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Neal Brown came to WVU with a small school mentality in 2019. Sadly, very little has changed over the last 4 plus years. Neal cut his teeth as a head coach at Troy University from 2015 - 2018. During that time, his teams became known for punching above their weight class. They nearly defeated Clemson in 2016, knocked off ranked LSU in 2017, and Nebraska in 2018. Their recipe for success in Troy, stop me if you’ve heard this before, was win the time of possession and hold on for dear life once they got the lead. In those games, Troy was frequently outgained but managed to hold on to the lead by shortening the game & not allowing the other team a chance to get the ball. That’s a great game plan if you’re an G5 school getting paid to play a P5 school. When you’re the head coach of a P5 school, especially in a conference known for ridiculous offenses, it’s living life on the razor’s edge.
WVU fans have become accustomed to putting up points in bunches from Rich Rodriguez’s arrival in 2001 until Dana Holgorsen’s departure in 2018, with 3 lean years under Jeff Mullen. Those offenses, especially Rich & Dana’s were known for putting their foot on the throats of other teams and continuing to score points in bunches to put the games out of reach. Neal is known for taking his foot off the gas immediately after getting a lead and hoping for the best. Chris Anderson from 247 sports broke down our offense this season when we’re losing vs when we are tied or have the lead.
#WVU fans asked, and I'm sorry I had to answer - The Mountaineers offense vs FBS opponents when losing vs when winning/tied.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) October 23, 2023
More on the Country Roads Confidential podcast --> https://t.co/9bKFaNCN3G pic.twitter.com/lAQry7K0GN
To me, that looks like a play caller that goes into an uber-conservative shell the second we get the lead, playing not to lose rather than playing to win. As I said before, that’s not the worst philosophy when you’re a G5 school trying to pull off a big upset but not a great strategy week in & week out in the Big 12.
As we’ve seen the last two weeks, the offense can move the ball through the air a lot more than we anticipated at the beginning of the season and can put up points in bunches when necessary. Over the rest of the season, WVU faces the following offenses:
UCF - 33.9 PPG (T-38)
BYU - 27.6 PPG (73)
Oklahoma - 43.1 PPG (4)
Cincinnati - 27 PPG (75)
Baylor - 23.1 PPG (97)
For reference, WVU averages 29.3 PPG, good for 62nd in the nation. In our three losses this season, we’ve averaged 29.3 PPG, while in our wins against P5 teams, we’ve averaged 20.3 PPG (that average jumps to 29.3 PPG if we include the Duquesne game). As those numbers show, the only team Neal felt comfortable keeping his foot on the gas for was Duquesne. Against P5 competition, he’d rather go into a shell for fear of making a mistake and giving away the game.
If WVU hopes to swing the momentum back to our team over the last 5 weeks of the season, Neal is going to have to get rid of the small school mentality, get out of his comfort zone, and take a much more aggressive approach on the offensive side of the ball.