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What I Think After That Brawl

It wasn’t pretty but it was a win, the first win over Pitt since 2011!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Pitt at West Virginia Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I want to say first that I am happy. I’m happy for a win over our rival. I’m happy to see 61,000 fans on my television screaming, cheering, chanting and being excited. I’m happy this game was at night, that the air was crisp and cool and felt like football weather and for the first time in a long time, Mountaineer fans got to remember just why they love West Virginia Football. I think if you could bottle up that feeling you had leading up to the game and after the game was over, and you could sell that, you’d have more money than anyone on this plant. That feeling - THAT FEELING - is special.

Defense

I have been hyper critical of our defense and I refuse to apologize for that. I expect Mountaineer football to be tough, physical, hard-nosed and gritty. It is who we are as a fanbase, it is who we are as a people, it is who we are as a state and if you can’t embody that, go away. As I watched Pitt ram it down our throats in the first drive, I thought to myself “Fire Jordan Lesley. Fire him now. He should never be allowed to wear the colors again”. Pitt physically dominated us. They ran right down our backs. It wasn’t “trickeration” it was old school power football. And they won it.

What’s funny is that first drive went 11-plays, 67 yards and resulted in a field goal and Pitt’s only lead of the game. 67 yards. All runs. The Panthers finished - FINISHED - with 130 yards on the ground, meaning for the remaining 45+ minutes of the game, the Panthers couldn’t even reach their first drive total. It wasn’t for a lack of trying - the Panthers attempted 36 rushes, they just did not find success after that first drive.

Passing wise - the jury is still out. Some of you, especially those of you with the blue-and-gold glasses who get mad at me every week for not fluffing pillows, will say “But 3 interceptions and 81 passing yards!”. To that I say, Phil Jurkovec is a worse quarterback than the quarterback on the little league football team in my neighborhood. He gifted interceptions and missed easy throws. In the past two games - against WVU and Cincinnati - he’s completed 18 passes in 52 attempts for 260 yards. 52 attempts to get to 260 yards!

If the defense can show up the next two weeks, I’ll be a believer. But until then, I’m not holding my breath.

Nicco Marchiol

As the four-star quarterback on campus, fans have been clamoring for Nicco to start and get playing time. Last year, people wanted to see him play, in fact there were some fans who didn’t want to go get JT Daniels and were willing to ride the season with a true freshman under center. This year, as a redshirt freshman, Marchiol was behind Garrett Greene and it wasn’t very close, but now the program has handed him the reigns and will be looking to him for guidance.

In his second game with significant action, he completed 6 of 9 passes for 60 yards and 1 touchdown. It’s not exactly lighting the world on fire, but to Marchiol’s credit the Mountaineers are now 4-0 when he throws a pass in a game. It’s hard to make full assumptions on Marchiol as his skillset is different than that of Greene and gameplans are set days in advance. If Greene is out next week, we should get to see Marchiol with a full gameplan and plays designed around his skillsets.

Can Nicco handle the pressure? Can he make the throws? Can he win a game when he has to? All of those questions will likely be answered in the coming weeks but for now, praise Marchiol for coming into a heated rivalry game and delivering. HE didn’t make the big mistake. He didn’t cost his team a chance. He handled the pressure and delivered a win.

Garrett Greene

The initial estimates on Greene is that he has a high ankle sprain. We have not heard official word, so this is mere speculation, but that appears to be the injury he suffered. If it is a high ankle sprain, Greene could essentially be done for the season. Last year, the average return time for NFL players was 11 weeks.

I feel bad for Greene. This was the concern with him was his slight build was going to get him hurt at some point in time. I’m not sure you can blame his build here, but fans worried about Greene getting injured. If Greene is able to return, he should get his starting spot back. It may depend on the record of the team. If Marchiol leads the team to multiple wins and has us in bowl contention, can you take that away? What if he just had his best game as a quarterback? Do you remove him then? Ultimately, I think this is Greene’s team and he hasn’t done anything to lose his job and unless Marchiol sets the world on fire, it should be Greene’s team when he returns.

Neal Brown

I am willing to give Brown credit - something I don’t do much of. Faced with a fanbase who was on the verge of turning on him, in a game he absolutely needed to win, with a quarterback who hadn’t won the starting job and was still a young boy, Brown pivoted from his usual stance and worked on plays that worked for Nicco.

I always go back to Eli Manning, the year he was first drafted by the Chargers and traded to the Giants in 2004. Kurt Warner, despite his play at every other stop in his career, was not good in the 9 games he played for the Giants. After a while, it became apparent that Manning needed to play and eventually he was given the starting job. It came at the worst time in his career, playing against the Falcons, Eagles, Redskins (now Commanders), and Ravens. All four teams owned top defenses at the time and it was like throwing a baby to the wolves. Manning struggled. When he played the Ravens, Manning was 4 of 18 for 27 yards. The next week, against the Steelers, Manning was 16/23 for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns. The turnaround was amazing given how poorly Manning looked against the Ravens and it all came down to his offensive coordinator having a conversation with him and getting a list of plays Manning felt he knew and could audible in and out of, decipher between defenses, and knew where to throw the ball.

I tell you that story because Brown essentially did all of that, on the fly with Marchiol. Rather than stick to the gameplan of what he was going to call for Greene, Brown talked, tweaked, remembered and gathered the plays that Marchiol knew and worked off of those. In his post-game press conference, Brown admitted those plays took up half a piece of paper, but that was all it took. That’s the base that Marchiol is starting from and Brown to his credit didn’t try to force everything into the same square hole, he used all of his skills to win this game.

Schedule

Last night’s game didn’t fully inspire me to believe that this team has the capability to win the necessary games to ensure Brown keeps his job. Last night was ugly. 60 passing yards won’t cut it and our secondary isn’t going to face the worst starting quarterback in college on a nightly basis. But, as you look around the conference, we can all admit the Big 12, well its what Pitt eats. It’s butt y’all. Absolute butt. So the question is - how many conference games can Brown win? Teams listed below with their passing offense rank and rushing defense rank in parenthesis.

Texas Tech (40/85)

TCU (23/9)

Houston (67/113)

Oklahoma State (93/101)

UCF (16/54)

BYU (75/38)

Oklahoma (7/16)

Cincinnati (29/46)

Baylor (56/106)

Run through that schedule looking at those numbers and tell me who you think we beat. Now once you have that number here’s my next question to you - If Greene is done for the year or can’t return until late, does that affect your position or feeling on Brown. Does playing Marchiol give him a pass? Does having your starting quarterback go down for an extended period of time and losing games give him a pass?

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