Brown has brought smiles to Mountaineer community
MORGANTOWN — Those aren’t sheepish smiles creeping across the faces of WVU football fans. Those are smiles brought on by the emergence of the team as a competitive force with a large group of no-name over-achievers. And first-year coach Neal Brown has already won over many of those followers who were busy straddling the fence before voicing any opinion.
Brown’s team has been mixed and remixed at times. The personnel has moved about like pawns in a chess match between grand masters.
Beating N.C. State in Morgantown was just as much a relief as it was anything — especially after getting trounced at Missouri and escaping from the upset claws of the Dukes of James Madison.
Winning the Big 12 Conference opener at Kansas could even be called a little inspirational because the Jayhawks had mauled Boston College on the road the previous week.
After a week off, the Mountaineers play Texas at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow in Morgantown. Texas was also idle last week.
The movement of interior offensive linemen Briason Mays, James Gmiter and Chase Behrndt to starters has proven to be a positive change. This week, VanDarius Cowan returns from a four-week suspension.
It’ll be the Flying WV vs. the Hook ’em Horns. And Texas plays Oklahoma next week in the Red River Showdown at the Texas State Fair inside the historic Cotton Bowl. “Look ahead” the West Virginia faithful will advise the boys dressed in white with burnt orange trim looking to score 40 points on the Mountaineer defense.
Like the Mountaineers, Texas is also 3-1 overall with a close loss to unbeaten LSU and a close win over Oklahoma State. Wins over Louisiana Tech and Rice were expected.
The Longhorn coach is Tom Herman, who came from Houston, now the home of Dana Holgorsen and his 2-3 overall record.
One of Herman’s assistants is Herb Hand, who coached at West Virginia for six seasons when the Mountaineers were going to bowls in five of his six years.
Coach Brown’s little publicized defensive crew is ranked second in the Big 12 in getting sacks, having 11 in the first four games. But the offense has allowed more sacks than any Big 12 team other than Texas Christian.
This year’s West Virginia version is quickly building a reputation as a unit that has little problem with outlandish egos and plays as a “team” that succeeds or fails after all-out efforts and quality coaching and preparation. There’s been little or no chest thumping, self promotion or barking excuses when things go bad.
Texas probably has more “playmakers” on both offense and defense. But West Virginia has done very well with its special teams . . . and bringing enthusiasm to bear on each week’s outcome.
Win or lose, Brown has brought a certain pride back to those followers of the “ol’ Flying WV.”