I debated writing this post. I have been on record over the years of being a “give people time” type, and often defended Dana when it was not always a popular opinion to do so. (Weirdly, a number of his detractors now fault Shane Lyons for ‘running Dana off.’ Strange, that.) However, after the debacle in Lubbock, I feel the situation is no longer tenable for Neal and his staff.
It’s not just that we lost to Texas Tech. I’ve said many times this season that the parity in this conference makes most games a coin flip. What made today the point of no return, for me anyway, was how we lost. It would have been one thing to lose a close game or lose a game where you felt like there was a pulse, an urgency, a theory of the case. But none of those were present in Lubbock, and instead of building on the momentum from a thrilling win against Baylor, WVU had one of the worst losses of the Neal Brown era.
In so many ways, the loss represented what has been a continued theme for Neal’s four years, one I highlighted in the power rankings released during the week — every time it feels like we are taking a step forward (or, a move upwards on ‘the climb’), we take a step back in some incomprehensible way.
All 22 Losses
|Opponent (Ranking)||Opponent Score||WVU Score|
|Opponent (Ranking)||Opponent Score||WVU Score|
|Oklahoma State (22)||20||13|
|@Oklahoma State (15)||27||13|
|@Iowa State (12)||42||6|
|Oklahoma State (11)||24||3|
I want to be clear. I’ve seen some terrible takes already from certain corners of the internet that are prone to stupid shit — I don’t think that Shane Lyons owes me or anyone else a decision on Neal today, tomorrow, or whenever. Nor do I think Neal is some arch buffoon. By all accounts, he is a tremendously nice guy who cares deeply about the program and the student-athletes, and understands what the program means to everyone involved.
He has been an excellent recruiter who has brought in highly-rated classes and who, for the most part, has had scrappy teams that fought their asses off. He just…doesn’t have it.
I don’t know how to put it any more clearly than that. Way back when another really nice guy, who recruited well, and who I genuinely respected as a human being was in charge of our program I said the same thing following a 21-24 loss at Cincinnati. It took an entire other year of the same mistakes that were prevalent from day one of that regime for a change to be made.
It may take another year for those changes to happen again in Morgantown, but it shouldn’t. Neal has had lots of opportunities to show that he has it, but has never been able to provide proof that he does. Every time he has gotten a big win and looked like he was starting to put some momentum together: BAM, terrible loss.
A lot of fans thought the Kansas game was THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE PROGRAM. It’s pretty clear, even if they’ve hit a rough patch with Jalon Daniels out, that Kansas was a good football team that took us by surprise. That happens. That happens to good coaches. Games like Tech though? Those don’t happen to good coaches. The man has EIGHT losses of 21+ points.
I want to just hone in again on why I felt like the Tech game was the point of no return. It should, by now, be blindingly obvious that our defense, particularly the secondary, is as bad as having swamp ass at Disney in the summer. Like, just absolutely stinky miserable. Even if you didn’t have the stats to prove it, which I do, you can just watch them and go “lord have mercy.” I watch a lot of football. I don’t think I am like some sort of savant about these things but, generally, I can parse what a defense — even really bad ones, like Joe DeForest’s unit — were trying to do. I have not, at any point during this season, figured out what Jordan Lesley is trying to do. They are a mess pre-snap. They are a mess once the ball is snapped. Dudes are constantly out of position, miss tackles, and genuinely look like they’ve never played football. But despite that! DESPITE THE DEFENSE BEING ABSOLUTE SWAMP ASS, they got stops in the first half and gave the offense the opportunity to be in the game.
And what did the offense with vaunted transfer quarterback JT Daniels and highly touted offensive coordinator Graham Harrell do? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Actually worse than nothing. They had an opportunity for a two-fer to get the score to at least 17-9 or 17-17, and instead two turnovers. Not only that, but WVU’s two scripted drives at the beginning of either half were worse than anything Jeff Mullen ever called. Hell, I think the offense was better organized in last year’s bowl game than it was today. And let me tell you, I have never so much hated myself for spending money on a ticket as I did sitting half-drunk through that shitshow.
To be clear, I think JT has an NFL future. I think Graham Harrell is a good coordinator. Both had catastrophically bad days. And in isolation, those things will happen, but the problem has been that specific type of accident has happened repeatedly under Neal.
And it’s not just the catastrophic days happening at the worst possible times, it’s little things. It’s the pre-snap penalties on offense (that make big differences), its the dumb time management, it’s the delay of game after a timeout, and it's the constantly giving your bad defense a shitty hand with weird decisions on kick-offs. Like these are things that were happening in Neal’s first year and they’re still happening this year. We almost hit bingo today actually. The only thing we didn’t have was some kind of absolutely insanely stupid, self-inflicted special teams error, THOUGH WE TRIED REAL HARD.
And it would be one thing for this kind of shambolic shitshow to happen in a guy’s first or second year, maybe even his third — but for it to happen at such a key moment in the FOURTH season, on a long week, against a mediocre opponent? It’s unacceptable.
I love Pat McAfee. I really do. I am so happy for him to get the attention and credit he deserves, but he’s wrong that WVU should be dominating the Big XII. That’s just not a thing, at least in the current iteration of the conference, that we’re going to be able to do regularly. HOWEVER, we should be better than 20-22, and after 42 games, it’s just become obvious: Neal ain’t it.
I think he’s a very nice guy. A great recruiter. An excellent servant of the state and program. But he doesn’t have it and he isn’t going to suddenly get better. So, we have two choices: we can continue with the sunk costs and hope things get better till the buyout gets lower, or we can rip off the band-aid now and try to get ahead of the portal opening.