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Neal Brown Press Conference, Week 3: “People want the truth”

The head coach of Mountaineer football wants to see improved physicality from his team going forward.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A “disappointed” Neal Brown took the podium on Tuesday, Sept. 10, for his weekly press conference. He spoke frankly about his main concern: his team isn’t physical enough. Though the Missouri game is behind them, Brown and his staff still look to that game film to straightly tell the players the problems with their play and, most importantly, how they will improve, not just against N.C. State this Saturday, but as the season progresses.

Here are the highlights:


Last week:

  • “We were soundly beaten by a good Missouri team. I think they were clearly better than us on Saturday.”
  • “I can handle losing, I don’t like it, but I can handle it. I was disappointed by a couple things: lack of execution and lack of physicality.”
  • “We were inconsistent punting the ball. The positives are that they had zero returning yards for the day and we had four fair catches.”
  • “Defensively, the negatives were 232 yards rushing. We’re going to struggle to win a game when we give up that many yards rushing.” Noted that the team had five missed sacks and 22 missed tackles.
  • “Positives were that we limited big plays.” Pass coverage was better.
  • “I thought our defensive kids competed really well in the second half.”
  • “Offensively, the negatives were three interception that led to 21 points.” Run game is not existent.
  • “We did have some positives.” No fumbles and good on third down, when we were playing well.
  • “Disappointed in the performance, but by no means discouraged in the direction we’re going. This was our first real test.”

Injury update:

  • Torn patella tendon for Taijh Alston. Out for the year. “The block was fine, it was by no means a dirty play.”
  • Leddie Brown returnes to full-speed Tuesday and is available Saturday.

Looking to NC State Game:

  • “Dave Doren is entering year seven, and you can tell as you look at their roster that they’ve done a great job recruiting and developing. They have depth across the board.”
  • “They have the second-most wins in the ACC outside of Clemson... They’re well-coached and disciplined.”
  • “Special teams are solid across the board.” Their coordinator was at Marshall a year ago. Freshman long snapper is really impressive. Kicker has done a nice job and he’s very consistent.
  • “Offensively, they’re balanced. They’re physical up front… they want to establish they run.”
  • Running back back committee. Zonovan Knight is the key, “but they’ll play four back there.”
  • QB is similar to Kelly Bryant.
  • “They have big tight ends and they do a nice job of getting them the ball vertically.”
  • “Defensively, they haven’t given up a touchdown all year.” “They’ve allowed 49 rushing yards in two games.”
  • N.C. State has changed schematically.
  • Very good on the D-line. “Two guys who stand out are (Larrell) Murchison and the (James) Smith-Williams kid. Both of those guys are high-end defensive linemen.”
  • “They’ve done a good job getting pressure and creating negative plays”
  • Great challenge for us. Looking forward to getting our team back. That’s one of the challenges of coaching.
  • Hall-of-Fame weekend. “Steve Dunlap, I’ve known him as a coach, but didn’t realize how good of a player he was here.”
  • John Thornton, Jalen’s dad, being inducted
  • Meg Bulger, part of “one of the great West Virginia athletic families.”
  • Gold rush game. “Encourage our fans to wear gold. We’ll wear gold.”
  • “It’s a 12:05 kick, so I hope our fans show up early.”


Juggling the lineup

  • “What we’re gonna do is give a bunch of guys opportunities on Tuesday and Wednesday and make those spots competitive.”
  • “The five up front, outside of Colton McKivitz, I’m not happy with how any of them have played.”
  • “At RB, I think Sinkfield ran the ball the best of all the guys who played Saturday.” “We’re going to get Leddie back.”
  • “Gonna let the young WRs have a chance. Ali Jennings will play this week.”

On Leddie being back

  • “I think he’s a tough guy... We lack some toughness right now.”
  • “He’s rusty, he hasn’t done much football in about four weeks, but he’s been getting back to it.”

On late-game personnel changes

“Timmons did a really good job. He earned himself more playing time.”

“We should have got Sinkfield in the mix earlier.

We haven’t been running the ball well,” but that’s not solely on the offensive line.

“We have not blocked well, we have not ran the ball hard, we haven’t been physical on the edge.”

On Jack Allison’s interception:

  • “I’m not quitting on him, but that’s not good. We’re not going to reward people for those kinds of plays. He’s still in the mix.”

Evaluating the punting:

“We’ve gotta get more distance on our rugby kicks. We’ve gotta get more hang time on our directional punting.”

“One of the strengths of our team right now is our kick coverage.”

Will continue to keep mixing up the kick styles.

What it will be like to face former WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson:

“He knows our personnel, but some of the personnel that’s playing, he hasn’t seen play.”

“I’m sure this game will mean a lot to him, being a WV native and coming back, but I’m sure once the ball is snapped, I don’t think think it will be a distraction for anyone on either side.”

If he’s seen 3-3-5 stack from Gibson’s defense at N.C. State:

  • “Every three-down team has some stack principles in it, so I think there are principles there, but that’s not what they primarily do.”

How he will replace Alston at defensive end:

  • “Going to be some tryouts for that this week.”
  • “We can try some different looks. One thing we won’t be able to do is to play too many snaps with two DEs, so we won’t be able to do that moving forward.”

Evaluating the play of Sam James:

“(Sam) James blocked well. He was our best player in the first half. He did a great job getting the DBs’ hands off him.”

Comparison between N.C. State and Missouri’s defenses:

  • “Missouri bounced back and forth from three down to four down.”
  • “Both schools have done a good job recruiting and developing defensive lineman. NC State has two good DEs and their nose tackle can be dominant at times.”

Does he expect press-man coverage?

“The press-man stuff, it’s more just one-on-one. People are going to put us in one-on-one until we win. This coaching stuff isn’t rocket science. They’re going to do that until we win, and I mean that in the run game.”

Evaluating TJ Simmons:

“TJ’s just gotta play better. Play faster, block better, get open.”

How the staff spoke to the players about poor performances:

“People want the truth and we’re going to give them honesty. You can’t lie to them because they see it on video... You show it to them with brutal honesty and present them with a plan to get better.

On being disappointed with lack of physicality two weeks in a row:

“Here’s the deal. This isn’t going to be an overnight deal. It’s not going to look how the staff and I envision us, but it’s something we’ve gotta work on.”

“You can’t be hesitant in this game. We had multiple times in the game where we needed to pull the trigger.”

“You’ve gotta go seek the contact. You can’t sit there and spin your feet. Same with the RBs; we had some holes there. Instead of being no-gain runs, they should have been at least three yards.”

“Our pocket is getting compressed. It’s a technique issue, but it’s also a toughness issue.”

More targets for Jovani Haskins?

  • “He got two targets on Saturday.”
  • “We’ve gotta do a better job working the middle of the field as a staff.”
  • “Second thing is, he’s gotta get open.”

The issue of missed tackles:

  • “Kelly Bryant just broke some. He looked like he was the big kid on the playground. It reminded me of when we play Mountaineer Ball at our camps when the coaches play QB and all the little kids are running around them.”
  • “But some of them were just bad technique, being in bad tackling position.”

On lineup changes coming on Saturday:

  • “I do foresee some changes in the lineup.”
  • “The best way I can tell you, is that if you continue to put stuff on video that isn’t good enough, then you have to make changes.”
  • “If there are changes, it’s because guys didn’t put good stuff on video or they were beaten out.”