On the Brawl…
Fans are what make rivalry games the special events that they are, and Brown was impressed with his first taste of the Backyard Brawl.
“I appreciated everybody for showing up, I thought it was one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever been a part of in college football,” Brown said.
There was also plenty to take away from what happened on the field, both positive and negative. Brown praised his team’s effort and said his team “competed hard and played the game the right way,” but inopportune mistakes swung the result in the wrong direction.
Offensively, Brown liked his team’s performance in the run game, which was led by freshman CJ Donaldson, who Brown said was the first 100-yard rusher allowed by Pitt since 1999. He also praised JT Daniels, who he called “sharp” in his first performance despite missing the spring season.
On the flip side, Brown wanted to see improvement in the pass game, which still struggled to catch the ball and had six drops. He also wanted to see better pass protection.
“Part of that is [Pitt’s defensive] front is really good, but we gave up too many hits,” Brown said.
Brown liked how his defensive front attacked the Pitt offense, busting through the Panther O-line for five sacks. The front also controlled the line of scrimmage well, he said.
However, Brown said the Mountaineers need to tackle better. That has been a point of pride for his team since he took the helm in 2019 and it lacked on Thursday.
“That’s the standard, is we tackle well,” Brown said. “We’re one of the top tackling in the conference and in the country, we’ve got to do a better job of that. Especially late, we didn’t tackle very well.”
On the Jayhawks…
Kansas comes to Morgantown on Saturday with a win under its belt after defeating FCS Tennessee Tech. They have shown steady improvement under Lance Leipold, who is in his second year as the team’s head coach.
“They’re well-coached. I have a lot of respect for Lance going back his staff….They’re disciplined and they don’t beat themselves,” Brown said. “They’ve got a low number of turnovers, they don’t have penalties and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and they should.”
On CJ Donaldson…
Brown and his staff spoke highly of their newfound running back throughout fall camp, but the coach admitted that he wasn’t sure how his preseason work would translate to his debut.
“You’re never sure. You’re always hesitant to put too much on a young player early on, but obviously in the first half he had the big run and we got him more involved in the second half,” Brown said. “His role continued to grow without a doubt.”
Some of his success, Brown conceded, was due to some opportune timing, as he entered the game in situations conducive to a big run. He also got some great blocking on those big runs.
That didn’t take away from his strong debut, however.
“The thing that I like about him and that [running backs coach] Chad [Scott] likes about him is he’s decisive,” Brown said. “He doesn’t stop his feet, he makes a cut and he goes.”
On JT Daniels…
WVU’s “sharp” new quarterback was praised as “even keel” throughout the fall, and Brown got that exact type of performance from him in his debut. He also lauded Daniels’s communication on the sideline.
“I thought he was really good in-game being able to tell you what he saw, and that’s not the case with every quarterback, so that was something that was extremely positive,” Brown said.
Daniels gave a fiery press conference after the loss in which he defended his team and looked forward to the future. With a stern voice and some not-safe-for-work language, the QB said he was “really…proud” of his team and looked forward to lining up the following week.
That was the type of leadership Brown wanted to see out of Daniels.
“I loved the interview that he did after the game,” Brown said. “I can do without the language, but just talking about his teammates and his belief, I thought that was powerful stuff. And I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”