MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The competition level ratchets up considerably for the Mountaineers this coming Saturday after they cruised to an easy 66-0 victory over LIU this past weekend.
Next up for West Virginia is a battle with No. 15 Virginia Tech on Saturday at Mountaineer Field (noon on FS1). WVU (1-1) is currently a three-point favorite in the renewal of the Black Diamond Trophy rivalry.
“We achieved most of what we wanted to achieve in that game,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown of the blowout of the FCS opponent. “A lot of people got reps. I thought it was a relatively clean football game overall.”
While WVU won in dominating fashion over Long Island, Brown admits his team has a lot of improvement to make if it wants to achieve victory in the coming weeks against the likes of Virginia Tech and Oklahoma.
“Fundamentally, we’re not as good as we need to be,” noted West Virginia’s head coach of his defense. “Myself and the defensive staff are not pleased with that. We have to have better situational awareness.
As for the Mountaineer offense, “We have to continue to improve on our physicality,” added Brown. “It’s still not where we need it to be. We also had a couple of mental errors in pass protection in the first two drives that shouldn’t happen. Jarret (Doege, WVU’s quarterback) made nice plays to get out of them, but we have to be better in pass protection.”
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Only a few current Mountaineers have played against Virginia Tech in the past.
While the two former rivals have met 53 times since their first contest in 1912 (WVU leads the overall series 28-23-1), they have squared off just once on the gridiron in the past 16 years – a 31-24 Hokie victory at FedEx Field in the 2017 opener.
“I know our fan base is excited about this game,” said Brown of Saturday’s expected sellout at Mountaineer Field. “We’re educating our players on the rivalry.
“For me personally, it’s good for me to learn about the rivalry, and I’ve enjoyed it,” continued West Virginia’s third-year head coach. “Coach (Jeff) Casteel (who currently is an analyst for WVU and previously was an assistant coach at West Virginia from 2001-11 and again in 2020) has been a really good point of contact for me, teaching me about the emotions that go into this game and how both fan bases feel. It’s a trophy game, playing for the Black Diamond Trophy, and I think anytime you play for one of those, it matters. By my calculation, Virginia Tech (which has won the last three meetings with WVU dating back to 2004) has had possession of the Black Diamond Trophy for over 6,000 days now. That’s a long time.”
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If the Mountaineers are going to win back the Black Diamond Trophy this year, they are going to have to do a better job of establishing the run game than they’ve done so far this season, said their head coach.
In opening its season with a 17-10 victory over North Carolina and a 35-14 win over Middle Tennessee State, Tech has limited its opponents to an average of just 106 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile West Virginia’s ground attack is averaging 123.0 yards per game, though it had just 48 yards in its season-opening loss at Maryland.
“It’s going to be a challenge, without a doubt,” admitted Brown. “We’ve got to get better. (The Hokies) do a really good job within their scheme, but we’ve got to get better fundamentally and physically up front. That’s the challenge for us this week.”
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Doege started his 15th straight game for the Mountaineers this past weekend, completing 14 of 22 passes for 259 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against LIU.
Backup quarterback Garrett Greene also saw considerable action against the Sharks. The 5-foot-10, 193-pound freshman connected on four of his seven passes for 57 yards, and he also ran the ball 14 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
WVU’s head coach saw both good and bad in the young quarterback’s performance.
“I think it was a mixed bag,” Brown stated. “Where I was really proud of him is he tends to get really excited, and I think he handled himself well in that regard. I thought he was under control and showed some maturity.
“I thought his run decisions were really good,” continued the coach. “He missed some presnap reads, and he probably should have thrown five or six more passes in the RPO game we were asking him to do. I thought his vision once he scrambled was really good.
“With him, you don’t want to contain what is the best thing about him, which is his ability to freelance and make plays on the run. But you also don’t want him breaking out every single time. We’re working to find a happy medium.”
Brown used two quarterbacks during his stint at Troy, though he hasn’t promised he’ll do the same with Doege and Greene at WVU.
“You have to go in with a plan,” said Brown of using two QBs. “That’s how we’ve done it in the past.
“Where you run into issues is with practice time,” he added.
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Brown announced the award winners for this week. Winston Wright (special teams), Sam James (offense), Jackie Matthews (defense) and Zach Frazier (offensive line) were named award winners, while Will Schoonover and Mark Rucker were the defensive and offensive scout team award winners respectively.
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The Mountaineers’ head coach didn’t disclose any roster addition during his press conference on Tuesday, but an inspection of the West Virginia University student directory shortly after Brown wrapped up his Q&A with the media revealed that freshman running back Jaylen Anderson is now enrolled at WVU.
A four-star prospect from Perry, Ohio, the 6-foot, 210-pound Anderson had not been able to enter WVU until this point for what Brown had previously explained were “Clearinghouse issues.”
Those problems have apparently been resolved now, though, and Anderson has begun his college career.