When you lose to a lesser program that you were favored to beat by multiple scores, it’s pretty tough to find positives out of the game. That’s the case for West Virginia following the loss to Kansas.
Here are the five key takeaways from a night that became one of the darkest days of the Neal Brown era.
The Defense Isn’t as Good as Some Thought
In recent seasons, it had been the offense letting the defense down. On Saturday, the defense firmly let the offense down. When you only punt once and put up 42 points, it’s tough to blame the offense. The unit wasn’t perfect, but more shouldn’t be required. As far as the defense, the secondary got picked apart without Charles Woofs. And while everyone knew his loss would have an impact, it shouldn’t single handily ruin the entire group like it did. Even the defensive line that’s been such a plus for WVU with Dante Stills and company got beat up in the second half. Kansas could’ve kept scoring if they kept playing. The only break for the defense was the game ending.
JT Daniels Makes a Difference
This was said by many after the Backyard Brawl, but is evident again now. JT Daniels brings a different vibe at quarterback and is a true leader. Bryce Ford-Wheaton talked about how calm Daniels was always game and how that rubbed off on the team. Daniels can make most throws, and with the exception of a great play on the pick to lose the game, didn’t make many mistakes. Daniels’ maturity was made clear by how he is able to read the field and go beyond the first read if it’s not there. That was something his predecessor in Jarret Doege struggled with. It’s not just about the numbers, and those were good as he went 28 for 40 for 359 yards and three touchdowns, but the intangibles shows Daniels is an upgrade.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton is Elite
While it wasn’t quite enough in the end, receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton had himself another stellar day and is showing why he’s one of the best in the country. With four touchdowns and a 2-point conversion, Ford-Wheaton is putting points on the board at a ridiculous pace. His ability to burst into open space and get by multiple defenders is something that could give him a chance at playing beyond the college level. Yes, drops haunted him against Pitt despite a solid game, but the hard work he put in during the off-season is paying off. He has taken his game to another level, something his head coach and quarterback both have talked about.
Inexperience in the Secondary is Evident
Inexperience here means inexperience as a group and at WVU. Charles Woods’ loss created a big problem for the WVU secondary, but it seems like Woods’ absence has been felt even more than Neal Brown and the coaching staff expected it to. Brown talked about how the defense—and this was mostly directed at the secondary—were out of position frequently. Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels did only throw for 219 yards, but he also added 85 yards on the ground. Missed tackles certainly helped his cause with his legs too.
The Program is Not Climbing
Mountaineer Nation has been told to trust the climb. It’s tough to keep selling that now. Kansas is better than in recent years, but losing at home to Kansas and an 0-2 start is still unacceptable. It’s also compounded by the poor season that felt like a regression a year ago. It’s year four and it’s now fair to wonder where the program is headed and how Neal Brown can convince people its headed in the right direction.