I thought what we put on tape today was West Virginia football.
That’s what Neal Brown said after the TCU Horned Frogs game, sounding like a proud papa who finally saw his son do the things he spent an entire summer working on and seeing it click. You can make the argument that Saturday was the best game of the Neal Brown era as it was a completely thoroughly dominating performance both on offense and defense.
Home / Road Splits
In their four home Big 12 conference games the defense has gotten better and better each week. 21 points against Baylor Bears became 17 points against Kansas Jayhawks which became 10 points against Kansas State Wildcats which just became 6 points against the TCU Horned Frogs. On the flip side, the defense gave up 27 and 27 (34) points on the road to Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Tech Red Raiders. They did hold the Texas Longhorns to 17 points. They’ve scored 56, 27, 38, 37 and 24 points at home but only 13, 27, and 13 on the road.
Can it be as simple as the two best teams they’ve played (OSU and TEX) came on the road this season and the worst teams they’ve played came at home? Sure. Kansas State was ranked at the time but lost to OSU and likely is going to lose to ISU and TEX. K-State could finish under .500.
In everything that comes with 2020, it is nice to be good at home at least.
West Virginia Football
According to the head coach, this is what West Virgina football is about. It’s hard to deny because this is exactly how really good football teams operate. We don’t have to be flashy but we can be suffocating. When this team wins, it grabs an early lead and then becomes a boa constrictor. It slowly squeezes and snuffs the life out of you. (Semantic tangent because I’m a nerd - boa constrictors kill in seconds by obstructing blood flow. They literally stop the blood flow. So, not “slowly”).
Baylor is the only team to “come back” once the Mountaineers have gained a lead. Every other team the Mountaineers have scored a touchdown and gotten ahead, they’ve controlled the game, just how teams with really good defenses do.
If this is the type of progream that Neal plans to build, we can all get behind it. It isn’t flashy, it isn’t glitz and glam, but it is hard working and it is blue collar.
With the Mountaineers up 24-6, I do not understand why the starters were still in the game. I understand it was not the typical 55-0 game where you can bring in your backups but the game was in hand. You can bring Greene in and let him hand off. You can bring Kendall in and let him hand off. I can buy not running Greene since you may have something planned for Oklahoma but you could at least bring him in and let him get some experience.
Now, let’s talk about the overall backup situation. The receivers seem to be fairly deep as we continue to see 7 or 8 players catch a ball every game. Nearly every other position, however, does not see the rotation. Leddie Brown carries the majority of the time. The offensive line rarely sees rotation. The defense almost never rotates bodies. At some point that is going to catch up with players, either this year or next but it will.
There are a couple different thoughts on Jarret Doege. He is absolutely a game-manager, and I mean that in an extremely complimentary way. Doege does not throw interceptions, he does not fumble the ball, he takes care of the ball and he can hurt you on certain throws. He cannot stress a defense vertically but he can take advantage of open zones and throwing windows and he has the ability to open those windows with movement and fakes.
Now, there is a question that comes with him. Under the previous regime, quarterbacks saw a SIGNIFICANT jump in performance from year one to year two. You have to assume there will be improvement but will it be significant or will it just be a more thorough understanding of the system? Will COVID have an impact on that improvement. Brown has earned the right to dictate who will be his quarterback and how that improvement takes place but it is something to keep in the back of your head as we enter the offseason in the next few months.
ESPN has us in the Liberty Bowl against Tennessee or Kentucky.
CBS has us in the First Responders Bowl against UT-San Antonio.
Athlon has us in the Liberty Bowl against Kentucky.
That appears to be our most likely landing spot, the Liberty or the First Responders. If we get the Liberty, we are going to get a SEC team and likely get a team would be a fun one-off.
More importantly than making a bowl is getting those bowl practices. Getting that time to prepare and strategize and plan and get players playing time and extra time in the system. Winning a bowl game would go a very long way in cementing the climb and with this team and this defense, you have to think we could win either of those matchups.