Losing sucks, and even as a fanbase becomes more impatient with head coach Neal Brown and his staff, it is important to realize he is rebuilding this program and the results are coming.
To say this past Saturday was a disappointment would be an understatement. After playing No. 4 Oklahoma to the wire the week before, West Virginia looked awful in the first half on Saturday. And just when fans thought quarterback Jarret Doege brought the Mountaineers all the way back from a 17-0 deficit, he could not deliver in the clutch — missing a wide open Leddie Brown in the corner of the end zone. This forced West Virginia to kick a field goal, before Texas Tech drove down and kicked a field goal with less than 20 seconds left to win the game.
Currently, West Virginia is one of four Big 12 teams that have failed to pick up a win in conference play. The other three teams — Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, combined for a 18-35 record in conference play over the last two seasons. West Virginia over that two-year span is a combined 7-10.
West Virginia’s 41 percent win rate in conference play since Neal Brown took over is not great but, it is still way better than the 34 percent win rate of those three other teams.
Obviously this West Virginia team is not where so many people thought they were going to be.
After the loss on Saturday, I sent out a somewhat optimistic tweet about the game.
Although many fans disagree, it is important when having a new coaching staff, a new system, that you cannot change a program overnight. Brown and his staff had a full year in 2019, but then last year had to deal with COVID-19 which shut down spring ball, limited fall camp and things are just now getting back to normal.
Keeping that in mind, this year could be seen as Brown’s second full year. Looking at the first two year’s of many coaches careers at their programs will show it is not easy to turn a football program around.
Looking at five of the better coaches in college football: Kirby Smart, Dabo Swinney, Nick Saban, Mack Brown and James Franklin at their current jobs, they combined for a 38-28 record in year one as head coach. In year two, they are 39-21. Take away Saban from that list, the record drops to 27-19 in their second season.
Yes these are better than what Brown and his staff are doing, but Brown has yet to have one full recruiting class go through their four years in Morgantown. Brown is also not coaching at a program like Alabama, Georgia, or Clemson — the blue bloods of college football. He is at a program that has not won a conference championship since 2011, when the Mountaineers went 10-3 and won the Big East.
Frustration is running deep in this West Virginia program, but fans can dive deeper than the team’s current 2-3 record and see this team is closer to being like the Clemson’s of the world than being like the Kansas’ of the world.
West Virginia’s three losses this season are by a combined 12 points. The three teams they lost to have a combined 13-2 record this season.
According to 247Sports 2022 recruiting rankings, West Virginia’s incoming recruiting class ranks 24th in the country. The only two Big 12 teams ahead of them are Texas and Oklahoma — the two teams on their way out.
The main problem many fans will point to this season has been the quarterback play. Between Doege and backup Garrett Greene it seems neither is good enough to be the starter. Fans call for Doege’s job as soon as he makes one mistake, but then when Greene is unable to complete a pass down the field, fans scream for Doege to come back in.
Both of these quarterbacks have different skillsets, but the truth is neither is good enough to be the starting quarterback right now. And the fact that these quarterbacks follow Will Grier, Geno Smith, Skyler Howard and Clint Trickett, who were able to put points on the scoreboard in a short amount of time makes it that much harder for fans to wait.
So far this season, Doege and Greene have combined to turn the ball over 11 times through five games. Until they start taking care of the ball and making smarter plays, this team will not be as successful as it can be.
So until Brown gets his guy at quarterback, this team will lose some games they should not lose. Fans have to understand that after Dana Holgorsen left this program was the worst it had been in a long time. And three years (two if you count the COVID year) is not enough time to build a program from scratch. Players, coaches and fans all have the right to be upset because this team has shown potential, but until they can show any sort of consistency, this team will continue to lost games they are expected to win.
(Top Photo: Bryan Doughtery)