Without discounting the many mistakes and errors that his team committed in the 27-13 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown did see some positives in his team’s play after more review.
In the immediate aftermath, he complimented WVU’s inside receivers, who won a number of battles and produced 193 receiving yards. On Monday, with more video study under his belt, he included some offensive linemen.
“There were some highs and there were several lows. The highs were, I thought, Michael Brown and Chase Behrndt,” explained Brown. “They played really well. We weren’t very good at tackle, and we might have to look at some ways to get some help there. It wasn’t their ability, but their footwork and not having their eyes where they were supposed to be. They will get better.”
Those improvement areas sound like ones more of technique than talent, as Brown hinted at. West Virginia played four offensive tackles in the game – Junior Uzebu, John Hughes, Brandon Yates and Briason Mays. Only Mays and Hughes had any extensive Division I experience coming in to this year.
Not all of those breakdowns were on the line, though.
“We didn’t protect well, but some of that was Jarret (Doege) not moving the right way,” Brown observed of his QBs use of the protection call. “But he played tough.”
WVU could also use more tight ends to help with blocking, although that can have repercussions in the way the passing game is designed.
Brown also noted that the run game was much better than it was a year ago, and than statistics indicated. While starter Leddie Brown gained 104 yards in the game (4.0 per carry), the Mountaineers had a net of just 68, as quarterback sacks and a dropped snap on a field goal attempt count against the totals.
“We ran the ball better; Leddie played better. We got Leddie to the line of scrimmage, which was a significant upgrade from last year. That’s a big time improvement in what we did a year ago,” Brown pointed out. “All the negative yards came on pass plays. Our rushing didn’t look bad. The [total rushing yardage] is a fallacy in the way stats are done, which I disagree with.”
The NCAA counts sacks against rushing totals, which can often skew the picture of what a ground game actually produces.
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None of that changed the outcome of the game, which Brown wasn’t making excuses for. Oklahoma State managed to avoid any big errors, recovering all four of its fumbles and kick muffs, while scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The Cowboys scored a TD on their only foray inside the 20-yard line, while the Mountaineers were held to two field goals on their trips.
“They played much more sound football than we did. We hurt ourselves a bunch,” Brown reiterated. “Penalties, missed assignments and missed run fits. We did not play very well.”
Brown and his team will face a quarterback with whom he is familiar when WVU hosts Baylor this week. This time, it’s Charlie Brewer, who comes from well-respected football family.
“His grandad (Charlie), his dad (Robert), and his brother (Michael) are all winners. It’s bred into him. I coached his Michael – he was the first QB we signed at Texas Tech,” Brown recalled. “Charlie was young when I was there, and in fact he and Jarret both went to our camps there.
“I have a lot of respect for that family. It’s a great football family, and Charlie’s personality has bled into that team. The kid just wins. He’s a winner that comes from a winning family.”
Grandfather Charlie, Robert and Michael were all college quarterbacks. Charlie and Robert, as well as an uncle, Robert Moerschell, all played at Texas, where Robert was the MVP of the 1982 Cotton Bowl. Michael played at Texas Tech for three seasons before transferring to Virginia Tech for his final two (2014-15).
Brown dropped a hint that the ban on all fans at WVU home games could be coming to an end, although that won’t be the case for this week’s home contest against the Bears.
“We hope to have fans soon here, but won’t have them for the Baylor game. But we still have to compete at a high level. It’s just awkward. I don’t think the competition on the field is different, but the atmosphere is just not there,” he said, echoing the thoughts of most coaches. “The band, the smell of tailgating. The Mantrip we do walking in the stadium. You can feel that energy, and you miss that. I hate it for our fanbase. We have a passionate fanbase here.”
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In addition to the modified airplane seating chart and reduced staff and administrative travel numbers, the WVU team saw another different experience on its first road trip of the COVID-19 era. In addition to eliminating in-person visits from family members, no one in the official traveling party was allowed to leave the team hotel in Edmond, Oklahoma, until the team departed for Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.
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Brown on Baylor: “We are looking forward to getting back home this week. We have a lot of respect for that program. They jump out on film because they play with toughness and with an edge. They play hard. They had a good outing in their first game.”
The Bears whacked Kansas 47-14 in Waco last week after seeing three previously scheduled non-conference games cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.