Neal Brown echoed on Tuesday what he said on Saturday after the loss to Kansas State — it was a poor performance in every phase largely due to self-inflicted wounds. The head coach put that contest to rest and looked ahead to what is at stake when his team welcomes Texas this weekend.
Here are the biggest takeaways from his press conference.
Depth concerns due to injuries
West Virginia traveled to Manhattan, Kansas with a thin roster. By the time it left, it was even more depleted. Redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Greene, redshirt receiver Isaiah Esdale, redshirt sophomore linebacker Lance Dixon and freshman defensive back Aubrey Burks did not make the make the trip KSU due to injuries.
Greene did not practice at all last week due to an upper-body injury. He practiced on Monday and he will be available on Saturday. Esdale is battling two upper-body injuries. Dixon is “highly questionable,” according to Brown.
As for the guys who went down last weekend — linebacker Exree Loe is the third Mountaineer in the last month to suffer a season-ending injury. He had surgery on a lower-body injury. Brown is “cautiously optimistic” that receiver Sean Ryan will play.
“Nobody feels sorry for us. We have a thin roster but I don’t think that’s just a West Virginia problem, it’s an issue for a lot of teams. The old days of building a roster and being three deep, which is what you want to be across the board at scholarship positions. That is just not the reality anymore,” Brown said.
He added the transfer portal also has an impact on the inability to keep depth. Players at skill positions will look elsewhere if they don’t see the results or playing time, so that leaves veterans and young players. WVU is relying on the latter to be ready this weekend, especially freshman safety Saint McLeod.
“I like his projection. He’s shown he is ready,” Brown said. “We are competing to see if (freshman) Davis Mallinger or (redshirt freshman) Caleb Coleman will get reps at safety.”
The goal is still to redshirt Mallinger and Coleman.
Lack of routine plays
WVU left some plays out there in all phases due to poor execution. Lack of routine plays was a phrase mentioned a number of times Coach Brown. Offensively, his team “just couldn’t get out of its own way.”
“The drive before the half, we had to settle for a field goal and we probably had three plays where we should have scored a touchdown and we didn’t,” Brown said. “It’s not these spectacular plays that win the game. It’s just the routine plays. If a guy is open, throw it to him. If it’s thrown to you, catch it. If you have a 1-on-1 block, block him. We just don’t make routine plays we need to make. Overall, it just wasn’t good enough.”
Defensively, it was a similar summary — poor communication and tackling along with zero takeaways. Coach Brown referred to an opportunity for a pick 6 that was dropped as an example of not making the “game-winning” plays. When it comes to special teams, the head coach used the word embarrassed to describe that performance.
“Absolutely dominated us in that area,” Brown said. “The blocked punt — they executed it well. On the kick-off return, it was a great kick by Staley. We couldn’t have placed it better than where it landed and we missed an easy tackle at the 25. It was an error in technique.
That was only the play that had him questioning his team’s effort. Coach chalked up the mistakes to lack of details and fundamentals. Unfortunately, those seem to be two issues that the Mountaineers just can’t seem to get corrected this season, along with poor situational awareness.
“We got two games left and it’s not too late to play good football. We’ve played good football in spots but we haven’t been consistent and I promise you that doesn’t piss anyone off more than me. Our lack of consistency is extremely, extremely frustrating and that’s about as mildly as I can put it in a public setting.”
It’s the True Blue game, senior day and some members of the 2012 Orange Bowl team will be back in town. It will be a unique senior day as Coach Brown isn’t entirely sure who will or won’t be walking out for the ceremony due to the status of some players.
“We only really have four super seniors,” Brown. “It’s been a trying time and there’s a lot of guys who didn’t start their careers here who are seniors, too. It’s confusing who is a senior and who is not. I go into it with guys who have no chance at eligibility and those that have potential eligibility left. That’s the way I have been thinking about it.:
He isn’t pressing players to make any decisions on if they are coming back or not at this team so there isn’t that added stress with two weeks left in the season. Those decisions will be made closer to the end of the season.