Fans See Slow Start, Strong Finish As WVU Throttles Kansas

West Virginia running back Leddie Brown has open field on his 87-yard touchdown run (Frank Jansky Photo)

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Fans finally returned to Mountaineer Field on Saturday, and you can guess with lowly Kansas as the opposition, they were expecting to be rocking and rolling early to the beat of the Pride of West Virginia celebrating Mountaineer touchdowns.

Why not? Kansas was 0-3, had lost 50 straight Big 12 road games and the Mountaineers were 2-1 and coming off a Big 12 victory over Baylor and were 22 1/2-point favorites.

But you have to remember that this is 2020 and nothing goes the way it should. Kansas jumped out to a 10-0 lead against a WVU team that closed out the first quarter with minus-16 rushing yards and five dropped passes, to say nothing of a trio of penalties.

A year ago, who knows what the reaction would have been. But this is a Mountaineer different team and Neal Brown knows far more about his squad. He made some alterations to the running game, gave Leddie Brown a dose of You Can’t Tackle Me Juice and turned lose a ferocious defense once again to put together a 38-17 victory over the spunky but overmatched Kansas team.

“I thought our fans were into it. I apologize for not giving them anything to cheer about early. The players and staff, though, responded to adversity. I’m not sure that we would have responded like that last year,” the second-year Mountaineer head coach admitted.

If there were a game ball to hand out, it would be the one that Leddie Brown carried on the play of the game.

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There was 3:35 left in the third quarter, WVU was nursing a seven-point advantage, and it was third-and-one at the Mountaineer 13-yard line. WVU put Brown in to get the first down.

He got a whole lot more, breaking loose up the middle for an 87-yard touchdown run. The last time anyone ran at least 87 yards for a Mountaineer touchdown was a fellow wearing No. 7 named Noel Devine. The last time anyone ran 87 yards for a touchdown as easily as did Brown was never.

The play was right out of the 1920s, just a hand-off up the middle but the line opened a crease big enough for the Brown to go through untouched.

Brown’s eyes had to get as wide as Little Orphan Annie’s, as he sprinted into the clear and went the distance.

“I saw a little crease.” the junior said. “I jumped through it, and then I saw a whole bunch of green field. I just hit it.”

There was no defender in the middle of the field at all. He ran a straight line, looking like an Olympic sprinter.

“When I got to the 30, I started to peek up at the video board and I saw No. 9 was coming,” Brown said, but the Jayhawk defender had no chance.

That was the highlight of the day and will stand as the highlight of his career so far. Brown rushed for 195 yards on 18 carries, 10.7 yards per rush. He scored on rushing touchdown and also on a receiving one, collecting five passes on a day when some wide receivers had the dropsies. Those were good for another 35 yards.

He already – in four games with 515 rushing yards – has surpassed his career high in rushing for a season. Six games lie ahead, and he seems to just be getting started.

West Virginia running back Leddie Brown snares a touchdown pass against Kansas

“Leddie has gotten better as his practice habits have improved,” Neal Brown said. “He’s only going to get better. He’s in the conversation for the best backs in our league”

He has given the Mountaineers a potent running game, which was something they lacked last year, but you can’t just credit him without noting the offensive line is now opening holes through which running backs can run.

The Mountaineers came into the game hoping to connect on some long passes, and Neal Brown didn’t back off what he said about making that effort. The game’s first pass was a long one to T.J. Simmons, which he dropped.

“It’s frustrating not connecting on more of those long passes,” fellow receiver Byrce Ford-Wheaton noted. “I think I have to capitalize on opportunities better.”

That was something he did later in the first quarter when he latched on to a 33-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jarret Doege for WVU’s first score of the game.

Doege had an up-and-down afternoon. He had at least six passes dropped – Brown said it cost at least 75 passing yards – but for the game he finished with 26 of 44 for 318 yards – his first 300-yard game at WVU – with three touchdowns and an interception.

“I thought Doege played much better. The interception he threw was on a screen pass. That’s one he’d like to have back, but he goes for 318 yards,” Brown analyzed. “We tried to throw the ball downfield. Some of them were successful, some weren’t. We have got to continue to get better in that aspect. We’re getting closer.”

While the offense cranked up from the second quarter on, the defense remained a powerful force. Kansas gained only 157 total yards, 95 in the air and 62 on the ground. It had only one offensive touchdown, which came on a deflected pass that should have been intercepted, and added another score late in the game when Pooka Williams ran a kickoff back 92 for a touchdown.

While Leddie Brown was clearly the offensive star, the defense had a monster day from any number of players. Josh Chandler-Semedo had nine tackles and a pass break up. Tykee Smith had eight tackles, two for a loss and pass break up, and Jeffery Pooler had six tackles, four solo, two sacks and two and a half for a loss.

And then there was defensive play of the year, Darius Stills – the nose tackle – laying full out to make a diving interception of a pass tipped by Smith.

Finally, freshman defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor, who the coaches believe is a budding star, had six tackles, five solo, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses.

Home Page forums Fans See Slow Start, Strong Finish As WVU Throttles Kansas

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  • #125733

    MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Fans finally returned to Mountaineer Field on Saturday, and you can guess with lowly Kansas as the opposition, they were expecti
    [See the full post at: Fans See Slow Start, Strong Finish As WVU Throttles Kansas]

    #125828

    I know one thing we really need a field goal kicker.

    #125836

    Staley is very good from 40 and in. Outside that range, he was very good in 2018, but that has fallen off over the last 15 games. Two of his long distance misses were from 50+

    2020:   3-4    0-1

    2019:    8-9    3-8

    2018:    7-7    9-13

    2017:     6-7    0-0

    Inside the 40 he is 24-27 in his career.

    40 and longer, he is 12-22.

    Not sure what the national averages are in those breakdowns.

    #125840

    With 2 misses from 50+ that means he is 12-20 from 40-49.  If all of those were from 49 (they’re not) that would mean the drive stalled out at about the 32 yard line, and maybe as close as the 23.  Getting to about the 30, or even inside the 25, and not being able to consistently put 3 points on the board costs games, or may cost games down the road.

    We do not try that many 50 yarders because he has already shown an inability to hit a high percentage from beyond 40.  I know he does not want to miss and I am sure he tries his best and works hard.  But we need more production from outside the 40.

    #125843

    I am giving the WVU offense the benefit of the doubt at this point.

    I think it is hard to develop any sort of rhythm with all the bye weeks. Once we get to the end of this 5-game stretch, we will know a lot more about this offense — and the WVU team as a whole.

    I just think it’s hard to judge right now with the stop/start nature of the season thus far.

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Home Page forums Fans See Slow Start, Strong Finish As WVU Throttles Kansas

Home Page forums Fans See Slow Start, Strong Finish As WVU Throttles Kansas