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West Virginia v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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What I Think After West Virginia Drops Another One To Penn State

I’ve had some time to sleep on it. Let’s talk about it.

Offense

In the first game of the 2023 season, Neal Brown took over full play-calling duties, and the offense closely resembled the schemes we’ve employed over the past four years. While there were some changes, the sets, plays, and overall strategy remained largely the same.

Penn State boasts the best defense that the West Virginia Mountaineers will face this year, and it’s not even close. Penn State challenged us to throw the ball, and unfortunately, we couldn’t meet that challenge. On a positive note, the Mountaineers managed two 3-and-outs, indicating that the strategy of running the ball and controlling the clock can be effective, especially with the new clock rules.

West Virginia threw the ball 27 times, including six passes during the final drive when the Penn State Nittany Lions played a softer zone defense. Before that final drive, Greene’s stats were 12/21 for 128 yards. During the last drive, he completed 4 out of 6 passes for 34 yards.

Furthermore, while watching the game, it became apparent that there were few explosive plays. The absence of plays that stretch the field was glaring, and according to Chris Anderson at 247, there were zero plays over 40 yards. This has been a recurring issue throughout Brown’s tenure as head coach, with the Mountaineers consistently ranking in the 100s in offensive explosiveness.



That 4th Down Call

Rewatching the play design, I’m not super upset they tried something there, but more in the overall playcall/play-design. On fourth-and-two, West Virginia brings in backup quarterback Nicco Marchiol and put him out wide. West Virginia is in a big set, with “two” receivers, one running back, two tight ends. Penn State crowds the line, expecting some sort of inside run.

Greene, starting in shotgun, moves to under center and and Marchiol motions to quarterback. Then Greene motions out right before the snap.

This image is right as Greene starts to motion. Just pause here. Look at this. Tell me what you think is wrong with the image. Remember, you need two yards and your supposedly fast quarterback with near elite speed is motioning. Also remember that your backup quarterback, who is left-handed is taking this snap.

<Pause to think>

Generally speaking, as a quarterback, it is easier to throw towards your non dominant side than it is to throw to your dominant side. For a right-handed quarterback, he’s going to drop back with his right leg back and the throw towards the left-hash is a quick flick. In order to throw to the right side, he needs to turn his shoulders to make that throw. Now - reverse that thinking with a left-handed quarterback. Why would Greene motion towards the overloaded portion of the defense, when the easier throw is to Marchiol’s right AND there is really one person Greene needs to beat. This play call isn’t that bad, but the play design is atrocious. This is a play call that could result in a touchdown. Greene is fast enough to beat the defender and take this to the house. But not when he’s running into the buzzsaw.

A better play call would have been to have Greene shuffle right and then run a quick out towards the sideline here. Once he’s past the defensive end, he’s got to beat the corner who has shifted up and one slip and he could be gone.



Defense

I’m on record, and I will continue to be on record that Jordan Lesley’s defenses are nothing special and until he proves me differently, I’m going to continue to harp on this. Lesley does nothing, NOTHING, that shows me he can scheme a defense that can win. His guys are constantly out of position and very rarely do they ever create chaos, havoc, confusion or turnovers.

I say all that with the understanding that the defense, by and large, was good enough to win this game.

The defense gave up a quick score early when Burks missed a potential interception. Without anyone else to help deep, that is a dangerous play to make. The defense missed another interception on a tipped pass. They missed a third interception in the end zone. Plays were there to be made, but they were not made.

According to ESPN, West Virginia had 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss and two passes defended - 7 havoc plays in 65 plays on defense. Still, Penn State had one long pass play and a couple of runs over 10 yards but not much else. But not much else defines this defense, which is, its a big rock that gets in the way but nothing else.

The defense doesn’t create turnovers, doesn’t create sacks, doesn’t create interceptions and doesn’t put the team in negative plays. Once you navigate it, you’ve navigated the defense. There is nothing special, there is nothing dangerous, its just out there.

The defense wasn’t bad this game, but it also wasn’t good. The secondary allowed Drew Allar to complete 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns. His backup went 1 for 1 with a touchdown. Penn State ran the ball 35 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Presented Without Context

Neal Brown Contract Details

Year Salary Record Amount Paid Total Wins $ Per Win
Year Salary Record Amount Paid Total Wins $ Per Win
2019 $3,055,000 5-7 $3,055,000 5 $611,000
2020 $2,950,000 6-4 $6,005,000 11 $545,909
2021 $3,150,000 6-7 $9,155,000 17 $538,529
2022 $3,500,000 5-7 $12,655,000 22 $575,227
2023 $4,000,000 4-3 $15,887,876.71 26 $611,072.18

Neal Brown’s Buyouts By Year

Year Salary Buyout
Year Salary Buyout
2022 $3,500,000 $20,200,000
2023 $4,000,000 $16,700,000
2024 $4,100,000 $12,700,000
2025 $4,200,000 $7,310,000
2026 $4,400,000 $3,740,000
Neal Brown’s Buyout Status Jake Lantz

Brown’s buyout number is based on January 1 of that year.

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