Neal Brown: WVU Searching For Consistency

West Virginia tight end Mike O'Laughlin (87) sheds the tackle of Texas Tech's Riko Jeffers (6)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Mountaineer football team has suffered a pair of gut-punch losses the past two weeks, falling on last-second field goals to Oklahoma (16-13) and Texas Tech (23-20).

According to West Virginia coach Neal Brown, the key to getting over the top in such tight games is consistency – consistency in effort, consistency in attention to detail, consistency in preparation.

“We’re a 2-3 football team because we lack consistency. I think that’s been pretty clear,” stated WVU’s third-year head coach. “At times this season, we’ve played really good football in all three phases. I think you can go back and look at times in which we’ve played well, but we’ve not put a whole game together.

“It’s frustrating. Our fans are frustrated, and I get it. Nobody is more frustrated than me,” continued Brown a few days after the loss to the Red Raiders, in which WVU fell into a 17-0 halftime hole. “Our first half versus Texas Tech was inexcusable. I can’t reason it. The second half I thought we played well; at times offensively played really well. Defensively the first two series of the second half were what we were looking for, but we didn’t finish.”

After falling behind by 17 points on Saturday, the Mountaineers stormed back to tie the game 17-17 by the end of the third quarter. While West Virginia’s offense showed some spark in the second half, it also had to settle for a pair of short field goals after it had driven into the red zone. Obviously, sevens rather than threes could ultimately have made a huge difference in the outcome.

“Offensively in the first half it was just a lack of execution,” explained Brown. “Those execution errors also plagued us in the red zone in the second half, too, when we had to settle for field goals.

“We’ve got to be a more detail-oriented group. There is a small margin for error. When we don’t do the details right, we’re killing ourselves in the red zone or getting ourselves in third-and-long situations.

“We’re a 2-3 football team, and we lack consistency,” added the coach. “We’ve got to play better and do so for a full game. In our league, games are going to come down to the fourth quarter. We’ve been tied or ahead in the fourth quarter in all three losses and didn’t get it done. We’ve got to get those things fixed.”

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WVU doesn’t publically announce award winners after a loss, but in his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Brown did point out a number of players. Defensively he said West Virginia’s three starting d-linemen – Dante Stills, Akheem Mesidor and Taijh Alston – each played well. On offense, he lauded tight end Mike O’Laughlin, wide receiver Isaiah Esdale, slot receiver Winston Wright, quarterback Jarret Doege and center Zach Frazier.

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Since Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech, Brown has readily admitted that his team lacked energy in the first half, which allowed the Red Raiders to put WVU in a 17-0 hole at the midway point.

“I’m so pissed at how we played at the beginning of the game,” emphasized West Virginia’s coach. “In other sports I can understand (coming out flat), because you have all these games. But in football you get 12. How the hell do you not get ready to play one game a week?! I don’t get it.

“It hadn’t been an issue before. We started fast offensively in every game before this one. Defensively, not as fast. We did a good job on defense early against Virginia Tech, but other than that, we’ve struggled on the first drive defensively.

“We’re going to switch up some things. You have to acknowledge that it’s an issue. It’s been more of an issue for us defensively than offensively, but offensively it was a terrible start the other day. You have to acknowledge it. We have to start better defensively, and we have to finish on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter. You have to acknowledge the issue, and then you have to go to work fixing it.”

West Virginia receiver Winston Wright speeds upfield

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The Mountaineers’ next game will take them to Waco, Texas, where they’ll face 4-1 Baylor this coming Saturday in a contest that kicks off at noon (Eastern) and will be televised by FS1.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for (BU’s second-year coach) Dave Aranda and his staff,” said Brown. “Both their running backs (Trestan Ebner and Abram Smith) are playing well. They’ve got big-play threats on the outside, and their quarterback, (Gerry) Bohanon, is playing well and taking care of the football (no interceptions in 116 pass attempts this season).

“Defensively, they are multiple and get a lot of pressures,” added Brown. “I think they have two of the best defenders in our league (will linebacker Terrel Bernard and star safety Jalen Pitre). I don’t think, I know. If you’re not playing against them, they’re fun to watch.”



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