he came to me with and I love Jack. I like him a lot, he’s been a great teammate here. He wants to go play somewhere… I support him in that.”
  • Kennedy McKoy and Noah Guzman left the game Thursday. “They are questionable. I am hopeful both of them will play.”
  • Quondarius Qualls had surgery, out for the year.
  • Josh Chandler is questionable. “He’ll work a little bit today and will build up through the week. We’ll see how that goes.”
  • Staley missed the game Thursday night. “He will be questionable again. It’s a muscle injury in his leg, a lot of it depends on how he heals. I’d say he’s very questionable.”
  • TJ Simmons left game late in first quarter. “I would say he is doubtful for the game. Not saying he’s out yet.”
  • Sean Ryan is out but “real close.” “Just not ready for contact yet.”
  • Chase Behrndt left game in the second quarter. “We’ll see how he progresses this week.”
  • Jovani Haskins “should be back.” Didn’t play Thursday night. “He’s had a core muscle injury that hasn’t allowed him to run.”
  • Dreshun Miller is “improving but will not go this week. I think he will be back at some point this year.”

“A lot of positives to take away last week as a team. I thought our coaches and players did a great job preparing for that game. We’ve got to continue to focus on us getting better.”

Looking at Texas Tech

  • “Excited to get back home.” First home game in almost five weeks.
  • “Game between two teams that are really hungry for a win.”
  • “I have a lot of respect for Matt Wells and his staff. They did a great job really developing that program at Utah State.”

Special Teams

  • The coordinator (Mark Tommerdahl) “has been a lot of places, really highly respected in the special teams world.”
  • Freshmen at all specialists positions: Punter, kicker, long snapper. “They’ve really been strong.”
  • High ratings for all specialists. “Really sound there.”
  • “They’ve already blocked a couple field goals. and had a kickoff return versus Kansas for a touchdown that got called back.”
  • “They’ve got a couple returners that can go.”

Defense

  • “They bounce back and forth between three and four down (linemen).”
  • Their coordinator (Keith Patterson) was here at one point.
  • Scoring defense is the lowest it’s been since 2009.
  • Play really well in the first quarter.
  • “They’ve got three guys who really stick out: (Douglas Coleman III) leads the country in interceptions... The linebacker (Jordyn) Brooks is as good as anyone in our league at that position. The D-lineman (Broderick) Washington Jr plays really well...does a good job getting off defenders.”

Offense

  • “They’re a team that plays with a lot of tempo.”
  • “One of the top offensive lines in the country in the conference. They’ve got a lot of experience. Three guys have started 29-plus games up front.”
  • Freshman RB Sarodorick Thompson is a “tough runner, does a really good job driving his knees.”
  • T.J. Vasher is “really long... tall, has won a lot of one-on-one balls.”
  • Backup QB Jett Duffey will start. Is “a capable runner, but he gets the ball out extremely fast.”
  • Team will prepare for injured starting QB Alan Bowman, too.

First game in November. “I think all teams are judged and remembered for how they finish, so this is our opportunity, coming back home.”

Activities around game:

  • Mountaineer Week on campus.
  • True Blue for fans in stadium.
  • Most importantly, it’s Military Appreciation Day. “We’re going to honor our state’s veterans, with Veterans Day on Monday following the game.”
  • Two honorary captains: U.S. Army Major Fred “Boom Boom” Smalls (former WVU player) and Former U.S. Army Specialist Ted Daniels.
  • “We’re going to do something from a uniform perspective that we’ll release later this week. It’ll honor the veterans from the State of West Virginia.”
  • “Nobody’s pleased with the results we’ve had up to this point, but we’ve got a great opportunity to finish strong.”
  • “The game will be entertaining.”

Questions

RB Injuries

  • “I’m hopeful Kennedy’s gonna go but (Tony) Mathis will play, Leddie (Brown) will play.”
  • “(Leddie Brown) has got to play better. He’s played better at times... he’s no different than anyone else on offense.
  • “Kennedy will continue to play if he’s ready to go.”

Improved third quarter against Baylor

  • “Everything works in cycles. If you look back, even the third quarter against Missouri was pretty good. We played really well in the third quarter against N.C. State Then we went through that spell where we didn’t play good, for whatever reason, after the Kansas game.”
  • “That’s something we really concentrated on during the bye week. We call it the ‘middle eight.’ It’s the last four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half.
  • We changed some formatting in practice where we practiced in quarters... set up practice where we would be better coming off a break. I think it did help us.”

What’s the backup QB situation now?

  • “Jarrett Doege and Trey Lowe I think will both have opportunity to see time this game.
  • “We’re going to let them compete it out for the backup spot.”

Tonkery’s play on Thursday and his overall development

  • “I think he did a really nice job blitzing. The MIKE and BANDIT positions, the way we’re using them right now aren’t that different.”
  • Tonkery played at BANDIT on Thursday so Guzman could play as a DB.
  • “He did a really good job timing up pressures. I thought he did a really good job chasing down balls and missed fewer tackles than he has. And I think he’s getting comfortable.”

Is there a plan for the backup QBs?

  • “I think we’re looking at the quarterback position like we are at all positions on offense. We need to to get better.”
  • “We will have some plans to use the other two guys if needed.”

Can you fix drops at this point in the season?

  • “It’s really repetition. When you go about it, some of it’s a confidence issue, so you start thinking about it.”
  • “You solve it through repetitions, which is something we’ve done and will continue to focus on.”
  • “We’ve moved tennis ball machines into our positions room. We added, within the 20-hour rule, JUGS machines into their workouts.”
  • “It’s really not just been the drops, it’s been the critical point of the drops.”

Can you develop hands?

  • “I think you can get better.”
  • “I think you can go average to good, bad to average; I don’t think you can necessarily go bad to great.”

The nose guards Texas Tech has

  • “They’re good players.”
  • “There are quality nose guards in this league. Once you put on film you have a difficult time with a head-up nose, guess what you’re going to find? You’re going to see head-up nose.”
  • “Until we do a better job versus those head-up noses, then that’s what we’re going to continue to see.”
  • “For us, it’s a technique based. We’ve gotta play with better technique on the interior of our line.”

Cause of bad snaps against Baylor?

  • “I think you could see on film where the Baylor player was clapping. I’m not sure he was snapping to simulate the snap or not.”
  • “I think there’s a distinct difference between a clap coming from in front of you than a snap coming from behind you.”
  • “Both of them came after turnovers. One, I think, was second and four.”
  • “The thing about it is that we had opportunities to overcome both of those, we just didn’t.”
  • First one was on second down, didn’t execute on third down to get in field goal range.
  • Everyone focuses on the end of the game, but there’s all those opportunities during the course of the game where if you just make a routine play.
  • First-and-goal at the nine. Had chances to get on top of the ball and kick a field goal, even with a big loss.

Using Lowe in punt team

  • “We’ve done that a bunch, if you go back and look at Troy, the kid that’s the starter now, we played him on the punt team.”
  • “We had some difficulty with the rush against Oklahoma, so one way to stymie that is to give them fake looks.”
  • “We have the opportunity to do multiple fakes with Trey Lowe out there on the punt team.”
  • “He’s a big kid. He can run, he’s strong, so we’re not asking him to do anything overly difficult on that team. He can run and cover.”
  • “We’re going to continue to work him there. It slowed their rush... They rushed one less person and played him back in defense.”

Importance of time at Texas Tech

  • “I enjoyed our time in Lubbock. My wife and I have some good friends, maybe as good as we’ve made in all our moves, in Lubbock.”
  • First Power-5 coordinator experience. Part of transition from Leach to Kingsbury.
  • “Fortunate enough to coach some really good players, we had some really good offenses there.”
  • “That’s a time that I look back that we definitely enjoyed. Our middle child, second daughter was born in Lubbock.”

Casey Legg’s inexperience

  • “It’s kind of unique, huh?”
  • “I think Mike Molinari, who was a punter here that’s on our staff now, before he came on staff was in medical sells. Casey’s dad is an orthopedic surgeon in Charleston. The way I understand it, his dad just mentioned that Casey had started kicking balls and then the next thing you know, Mike’s up here and makes the call.”
  • “I would have liked to have seen where that kick went.”
  • “This is what I appreciate about (Casey): Every time that we’ve put him in a challenge situation, he’s really risen to that occasion. That’s not always the case, especially with specialists.”
  • “We try to put our specialists in as many gut-wrenching, pressure-packed situations as we can in practice... He has always risen to the occasion... We did it four times last week.”

How do you accept the record but concentrate on the mission?

  • “I just think that we’ve really approached this whole season as, “let’s just get better.’”
  • “We’re preparing to win every game, our plan is to win every game, we’ve never gone into a game that we didn’t think we had a great opportunity to win it.”
  • “I think it’s important that we just get better. That’s been the case when we played poorly the first half of Missouri, that’s been the case when we played poorly in the second half of Oklahoma, is “we’ve gotta get better.”
  • “The best way I can tell them to get better is to focus on the task at hand.”
  • “We got a lot of hope in this building, there’re a lot of reasons to be excited. Even our older guys are playing some of the best football they’ve ever payed.”
  • There’s still plenty to play for in the month of November... There’s a lot of reasons, even with our record what it is, there’s a lot of reasons to have hope and to be excited.”

Ever had a player talk to a sideline reporter?

  • “It probably happens, I don’t know if it’s ever been reported.”
  • “I don’t know what he said, I just know someone on Twitter, I saw, said that Darius (Stills) said something to Molly (McGrath, ESPN sideline reporter). I’m gonna say it’s a first.”
  • “He did play really well.”
  • Has no idea what the message was.