Morgantown, W.V. – Late afternoon Saturday showed that while the climb may be long, arduous and mildly nerve wracking at times, many in Morgantown are giving into that trust and giving in just as the musket was fired and Country Roads started to play.
Since taking over as head coach, Coach Neal Brown has made many subtle changes to the football program. Many of the changes are so small and subtle, you may not notice right away.
Saturday’s home opener changed just that.
Brown’s regime has been focusing on the mantra “Trust the Climb” since the spring game in early April. Saturday showed just how much this team trusts their coach and this climb. From early on Saturday, many could tell the differences from past seasons to this year.
One subtle change noticed early on Saturday was the Mountaineer Mantrip. This new tradition was put in place under Coach Holgorsen, and one that Brown intends on keeping yet modifying in his own way. Start with the way they stepped off the team bus, Coach Brown shaking all of the players’ hands and everyone dressed in a uniform business casual attire. What else was missing? No headphones or phones really visible, the players were all in slacks and polos and led into the stadium, past the coal by Coach Brown, his wife and their three children. Coach Brown’s subtle change made showing that Mountaineer football is family first.
Trust the Climb.
Look at the pregame warmups, where players were all wearing ‘Trust the Climb’ shirts over their pads. Instead of being out of site, or chatting with other coaches, Coach Brown was in the end zone, shaking hands and hugging his players; he was right there for everyone to see. Coach Brown wore a grey polo for the game, wanting to pay homage to the backbone of the State of West Virginia; the coal miners and mining industry.
Again, a subtle change showing he knows where the heart of the State and program are.
Look at the sidelines during the game, both when many in the stadium were biting their nails and when everyone was praising those much needed halftime adjustments. Coach Brown never once lost his cool, there weren’t nearly as many penalties as years past, and it’s very clear Brown cares about the importance of special teams. Brown tried to warn fans and media that Saturday may not be pretty, he quite literally pointed it out in his post-game conference, but never once did the team lose motivation or trust in their coach.
When momentum started to swing back to the Mountaineers late in the second half, a quick glance to the sideline showed just how much fun this team was having with one another. Players and coaches dancing side by side, towels waving, pumping up themselves and the sell out crowd that was hoping to hear their favorite song.
Finally, the musket was fired and the game was done. Colton McKivitz quickly found his head coach and doused him with his first gatorade bath as West Virginia’s guy. Many may question why, but here’s why: these players are all in on their coach and know he was deserving of the celebration of the team’s first win and Brown’s first win as a Power 5 coach; there’s so much love and respect on this team. Brown was next seen singing along to Country Roads with the rest of the stadium, as many could see the head coach and team of the Brown family, his wife Brooke and there three kids, make their way to the field to greet their guy. Brown made his way to his wife and kids, hugged and embraced and soaked in the moment with his family as his football family continued to celebrate.
All of these moments may be small, subtle and not drastic, but they prove the point. Mountaineers are trusting the climb, trusting their coach and are here for the ride. If Saturday’s second half rally shows anything, it shows it’s a great time to be a Mountaineer.