It is with no great pleasure that I write that this game, this season, this outcome has to be the end of Neal Brown and his tenure at West Virginia. I recognize that he is a good man, a family man with a wife and young kids and that he is trying. I don’t believe he is actively trying to lose nor do I think he has done anything to besmirch the name of West Virginia University but after another embarrassing road defeat, this time to the only team in conference without a conference win and one of the most inept offenses in the country, it’s time. This isn’t some country bumpkin writing this either as other writers who cover the school, cover the sport and sit in on all the interviews are saying the same thing, including Bob Hertzel.
For the Mountaineers, he is currently 3-6 and 20-24. He would need to win out and win a bowl game just to a) break into the 7 win mark for the first time ever at WVU, get his overall record to .500 and finish with a record above .500 for just the second time in his tenure. It’s a tall ask considering. The loss yesterday ensured that WVU would finish with at least 6 losses for the third time in four years. The last time that was true was the late 70s with Cignetti, who’s name is more closely associated with Brown than any other head coach.
I Feel Bad For The Players
Think of players like Dante Stills, Sam James, Bryce Ford-Wheaton, and others who were on the 2018 team and got to experience the high of being ranked, being highly ranked, being in contention early and then having to endure a coaching change as a freshman. The school changed coaches and brought in someone that was a complete opposite, including the record and wins. No more being ranked. Very few big wins. No night games. These players have endured losing football way too much and some of them this is goign to be the end of their football days. They weren’t developed into the players they should have or could have become.
Dante Stills and Sam James are etching their names into the history books. Stills is now the all-time leader in tackles for loss and games played. James is 5th all time in receptions, but neither has etched their name in single game performances or single season performances. Neither is in the top 10 on single game charts anywhere. Even Evan Staley and Casey Legg, are barely on the top 10 charts for career field goals and Staley got to play for a full five seasons and Legg is currently on his fifth season.
Even so, the players deserve better than what they are getting and they deserve better than what they’ve gotten. The fans have always supported the players and it hasn’t been about them.
Raise your hand if you signed up for the following stats from a five-star QB this offseason:
2,042 yards, 61.3%, 6.5 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 14 sacks, 3 passing plays over 40 yards. I remind you that LAST YEAR, I wrote that Will Grier AVERAGED a 50 yard pass play, PER GAME.
I don’t know what the deal is with Daniels, but he just looks off. His deep ball lacks deep and his accuracy is not there. He often underthrows receivers and I’m not sure if that is by design or because he doesn’t think his receivers can get open. I thought Garrett Greene threw a better deep ball than he did yesterday. Daniels has exactly one game over 300 yards as a Mountaineer. He has three games under 200 yards. He has two more than are under 225 yards (214 against Pitt, 203 against Virginia Tech). He has three games with more than one passing touchdown and two of those came in the first two games of the year (Pitt and Kansas). This experiment hasn’t worked. I watched the BFW double move in the second quarter live and saw the double move. I saw Wheaton was open. I screamed THROW IT. He did and it feel just out of the reach of Wheaton’s hands incomplete. That throw, that play has to be a big play. It has to go for 30-40 yards and that has been a problem all year.
Middle part of the year the defense was a problem - against the Texas Longhorns, but since then the Mountaineers have entered halftime with the following scores:
17-3 Texas Tech
The Texas Tech game was an onslaught early but the defense then stiffened up and held the Red Raiders down giving the team a chance. The defense has given the team a chance to win each game and it isn’t being taken advantage of. Against the Cyclones for three quarters the game was 10-7, a one score game until the defense broke. I don’t blame the defense given that the offense refused to put up any sort of effort. The offense had NINE three-and-outs. It had 12 possessions in the game. You can’t win if you can’t generate any sort of offense and asking the defense to continually keep you in games, which is what this staff has done for the past four years is unacceptable.
I’ll be honest, the future of West Virginia football looks bleak but as you can see, it only takes a short time to turn things around. I do not believe for one second we don’t have talented players on this team and I certainly don’t believe West Virginia is the worst team in the conference. If (actually when) Brown is released, who should be the interim coach? Most people thought it would be Harrell but I don’t see how you can give him the head mantle after the way his offenses have looked - side bar are they actually his offenses? This offense looks strangely like the ones we’ve seen the past three years. You can’ give him to Lesley who’s unit is partially why this team is as bad as it is. Can you give it to a smaller positional coach, maybe like Chad Scott the running backs coach? Or do you give it to Jeff Casteel, who is on staff as a analyst. Casteel would seem to be the obvious choice and could potentially help keep players here from checking out. It will be something to monitor.
Let’s end with this, if Brown is let go this week, what would you consider his signature win? A signature win doesn’t have to be a big win, just what is the one win that you think defines his victories? What loss defines his defeats? Which game checked you out of the Brown era and what is your number one thing you want for the next coach?