Neal Brown is known for his ability to win big games. Mountaineer fans, much like any other fan base want wins and change instantly. That's just not how it works in Morgantown or any program rebuilding for that matter. This team, like any other team in college football that is going through a sort of overhaul, has some issues. Some issues can be snuffed out and fixed, while others just have to work themselves out over time. The most concerning issue to fans at this moment is the increasing amount of dropped passes. While the concern is warranted, it may be a little blown out of proportion. Here is my opinion on some of the "issues" surrounding the West Virginia football team and what I think could be done to speed up the process of becoming great.
First things first, Neal Brown is not the issue and he is also nowhere near the hot seat. Realistically, with last year being Brown's year 0, that would make this season his true year 1. In the words of the great Lee Corso, " Not so fast my friend!" One should really look at this season and consider it to be year 0.5 if we are being honest. In an anything but normal offseason where we didn't even know if we would get to see college football, Neal Brown navigated meetings, workouts, and recruiting like a true leader. Covid protocols and testing really tied the hands of coaches throughout the NCAA, but Brown made sure to do the most possible while still adhering to guidelines. Fast forward and the Mountaineers now sit at 3-2 with a matchup against a top 20 opponent looming. This is where it gets interesting because there are "fans" and I will use that term loosely, who want the head ball coach to give up play calling duties, bench his starting quarterback, and probably even get a different haircut. Well here is the thing, none of that needs to happen to find success. Mountaineer faithful needs to understand that Neal is the guy to get this team back on track and maybe, just maybe trust that he might know a little more about the situation than any of us truly do.
Next up, let's talk a little defense. I only want to touch on the defense briefly due to the fact that these guys are tough. All the naysayers and fair weather fans were licking their lips at the fact that it appeared the defense struggled against the Texas Tech offense. Unfortunately for those folks, the Mountaineer's defense played a good enough game to give the offense a chance to win the game. Ultimately that's the main goal of the defense in any game is to just make sure you do enough. Sure, you'd like to see them rack up 10 sacks, 4 interceptions, and not give up a point, but to do those things in this conference every week is a pipe dream. Minus the strip six at the end of the game, that was ultimately the final nail in the coffin, the defense only gave up 27 points to an offense who just a couple weeks earlier put up 56 points in defeat to the Texas Longhorns. So to those who are quick to snap judgement that the defense is overrated and that they will struggle to slow down other offenses, take a deep breath, eat a pepperoni roll, and realize that this defense is loaded and will get the job done.
Now it's time to face the elephant in the room. This season, West Virginia receivers have definitely struggled catching passes. That part cannot be argued, but the reason for all the sudden drops can be debated. The true culprit may never be revealed because it's as simple as this, drops will happen. The drops we have seen so far have been very untimely and for the most part have appeared to be simple catches choked away. The first point to address would be catches in traffic that should normally be made. My thoughts are that with the wacky offseason and limited contact in most practices leading up to the season, these receivers could be a bit gun shy. Anybody that played football as a receiver knows the adrenaline rush of coming across the middle of the field while watching the ball come into your hands. Although it is not necessarily fear, there is definitely a thought in the back of your mind that you might just get destroyed as soon as you make the catch. That simple thought could be enough to draw focus and cause a drop. Onto the more concerning aspect of dropping passes when nobody is around. Many of us fans immediately want to point to the coaching staff and say they failed to prepare the receivers appropriately. Sorry, but I can almost guarantee that is not the issue. Here's the thing, catching a football can have a lot to do with where the receiver is at mentally. We don't know where a player's head is at during a game and quite frankly it's on the player to make sure he is mentally ready to play at game time. Even with all those things that could cause drops, my true belief is that it all comes down to the Mountaineers having young receivers. This team has a lot of inexperience in game situations, and that's okay. We as fans have to realize that these player's and coaches are human beings, and as bad as we want them to be perfect all the time, it just isn't going to happen. As these guys get more game minutes and continue to mature, I'm sure the issue of dropped passes will slowly become a memory.
I know this article is not going to sit well with a lot of fans but I feel that it really needed to be addressed. Every Saturday we all put on our gameday gear and patiently wait for our beloved Mountaineers to kickoff. In hopes of a victory, we sit on the edge of our chairs and watch the game from start to finish. We celebrate when we win and it almost feels personal when we lose. All of these things are what makes it so great to be a fan of college football. Unfortunately, some "fans" don't understand that things are not gonna magically be great all of the sudden. This is gonna take more than a season to get to the level that we as Mountaineer faithful expect week in and week out. We all just need to buckle in and trust the climb, trust that Coach Brown and his staff know more than most of us do, and enjoy the ride. Better days are ahead for the Mountaineers, we just can't all be Chicken Littles.