WVU’s Neal Brown: Looking Back At VT, Ahead To OU

West Virginia defensive linemen Taijh Alston (12) and Akheem Mesidor (90) surround Virginia Tech's Braxton Burmeister (3) for a sack

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – From the frying pan into the fire, after holding on for a 27-21 victory over No. 15 Virginia Tech this past weekend, West Virginia’s next assignment is even tougher, as it is at No. 3 Oklahoma (3-0) Saturday night.

“It was a great win. I think rivalries are special,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown after the Mountaineers recaptured the Black Diamond Trophy, which is presented to WVU/VT victor. “It was a great atmosphere, and hopefully we can match that with the rest of our home schedule.

“Moving on, it’s a huge challenge this week, as you know, with Oklahoma. We’re going to the six-time defending Big 12 champion. Just saying that, it’s a lot.

“It’s a great opportunity for our program – ABC, 7:30 Eastern, a primetime game, playing in one of the most tradition-rich venues in college football,” noted Brown, whose club heads to Norman for its first Big 12 game of the season with a 2-1 overall record.

A couple of WVU’s all-time greatest wins have come against the Sooners (1982 and 2008), but since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Mountaineers are 0-8 versus OU. Last season’s contest was canceled because of COVID issues.

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West Virginia’s defense has done plenty of positive things this season.

It is No. 1 nationally in red-zone stops. It desperately needed to be strong there in Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech, which wasn’t decided until the final minute when the Hokies failed to find the end zone on four shots from inside the five-yard line while trailing by just six points.

On the other end of the spectrum, WVU’s turnover margin of -2.0 is not very good. The Mountaineer offense has given it away seven times in three games (117th nationally), and its defense has taken the ball back just once, which is 120th.

“The negatives start for us with the turnover margin, which has been our Achilles Heel this year,” admitted Brown, whose club survived two fourth-quarter turnovers against VT. “We haven’t done a very good job defensively of taking it away, and then offensively we have to do a better job (of maintaining possession). It’s hard to overcome, and we barely did on Saturday.”

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WVU bandit Jared Bartlett was named both the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Week and the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance against Virginia Tech.

“We let him straight rush more than he has,” explained Brown. “We had been playing some twist games with him, but we let him straight rush. He’s a speed guy, and he’s done a really good job understanding dip-and-drive technique, how to use his body, change of tempo.

“Credit to him, because he asked for (the straight rush). We ran some up-and-unders with him early in the contest, but he told coach (Jordan) Lesley, ‘Let me rush the edge.’ We did, and he had great success.”

Brown also praised  Akheem Mesidor and the rest of the WVU’s interior defensive line for getting a push up the middle that kept Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister from being able to step up in the pocket, thus making him susceptible to edge rushers like Bartlett.

“I say this a lot, but Akheem Mesidor is playing at an extremely, extremely high level,” stated Brown said of the second-year freshman defensive tackle. “He may not show up on the stat sheet all the time, but trust me, he’s playing at an extremely high level. He was getting a vertical push on that pocket, so there wasn’t any place for Burmeister to step up, thus Bartlett was able to come around the edge.”

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West Virginia tight end Mike O’Laughlin (87) leads quarterback Garrett Greene

After being unable to practice for over a month and a half because of an ankle/foot injury, sophomore tight end Mike O’Laughlin was back on the field Saturday. While he wasn’t 100%, he did have an impact on the game, his coach said.

“We played more 12 personnel (one back and two tight ends) than we thought we would,” noted Brown. “We knew we were going to play some, but we got into it, and were having success with it, so that’s why we stayed with it. We planned on playing Mike between 25 to 30 snaps, but he wound up playing 39 snaps in the game.”

O’Laughlin missed all of preseason camp and didn’t start full-contact practice until last week.

“There were moments he did a really good job, and there were some moments it looked he hadn’t practiced or played in a while,” evaluated Brown of O’Laughlin’s performance against VT. “Last Tuesday and Wednesday were the first times he had any contact, and that’s a contact position.

“He’ll continue to get better,” added WVU’s coach. “He was a factor Saturday. He helped us. He was one of the reasons why we ran the football better because we had his presence.”

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The Mountaineers used two different quarterbacks against Virginia Tech. Jarret Doege made his 16th straight start at West Virginia, and backup Garrett Greene came in at various times, recording four rushing attempts for 28 yards.

“There is very little crossover with these two,” said Brown of the mobile Greene and the pocket-passer Doege. “That’s good and bad. It’s more difficult for the defenses, but there are also some challenges when you put together a game plan. It’s important you keep everything the same for the offensive line; that’s the most important piece. You can’t ask them to do a bunch of different things schematically. It’s not fair to them, because you don’t have enough time to rep it.

“I don’t know if I’ve got a total feel for Garrett in-game yet,” admitted Brown. “I thought he did some really good things on Saturday, though there were a couple that weren’t so good. I thought he ran the ball well. He can throw it. We haven’t asked him to do it as much, but he can. He’s got a really strong arm.”

Brown indicated that both Doege and Brown will continue to see game action in the future.

West Virginia reclaims the Black Diamond Trophy

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The final piece of the Mountaineers’ 2021 signing class, freshman running back Jaylen Anderson, was finally able to enroll at WVU last week.

He was on the sidelines for the Virginia Tech game, though he was not in full uniform. With his late start, it’s not expected that he’ll see significant game action this season, though Brown is happy to have him in the program.

“This will obviously be a redshirt year for him,” explained West Virginia’s coach of the 6-foot, 210-pound running back from Perry, Ohio. “What we’re doing is getting him off to a successful year in school and at the same time, we want to get him in a position where he can compete starting in January. He’s joined our developmental group with the other guys we anticipate redshirting. We’re excited he’s here.”

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West Virginia’s award winners from Saturday’s winner of Virginia Tech were:

Defense – Jerad Bartlett
Offense – Leddie Brown
Offensive line – Zach Frazier
Special teams – Casey Legg and Evan Staley
Blue collar – Doug Nester
Scout team – Eli Archer, Brayden Dudley and Tomas Rimac

Home Page forums WVU’s Neal Brown: Looking Back At VT, Ahead To OU

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    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – From the frying pan into the fire, after holding on for a 27-21 victory over No. 15 Virginia Tech this past weekend, West Virginia
    [See the full post at: WVU’s Neal Brown: Looking Back At VT, Ahead To OU]


    Frazier had some bad snaps in key situations.  Must have had some great blocking to make up for it


    I think our defense can play well enough to keep us in this game. Obviously, our offensive limitations will be the key to this game. Start to implement some passes into the Garrett Greene packages will help to avoid predictability, while simotainsly making the opposing defenses on our heels. Goes without saying; Doege must play at a much higher level to give us a shot. After hearing raving reviews this offseason, he’s been extremely disappointing.

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Home Page forums WVU’s Neal Brown: Looking Back At VT, Ahead To OU

Home Page forums WVU’s Neal Brown: Looking Back At VT, Ahead To OU