Brown Prepares For Senior Day Sendoff
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown has only known most of his current Mountaineer players for 11 months, having taken the job at WVU last January.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had time to develop a special bound with this group, especially the 22 seniors who will be playing their final game at Mountaineer Field this Saturday afternoon when WVU entertains Oklahoma State (noon on ESPN2).
“This senior class has been extremely resilient,” West Virginia’s coach stated. “We’re extremely young, and I think some of our struggles are because of that. The thing I really appreciate about this senior group is that a lot of these guys are playing the best football of their careers – Colton McKivitz, Hakeem Bailey, Keith Washington, Josh Norwood, and those are the ones just right off the top of my head. Those guys have been invested, and I really appreciate that.”
West Virginia’s graduating class includes fifth-year seniors Hakeem Bailey (DB), George Campbell (WR), Shea Campbell (LB), Reuben Jones (DL), Deamonte Lindsay (DB), Colton McKivitz (OL), Josh Norwood (DB), Quondarius Qualls (LB), Rex Sunahara (LS), Brenon Thrift (DL), Devan Wade (CB), Keith Washington (CB), Kelby Wickline (OL) and Stone Wolfley (DL), as well as fourth-year seniors Reese Donahue (DL), Adam Hensley (LB) and Kennedy McKoy (RB).
In addition four fourth-year juniors – Elijah Drummond (FB), Nate Green (DL), Zach Sandwisch (LB) and Eric Sjostedt (OL) – are also graduating and have decided to conclude their WVU careers this season.
“Final home game and senior day for 22 guys,” said Brown. “It will be a special day for them and their families.”
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Oklahoma State brings a 7-3 record and a three-game win streak to Mountaineer Field this Saturday, along with college football’s leading rusher in third-year sophomore Chuba Hubbard, who averages 172.6 rushing yards per game, which is 26 yards per game better than anyone else in the FBS ranks.
“They are playing their best football of the year,” said Brown of the Brown of the Cowboys, who are ranked No. 22 in the latest A.P. poll. “Coach (Mike) Gundy has built a very consistent program. They are one of the top programs in the Big 12 over the last 10 years and have averaged nine wins a year going back to 2010. The consistency he has built in that program is what we are working for here.
“They are top 10 in total offense (498.1 yards per game) and eighth in scoring offense (36.5 points per game),” added Brown, whose Mountaineers are currently 7.5-point underdogs to OSU. “It all starts with Chuba Hubbard. He’s the complete package who runs for power and runs with speed. He’s incredibly durable and just wears you out. He’s definitely deserving of being in the Heisman race. I wish him luck, just not on Saturday, and then I hope he goes straight to the NFL.”
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WVU’s injury report this week is a mixed bag.
Junior receiver T.J. Simmons, who has missed two straight games while rehabbing, will likely play this Saturday, according to West Virginia’s head coach. Junior placekicker Evan Staley, who has missed the past three games with a strained groin, could possibly see action as well. He’s going to try to kick in practice this week and see if his injury has improved to the point he can get back into game action.
Unfortunately WVU’s starting senior free safety Josh Norwood doesn’t have good news. He is out for the remainder of the regular season, having broken his collarbone while make a spectacular interception in this past Saturday’s win at Kansas State.
“Josh had surgery this morning and won’t be back the rest of the year,” Brown said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “He should be completely healed by mid-December, but he’ll miss these last couple of games.”
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West Virginia’s 24-20 win at K-State has certainly improved the vibe within the Mountaineer program, which had suffered five straight losses prior to the victory in Manhattan.
Brown hopes to keep the momentum going this week against another ranked opponent. No. 22 Oklahoma State will be the fifth top 25 foe WVU has played in its last seven games, along with No. 11 Texas, No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 12 Baylor and No. 24 Kansas State.
Brown would like to finish the 2019 season on an upward arc.
At 4-6, West Virginia needs to win its final two regular season games to become bowl eligible, but WVU’s coach is looking at just the week-to-week and not further down the road.
“I haven’t mentioned the word ‘bowl’ in this building until just now,” responded Brown when asked about postseason possibilities. “My message since that debacle in the first half at Missouri (in a 38-7 loss on Sept. 7) has been to just get better. I know that’s necessarily what you guys want to hear, but that’s been our singular focus; I just want to improve as we go. That’s the best we played as a football team on Saturday, and I just want to consistently get better. We’re not really focused on end-of-season goals.”
He and his Mountaineers aren’t worried about December, just Nov. 23.
“It’s the last home game,” WVU’s first-year coach stated. “We won’t be back there until next September.”