When news broke of the halting of football activities at Baylor this past week due to a rise in COVID-19 positive tests, the first reaction for West Virginia fans was a big “Uh Oh.” When the Baylor-Oklahoma State game scheduled for this coming Saturday was postponed, the anxiety only increased.
With the Mountaineers having played the Bears just a couple of days prior to the halting of football on the Waco campus, the spectre of transmission from the recent game and a possible outbreak was a legitimate concern. For now, however, it looks as if WVU may have dodged that problem.
“We tested last week on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, which is our normal protocol, and we had zero new positives,” Brown revealed on Monday during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “We tested again yesterday (part of this week’s normal schedule), and we are still waiting on those results. But we are hopeful that we can remain COVID-free. If something comes up, we will be ready to adjust.”
Brown did not specifically mention the status of offensive lineman James Gmiter, who missed the Baylor game after testing positive, but in discussing the state of that position group, noted “Hopefully we will be back at full strength this week, but that is still to be determined.”
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During the off week, West Virginia focused on several areas which have been problematic in the first three games of the year. One of those was the deep passing game, where WVU has struggled to get consistent results.
Another was tackling – a part of the game that has been spotty across the nation due in part to the lack of practice time and concerns over too much full contact work as teams have gotten back into game shape. Brown hopes the off-week work will result in not only immediate results this Saturday against Kansas, but will provide a base upon which to build the rest of the season.
“We also got some much needed rest,” Brown explained. “We are the only Big 12 team that will play five consecutive games in five weeks, and we need to make sure we are in a spot where we remain healthy.”
The offensive line, always a topic of discussion this year, also continued to show some improvement during the off week, although Brown is obviously hoping for the return of Gmiter, who helps make the interior of the line the most dependable part of the unit. That has been bolstered by true freshman Zach Frazier, who has handled not only the physical demands of the position but also other challenges.
“It is way better than it was a year ago. I think our rushing game is much better,” Brown reiterated. “We don’t have great depth, but we had a really good bye week up front.
“Frazier, physically we knew he would be ready. He has long arms and big hands, and I thought he would be ready. Mentally, that was the question. Playing multiple positions, moving around, handling the college routine, he has done a phenomenal job. I think his future is really bright.”
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Brown practiced his team this past Saturday morning, and one of the results was open time to watch other games later in the day. Prefacing his review of his game-watching with the note that he has a five-year-old who puts his own demands on his time, Brown noted some commonalities he saw as a fan while viewing games from different leagues.
“My perception of college football in general is that the quality of play, some teams are just a little off because of summer time and guys out. It’s not as clean as it used to be. I think our league is similar to other leagues (in that regard). But I also think the Big 12 has the most parity of any Power 5 league, in that anyone can beat anyone else.”
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WVU’s game at Texas Tech on Saturday, Oct. 24 has been set for a 5:30 p.m. ET kick on ESPN2.