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Neal Brown Press Conference Week 4: Big 12 Opener

The head coach of the Mountaineers explained the importance of continued improvement against Kansas.

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

Coming off the first “big win” of his tenure, West Virginia football head coach Neal Brown continues to want to see improvement from his team. Now, the conference season is here and the Mountaineers face a much-improved Kansas team, which beat Boston College for the program’s first Power Five road win since 2008.

Opening

Started by offering condolences to Alex Miller and the Roane County community. Wearing maroon and silver in his honor. Wanted to let everyone there know that they are in our thoughts.

N.C. State recap:

  • “It was Solid three-phase win for us verses a solid program… It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we played the game the right way.”
  • “Our crowd played a huge factor in the game.”

Special teams:

  • “Penalties hurt us.” Got beat with the fake punt. In retrospect, we should have left the defense on the field.”
  • Misplayed the KO return to start the second half.
  • “In punt return game, we’ve gotta do better to provide good coverage for our returners.”
  • “Josh had his best game punting… Staley was really solid on kickoffs… I thought our coverage units were strong.”

Defense:

  • “We had a couple of selfish penalties in the first half that extended drives.”
  • Zero takeaways.
  • Responded well to the sudden-changes. No points from the fake punt.
  • “We limited their big plays, won on third down and I think we created some negative plays.”

Offense:

  • “We’ve gotta be better on third down and be better hitting our shot plays.”
  • Run game was better; 6.2 YPC, over 170 yards rushing.
  • 100 percent in the red zone.
  • Perimeter blocking was a lot better.

Weekly Awards:

  • Scout team players: “If your scout teams have really good weeks, the play on the field is good.”
  • Scout Offense POTW: Brandon Yates and Elijah Drummond
  • Scout Defense: Adam Hensley “did a really good job getting of getting our guys prepared”
  • Scout Special Teams: Isaiah Esdale “had a good week and that resulted him getting playing time”
  • Community Service: Reese Donahue “really for the past two weeks”
  • OL of the Week: Colton McKivitz “had 43 production points, graded out 93 percent.” Of note: “Chase Behrndt had his best game I’ve seen.”
  • Special Teams POTW: Dante Bonamico “started on all four core units and had a huge tackle on the fake punt… Great job in coverage on punt team.”
  • Defensive POTW: Dante Stills, “I thought he was disruptive. I think you’re starting to see some of the signs of what he can be.”
  • Offensive POTW: Sam James, “of course.”

“It needs to be a foundational win for us and we’ve got to continue to get better.”

Previewing Kansas:

“As you all know, they’re coming off a really impressive win over Boston College, a traditionally physical team. Coach Miles and his staff have done a really good job so far.”

Special Teams:

  • “Punter (Kyle) Thompson is good, ranks in the top.”
  • “(Jamahl) Horne is a threat as a returner… leads the Big 12 as well.”

Offense:

  • “Offense is multiple. Last week, they looked completely different.”
  • “The use a mix of spread, tempo and RPO and what Miles has done in his previous stops at LSU and Oklahoma State.”
  • “Have known Carter Stanley for a long time.”
  • “They have two of the best running backs in our league. They’re fast, hard to tackle and they do a good job getting them in space.”
  • “(Andrew) Parchment at receiver is good, I recruited him at Troy.”
  • Thought biggest improvement in last week’s game was their O-line.”

Defense:

  • “(KU defensive coordinator) DJ Elliot and I worked at UK for two years.”
  • “Their numbers in the first three games have been impressive.”
  • Nickel back no. 1 (Bryce Torneden) is very active, plays the game with a lot of energy”
  • The safety no. 12 (Jeremiah McCullough) covers a lot of ground and is really physical.”

“For us, we’ve got to handle the trip better than the first trip we had.”

“We are excited to start Big 12 play.”

Questions

On rotating the offensive line:

  • “We definitely have more confidence, I think they had more confidence, within in the unit.” If Mike (Brown) is better, we’ll have seven to rotate. Waiting to hear on Josh (Sills).”

If he has reached out to family of Alex Miller, Roane County football player who passed away Friday:

  • “I left a message for the coach yesterday… It’s why I broke out some old Troy shirts today and got the maroon on. We’ve got a couple things planned as well.”

How they scheme differently for the offensive line:

  • “You’re gonna scheme each and every week. We’ve gotta do some things to put our guys in good position. Against Missouri, we just missed some one-on-one blocks.”
  • “Our scout team got us ready last week.
  • “We’ve gotta focus on Tuesday and Wednesday on blocking at full speed and getting better fundamentally.”

On the road woes:

  • “I bet it’ll be a really good atmosphere, there’s a lot of excitement with Coach Miles being there and I’m sure they’ll be excited after their win.”
  • “It’s about having a mature approach. Football players are so routine-oriented, and when you go on the road, you get out of routine.
  • “I don’t know if the travel had so much to do with (the loss at Missouri) as much as it was us not executing.”

Do the coaching staffs have similar mindsets heading into this week?

  • “You’d have to ask Kansas that.”
  • “You have what you do in your base schematics, but you’re always altering that. We’re trying to keep, for our o-line and QBs, the picture pretty similar, but dress it up everywhere else. For them, they’re going to try to get the ball to their backs.”

What can you do to surprise them?

  • “I think you have to. I’ve said it before, though, it’s a fine line. You want to do enough different things where defenses can’t be keyed in on what you’re doing, but you cant do so much where your kids don’t have enough repetition. Confidence comes from repetition… If you don’t get enough reps, you don’t know the adjustments.”

Status of Sean Ryan

  • “Hopeful for him.”
  • He participated in walk-through yesterday, will be a partial participant Tuesday practice.

Why Colton McKivitz has been so good:

  • “He’s just a worker. He’s the same everyday.”
  • “Consistency is a word in our program and that’s probably the biggest compliment I can give him.”
  • “No matter what, when he steps in this building, we’re going to get consistent effort and consistent execution from him.”

On playing the young kids:

  • “I think it’s something we’re doing out of necessity. As a coach, you’d like to be older, but we’ve gotta play our best guys and our young players have shown they’re it.”
  • “The more they play, the better they’re going to get.”
  • “They just happen to be the best at their positions.”

On the play of Ali Jennings and Winston Wright

  • Ali for sure will play again this week.
  • Wright, will be evaluated during practice this week.

On managing 17-year-old defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson

  • “He’s really young… Size wise, he’s ready physically.”
  • “We have to be careful with his reps, there’s no doubt.”

On previous meetings with Les Miles:

  • “I played him when I was at Troy… a game I’d like to forget, honestly.”
  • “I just got to know him really at the Big 12 meetings, but I always respected him from afar. “
  • “Played him at Kentucky in 04… played him when I was OC at Troy and they beat us in 08.”

What kind of offense does KU play?

  • “Offensively, they’re, in one context, very spread, RPO and tempo; in the other, they’re very power, toss-spread.”

The play of Shea Campbell:

“Shea had two weeks in a row of really good practices.”

“In the spring, he only got to practice two days in pads. It probably took him until the Missouri week to get back to game fitness… He’s a smart football player.”

“He looked really fresh and quick on Saturday.”

Why didn’t Martell Pettaway play much on Saturday?

  • Pettaway is not in the doghouse.”
  • “We didn’t use our two-back packages because we didn’t think it made sense against NC State,” so they didn’t have a need to have two running backs in the backfield.”
  • “We started Sinkfield, then Kennedy got hot and we felt Leddie could wear them down at the end.”

On what makes Khalil Herbert and Pooka Williams Jr. so good:

  • “They’re north-south runners; they put their foot in the ground and get upfield quick.”
  • “As we go through the league, we’ll be hard-pressed to find a better duo.”
  • “They’re patient… In particular, Pookah does a really good job kinda hanging, then getting vertical.”

Why they use diagonal snaps to the punter

  • “It’s about the block angles. It’s really about geometry.”
  • “When you diagonal the snap, it takes the backside edge rush out of play.”
  • “It doesn’t really make it easier on Josh (Growden), he still takes it square. We just want to take the backside rush away.”

Other notes:

  • Tevin Bush will return to the lineup after the one-game suspension.
  • Mike Brown will return from sickness.
  • Josh Sills’ status is unsure.