Thinking back to this summer, if someone were to tell you through three games West Virginia would have a quarterback who is leading their offense to 46.0 points per game, to go along with a true freshman running back who is third in the country in rushing touchdowns, you would think they would have a better record than 1-2.
However, due to injuries on the defense and a couple inopportune plays, the Mountaineers find themselves in a must-win situation on Thursday against Virginia Tech.
From playing a ranked Pitt opponent on the road to start the season, followed by a Big 12 opener, an FCS opponent and now another rivalry game, two wins across a 22-day stretch in which you are playing four games would have been seen as an acceptable start.
Three weeks later though, West Virginia sits on the brink of being 1-3, with their only win coming against FCS opponent Towson. If not for a dropped ball against Pitt and a roughing the passer penalty against Kansas, West Virginia is probably 3-0 and ranked heading into Virginia Tech, all the more reason Brown must find a way to win.
The rivalry between West Virginia and Virginia Tech is no secret. West Virginia’s fanbase knows it, West Virginia knows it, but most importantly, Brown knows it. Three games into his fourth season, Brown is 18-20, having lost eight of those games by one possession.
Besides having the opportunity to get back to a .500 record before the heart of conference play begins, Brown also has the chance to do something he has struggled with since coming to West Virginia — own a rivalry matchup.
Brown has played against Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Pitt at West Virginia and holds a 1-2 record in those games. If not for a late goal line stand in last year’s game against Virginia Tech, Brown would be 0-3 in such games. If Brown wins on Thursday night, he would not only win a rivalry game, he would be 2-0 in the battle for the Black Diamond Trophy. A win also would give West Virginia possession of the trophy for the near future as this is the last scheduled game in the two-year series.
For Brown, the opportunity Thursday night brings is a much easier one than the opportunity against Pitt. Virginia Tech is under the leadership of a new head coach, and the Hokies sit at 2-1, with wins against Boston College and Wofford. Their only loss came in week one to Old Dominion. Virginia Tech’s 20-point victory over Wofford is not terribly convincing considering Wofford previously got shutout 31-0 in a loss to Chattanooga.
Virginia Tech ranks 102nd in college football in scoring offense, compared to West Virginia who ranks 11th. Even with a sub-par defense, Browns’ Mountaineers must find a way to beat a Hokie team who struggles to score the ball.
Brown’s seat has been getting warmer through the first three weeks of the season and if he wants to solidify himself as the guy moving forward for the Mountaineers, Thursday night in Blacksburg is where he can get a statement win.
In his three seasons at the helm, Brown has beaten a power five opponent on the road five times — with the combined record of those opponents being 23-38. Scott Frost was recently let go from Nebraska, a job the majority of the college football world thought he would be the perfect fit for had a 35-38 record, and no more than five wins during his four full seasons.
If you look at Brown’s tenure in Morgantown, he has proved he can compete in big games on the road, whether it be Pitt this year, Oklahoma last year, or even Texas in 2020. However, he has never been able to have that signature win on the road. Playing in a rivalry game, on the road, on prime time television is the recipe for Brown to deliver what he needs — a big win. It is known that pressure makes diamonds and for West Virginia, the pressure of Thursday night hopefully delivers the Black Diamond Trophy.
Photo by Aaron Parker, Blue Gold Sports