Mountaineers roar onto the field

The WVU Mountaineers roar onto the field at Waco, Texas Sept. 9 where they were defeated 45-20 by the Baylor Bears. This week's bye gives Coach Neal Brown a chance to reassess the season thus far.

MORGANTOWN — Neal Brown wasted little time getting right to the point as he opened his weekly media session Tuesday on a much-needed bye week, coming in the midst of a three-game losing streak that included a pair of gut-wrenching defeats followed by a total collapse at Baylor.

“This is not a funeral,” he said as an attention-getter. “Let’s cut the ice with that.”

While there had been numerous obituaries written, mostly on social media, Brown clearly wanted to pick up where he left off on Monday during the Big 12 Coaches Conference call when, without prompting from the media, he offered up this observation of the Mountaineers’ current situation, which is not only that three-game losing streak but a 2-4 overall record and last place in the conference at 0-3.

“Throughout our careers as a staff and my career as a head coach, we’ve had to overcome adversity — this is no different. We’re in this for the long haul. There’s probably not any quick fixes, but we’ll play better as we maneuver through it. We knew this was going to take some time and go through some rough patches, but we’re disappointed, not discouraged. I believe in our long-term future.”

That was strong stuff and it cried out to be expanded upon, which he was willing to do when it was brought up on Tuesday. He stressed that he believed in the path he and his staff are following and said he wasn’t going to change the basics either of his approach or his system.

“I knew this wasn’t going to be quick,” he said of coming in and replacing Dana Holgorsen. “Now, did I think we’d win some games in the fourth quarter? Yeah. Did I think we’d be 2-4 right now? No.”

But, on the other end of that spectrum, he had no false beliefs that it would be easy.

“Did I think we were going to be 6-0? Probably not, either,” Brown said.

The truth was, Brown knew his football team was not of championship caliber two-and-a-half years into his tenure, especially with all the turmoil that comes with COVID, with the transfer portal, with the uncertainty surrounding the conference itself.

“I did feel like we’d play better and be able to close out some of these games that we simply have not. I knew this was going to be a process,” he said.

There have been ups and downs, ins and outs. Two steps forward, one back and sometimes vice versa.

“Let me give you an example defensively,” he said. “Tony Fields was a difference maker for us last year. He erased some of our issues. Josh Chandler is now playing really good football but he’s not an eraser with his speed that Tony Fields was.”

It is things like that which contribute to what is happening.

“Did I think we’d be sitting here with a better record than 2-4? Absolutely. Did I think we would arrive in Year 3 and be at the top of the league? No.”

In other words, they are disappointing but hardly a lost cause.

Neal Brown says he; his staff and his players are not giving up.

“Do I believe with all my heart we’ll get [to the top of the league]? Absolutely, I do,” he said.

He stresses that he doesn’t believe he should react to what is going on with his team and around it.

“There’s things that are non-negotiable that we believe in from a program standpoint and from a schematic principle from each phase of the game. We’re not getting off that. We’re not sitting here hitting the panic button. I’m not freaking out. I haven’t lost belief in our players. I haven’t lost belief in our staff.

“What we do have to do is reflect on where we made mistakes. The positives, how do we continue to build on them and what needs to be fixed? Or maybe more importantly how do we hide what our deficiencies are better? I think what everybody wants to know is where do we readjust because you can’t do the same things if they are not working.

“That’s what the process of this off week is all about. How do we diminish our deficiencies. Are there some young guys that give us a better opportunity?

“But the basics and the tenets of our program are not changing.”

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