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What I Think After Neal Brown Restores Pride in West Virginia

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The head coach laid down the law and the team responded with their best performance of the young season

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

After James Madison, I thought that the team was in trouble, but it was a new coach and a new scheme. The team would look better the next week, but then the team traveled to Missouri but stayed in Morgantown. They looked disinterested and got steamrolled. Now, not only was I worried, the realistic possibility of a double-digit loss season was in play. The head coach said all the right things and apparently did all the right things during the week because the team responded the way a good team does when it is challenged.

I Think The Offensive Line Was Mean

It was finally good to see an offensive line push people around and open up holes for the running backs. You could see it more and more as the game wore on and the backs were picking up 3, 4, 5, or more yards nearly every time they touched the ball. When a team can begin to wear down an opponent, especially a good opponent like the Wolfpack, then you can begin to dream about bigger things. I was convinced that we were not going to get a good performance when it was announced that starters Mike Brown and Josh Sills were out with an illness and injury and new starters were going to get their trial-by-fire, but Briason Mays at center, along with John Hughes and James Gmiter helped pave the way for a team that rushed for 173 yards at 6.2 yards per carry.

I Think Sam James Has Arrived

I questioned last week why we threw to Sam James early and then somehow forgot about him for the remainder of the game. This week, we kept James in the game by throwing to him all game. He ended the game with 9 catches, 155 yards and a touchdown. On his first catch of the game, he displayed speed and toughness as he powered his way in for the first score of the game. Standing at only 6’-0” (according to the school website), he played much bigger and faster than he is listed. The way that James is playing, you can see why coaches were high on him coming out of Georgia.

On the second drive of the game, the Mountaineer coaches got James loose on a jet sweep and James, who was a high school track standout, displayed his wheels as he raced down the sideline. Had it not been for a safety with the angle, James would have scored twice.

I Think Austin Kendall is Damn Lucky

This may come off as harsh for a guy who threw for 272 yards and 3 touchdowns, but Kendall has made well over half a dozen throws that should have been picked the last two games. Against Missouri his first pass was nearly picked off. In this game, I counted as least three that should have been picked. Thankfully, so far, Kendall has had defensive players crash into each other, or had his receivers fight for the ball and hasn’t had the meltdown but he does need to get much better with his ball placement.

I Think Vic Koenning Is Amazing

I Think The PAT Kneel Down Was Strange

I said it on Twitter, so I’ll say it here just so that I can fully explain myself without the character limitations. I fully understand why Neal and company chose not to kick the PAT once Leddie Brown scored to put the Mountaineers up 44-27. The Mountaineers were up 17 at that point, requiring NC State to score 3 times in order to tie or win the game. If NCSt found a way to block the point-after try and return it for 2, they would only be down 15 points, meaning two touchdowns and two successful two-point conversions would win the game. I fully get all of that. I do. I simply think this feels like we overthought it. Are we going to not kick the PAT when we are up 9 and the same scenario (a blocked PAT returned for 2 cuts the lead to 7 meaning a touchdown and 2-point conversion loses the game) presents itself? I would actually support that scenario. This particular one feels like we didn’t trust the team. There were 3 minutes left and while nothing is guaranteed, we had stymied the Wolfpack the entire second half and with three minutes left, they hadn’t shown they were capable of mounting two touchdown drives.

All that said, I am glad we have a coach who is able to coach and manage the game. I am glad we have someone who is thinking about these situations and playing the odds. I am glad that he listened to the higher math geeks and more so I am glad that we can rely on him to think about all the possibilities, rather than just score more than the other team.

I Think This Game Changed My Outlook

Going into the game, I knew that this one game would basically determine how I viewed the rest of the season. If they responded poorly to the ass-kicking they took in Missouri, you risked a mutiny and one of, if not the worst season in WVU history. But, if Neal was able to get through to the team and get them to play with passion and intensity, then maybe a bowl game possible and even if it isn’t, we now know the team can and will play hard.

Friday night, Kansas steamrolled Boston College and ended a 48-game road losing streak. Les Miles, in only three games at Kansas, has the team playing tougher and more physical than any of the coaches that followed Mangino. If the Mountaineers had faltered against the Wolfpack, then the Kansas game was absolutely no gimme and then October looked more like the end of the season but now we have hope. Hope is a good thing for a team faced with a Year Zero Reset and right now HCNB has delivered that hope.