“For us to play winning football, we have to identify ourselves as a blue-collar unit,” Brown said.
That was the message the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers preached to his team all week. They were not good enough against the Missouri Tigers to stroll onto the field and simply show up and win. The Tigers proved as they scored 31 points in the first half in a thorough 38-7 pantsing.
“I’m very disappointed in our performance, but I’m not discouraged”, Brown said following that loss. He followed up those statements with his Tuesday press conference where he promised changes among the depth chart and often touted a players “toughness.”
“I think he’s a tough guy. We lack some toughness right now,” he said of running back Leddie Brown. “You’ve got to go seek contact.”
The Mountaineers displayed that toughness as they quickly jumped out to 7-0 lead against N.C. State Wolfpack, using an uptempo offense that caught the ‘Pack off-guard. NC State would answer with a touchdown of their own before the Mountaineers once again struck paydirt.
As the first half wore on and Brown tried to keep his defense fresh, he slowed the offensive tempo. The Wolfpack took advantage of this and towards the end of the first half it was 21-14 and the Mountaineers looked like they had used all of their tricks too early.
Brown and the team reached down into that ethic and produced a touchdown drive that ended with quarterback Austin Kendall finding Florida State transfer wide receiver George Campbell for his third touchdown of the season. The score was now 21-21 and the Mountaineers had regained both their swagger and the momentum.
In the second half, the Mountaineers embraced that mantra and held the Wolfpack to 97 yards of total offense on 2.3 yards per play. The offense produced a 4 minute drive that gave the Mountaineers a field goal lead to start the second half. The defense responded with an immediate three-and-out and cost State 2 yards.
The product that West Virginia put on the field was a team that rushed for 173 yards on 6.2 yards per carry, after combining for 64 yards in its first 8 quarters. What you saw on the field was a team that had four different players have a rush for over 15 yards after being the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision who had failed to produce a 10-yard rush through 2 games. What you saw on the field was redshirt freshman Sam James catch 9 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown on his way to being named Newcomer of the Week in the Big 12.
Neal Brown was faced with a crossroads after the Missouri loss and he dug down deep into the roots of West Virginia, drawing on the blue-collar ethic of the state and the team and produced the most satisfying win for a team that needed it.