WVU’s Brown Looks Back On Texas, Ahead To Iowa State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–In the heat of a college football season, there is limited time to look back on the past before turning the focus to the future.
Thus it is for West Virginia head coach Neal Brown, who at his weekly press conference on Tuesday reflected for a few minutes on this past Saturday’s 42-31 loss to Texas and then quickly turned his attention to the next opponent, Iowa State.
The 3-2 Cyclones come to Mountaineer Field this Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff that will be televised by ESPN.
“Tough loss to a very good Texas team,” said Brown, whose team dropped to 3-2 after falling to the No. 11 Longhorns. “We had a lot of missed opportunities, and that’s the tough part about, when you go over it. We played hard and played physical but just didn’t execute well enough or play clean enough to win that type of game versus that kind of opponent.”
Brown dispensed bad news at Tuesday’s presser in terms of attrition and injuries.
Fourth-year senior spear safety JoVanni Stewart sat out Saturday’s game against Texas for what was described last week as a “personal reason.” His absence will continue.
“JoVanni has made the decision to no longer to be an active participant, and thus will not be a member of the team this fall,” said Brown, though he did not provide any further details as to if Stewart would consider rejoining the Mountaineers after the season is over or will instead seek a transfer.
West Virginia also had a couple receivers – Sean Ryan and Sam James – go down with injuries late in the Texas game.
“Sean Ryan had surgery this a.m. An upper body injury,” explained Brown. “I’ll update that when I can, but there’s no timetable to his injury. Obviously he’ll be out for the next couple of games. I hate it for Sean, because he was really starting to play well. The play he got hurt on, he made an unbelievable play, going over top of a DB on a post route. He’ll come back this season, but I’m just not sure when.
“Sam James will be questionable (this week),” added WVU’s first-year head coach. “We’ll know more later in the week.”
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In looking back at the loss to Texas, Brown pointed to positives, which included 367 passing yards from the offense and a strong third quarter from the defense. But he added that four turnovers were a big part of West Virginia’s ultimate downfall.
“This is a game we’ve got to learn from and grow from,” stated Brown. “I like the attitude our guys came in with on Monday. They were disappointed, but there was positive energy because of all the things we did do well. They understand that if we just execute better, we can indeed be a good football team. I’m excited about this group, and I’m excited moving forward.
Brown also pointed to the third-down battle as being a deciding factor. The Longhorns converted 10-of-18 in that department, while WVU was just 4-of-14.
“Defensively, I thought the third quarter was the best we played this year,” the head coach noted. “We really flew around and made plays. I was really encouraged with how we played in the third quarter. We have to do a better job getting off the field on third down, though.
“Offensively, the negatives were the turnovers,” Brown added. “Texas started inside the plus-37 (yard line) on three of those and scored 21 points off our turnovers. The positive is that our pass game was the best it’s been all season. The pass protection was really good, and our receivers were really disciplined in how they ran their routes, and that led to some explosive plays.
“It was a hard-fought game, and there were some encouraging things,” he concluded. “I thought it was set up for us to pull the win off at home in front of a great crowd (62,069, the largest at Mountaineer Field since 2003), but we didn’t get it done. There is blame to go around, and I take my share of it, too.”
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Iowa State comes to Morgantown Saturday with an identical record as the Mountaineers, as each are 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 action.
Despite that, the Cyclones are a 10.5-point favorite, even though they are just 2-5 all time against WVU and 1-2 at Mountaineer Field.
Led by sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy, ISU has high expectations this year. It had a bit of a bumpy start to the season, needing triple-overtime to hold off FCS foe Northern Iowa in the opener, (29-26) and then losing at home in week two to rival Iowa (18-17). A 72-20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe set plenty of school record, but that was followed by a 23-21 loss at Baylor. This past Saturday the Cyclones easily dispatched TCU, 49-24, in Ames.
Now Iowa State looks to establish some consistency and get away from its win-one, lose-one rollercoaster.
“Matt Campbell has done a great job of building that program,” Brown said of ISU’s coach, who is 22-21 all-time with the Cyclones. “He’s in year four. I’m impressed with all phases of what he’s done, from their recruiting, to their branding to how they play. I think they have done a great job building that program. They play disciplined and play tough football.
“I think I saw a stat where going back to 2017, there has been no game they have lost by more than 14 points,” Brown noted. “When you’re talking about the number of ranked teams you play in our league, that’s impressive. They also haven’t lost a game in October going back to 2017. They have won eight straight in October, and I think that’s a sign of a team that is well coached and gets better over the course of the season.”
Having lost two big offensive playmakers from last year’s squad (8-5) to the NFL – wide receiver Hakeem Bailey (injured reserve with the Arizona Cardinals) and running back David Montgomery (Chicago Bears) – the Cyclones are leaning more and more Purdy. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound sophomore quarterback is proving his worth, as he’s currently fifth in the FBS ranks in total offense (356.2 yards per game) and fifth in passing yards (315.6 per game). He’s leading an ISU offense that has only had two three-and-outs all season and is averaging 7.1 yards per play.
“It all starts with Purdy,” said Brown. “I don’t get into comparisons, but the deal is he’s special. He’s playing at a really high level and is one of the best quarterbacks in the country.”
West Virginia’s coach should recognize a top-flight QB when he sees one, or at least he will when October is over. The Mountaineers are in the midst of a stretch of facing some very good signal callers. From Texas’ Sam Ehlinger last week to Purdy this week, and then Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (Oct. 19) followed by Baylor’s Charlie Brewer (Oct. 31), WVU is seeing the cream of the quarterback crop this month.