The West Virginia Mountaineers are moving backwards. There is no other way to say it or describe it, the team is absolutely regressing right now. It’s not fun to watch and no one wants the head coach to fail, but holy cow this is bad guys. A first year that was supposed to be a complete rebuild was held together with duct tape and band-aids and got us to 5 wins. Last year, with COVID, we managed to scrape together 6 wins. 7-8 wins was on the table for this year if we were making steady progress. I think progress is out the window right now and just getting back to square one is the objective now.
The Defense Quit
There is no two ways around it, the defense got down early against Baylor and they quit. I assume they are frustrated and I assume they knew that if they didn’t play perfect, the team had no chance and when the dam’s burst, they often burst catastrophically. That is what you saw Saturday. The defense did not want to be out there. It was hot. It was far away. It was a hostile environment and Baylor’s offense creates confusion. It doesn’t do a lot of things in terms of play calls, but it shifts, motions, and creates doubt with all of its formations that the defense just never got comfortable. Being uncomfortable meant a defense that saw that the game was over early and it just, quit.
Now Neal Brown has to fix two sides of the ball. We already knew that he had to fix that offense but now he has to get the defense to buy back in. that may be something he is able to do in the TCU week but if that offensive game plan goes out the door, how do you tell Dante Stills to keep giving you 100% when no one on the other side is helping?
This isn’t 2013
I keep seeing on Twitter, Facebook and other social media pages that “Dana Holgorsen lost 8 games in his third year”. Yes, that is a factual statement. It is also true that 2013 was a bad year because of the quarterback play. That, however, is where the comparisons end.
2013 was the first year after Geno Smith - the all-time passing leader for WVU - left. It was the first year after Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey - the #1 and #2 receptions leaders at WVU - left the program. It also saw the loss of defensive players like Pat Miller and Terence Garvin. So West Virginia was playing a new quarterback, new receivers while also still learning a new conference. West Virginia struggled in 2013, as Paul Millard wasn’t the answer, Clint Trickett wasn’t ready and Ford Childress got hurt. So what happened when Dana inserted Trickett? First - he upset Oklahoma State - but then there were growing pains. The offense sputtered at times. The offense also put up points. Dana played freshmen and sophomores. Wendell Smallwood played 12 games and had 39 carries. Daikel Shorts had 45 catches. Nick Kwiatkoski led the team in tackles.
I keep seeing that the Mountaineers are young. They are in spots. They are not young in the most important spot - quarterback. That alone is the biggest difference between 2013 and 2021. On offense you have a redshirt senior quarterback. A senior running back. Three junior wide receivers. A redshirt junior tight end. There is age on offense. It just isn’t performing.
What Really Is On the Table
Neal Brown alluded that “everything is on the table” in terms of fixing this team following the bye week. That presumes that every starting position will be a competition in the next two weeks and it absolutely should be. No starting spot should be safe. However, is it just the college kids who should be worried?
Can we talk about the coaches? No, not Neal Brown, because he isn’t going anywhere. But in college, assistant positions are not secure. If your team is failing, you need to look at position coaches and see why they are failing. The offensive line is the weak link on the team right now and Matt Moore’s position as Offensive Line Coach should 100% be discussed. Is anyone better after three years in this program? Why has Doug Nestor regressed?
What about Sean Reagan - the quarterbacks coach. Its year three and we are still complaining about the quarterbacks. Do you want Reagan working with Crowder and Marchiol?
What about Gerad Parker? I think you can make an argument that the receivers are better but he is also listed offensive coordinator. If the offense is bad, should he remain?
Players - are players going to remain when they see a season going down the drain?
These are all conversations that need to be had during the bye week and tough decisions need to be made. If the staff is too loyal to friends, that is a problem that must be addressed. If it won’t be addressed, the fans will let the staff know soon where they stand with them.
The elephant on the team is the quarterback position. Fans are rabid at this point on every Doege interception, or sack or any miscue. Its really not fair for Jarret but here we are. The fans expect and deserve better. A bye week is the perfect time to make a change. It gives Greene two weeks to practice with the first team and hopefully time to put in plays that give you a better chance.
I don’t think it will happen. I hate writing that because at this point, I want a QB change. I want to see something different than the same [stuff] we’ve seen for the past 6 games. I think, however, that Brown will not make a change until we are officially eliminated from bowl contention. That means at least three more games and can you imagine the crowd for Oklahoma State (Also Major Harris’ #9 Retirement) if the team is sitting at 2-6 and hoping Doege is going to see a lightbulb and become a different player? Not good fam.
I thought Greene looked good against Baylor and I can see that there are things he needs to work on. It wouldn’t be interesting to see if the staff can actually plan around him and plan for him.
Trusting The Climb
Let’s take the phrase off the table for a second and talk realistically about this whole item of progress, because that’s what we’re being asked to be patient for. Be patient with progress. Okay, I get that. But, as fans - or fanatics - being patient is hard. And we need to see actual progress. Whether or not you are a die hard fan who 100% supports the coach and the players and the staff or if you are someone who is frustrated and wants to have a reason to be happy on Saturdays, the fact is how much longer can we wait. Some have said that they wouldn’t judge Brown until X number of years (3, or 4, or 5). If you can fully wait five years to make a judgement, I applaud you. I think there are things he is doing really well.
He is absolutely doing well recruiting.
He has brought it in some top talent at positions we normally don’t see.
He has created an identity that fits more with our state’s personality of hard-working.
He is a good ambassador for the school, the state, and the team.
He appears to really care for his players and is working to make them well rounded individuals both on and off the field.
All of that is great, but it means nothing if you go 4-8.
Next year, if Nicco Marchiol remains committed, will see a four-star quarterback step onto the team. He likely needs a redshirt so 2022 is probably not going to be much better unless Crowder or Greene take the reigns and completely go bananas. 2023 would have Nicco as a RS-FR and I would expect growing pains. We might be good, but we don’t be great would be my expectation. That means we are looking at 2024 before anything real and is 2024 the next time we want to be good? I mean really good? I mean rankings, night games, feverish crowds.