MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Neal Brown sat in the team room of the Milan Puskar Center following a 38-17 defeat to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
For 11 minutes, Brown talked about the loss, how and why it happened, and took questions from the assembled media members. Questions about quarterback Jarret Doege making his team debut, how practice had been that week and why the defense had play so poorly.
After those 11 minutes and even after director of football communications, Mike Montoro, had signaled for no more questions, Brown stayed seated at the table, he had something else he wanted to say.
“I want to leave this in closing,” Brown began. “This is really for our fans, I appreciate them being here. They were here for our mantrip at 9:30 in the morning in the upper 20s, low 30s, they were supportive, they were here through the bad first half, they were here for the second half and a high percentage of them stayed. I appreciate that and that absolutely does not go unnoticed.”
“We’re not playing very well as a football team right now,” Brown continued. “We’ve got a ton of work to do in this program. This is probably going to be one of our worst days but I’ll tell you right now, we will build a successful program here. It doesn’t look like it right now but because of (the fans) and for (the fans), we will be successful here. We will absolutely be successful here.”
Brown has talked about how important the fans are to his team’s success several times this season. He begins nearly every press conference following a home game by thanking the fans for showing up and watching. In five home games this season, an average of 57,884 fans have shown up for every game, 289,421 overall.
Even though the team had lost four games in a row, more than 56,000 attended Saturday’s game. All those fans watched as the Mountaineers floundered against the Red Raiders, but none of them were more disappointed than the head coach.
“There’s some growth pains right now and it is what it is,” Brown said. “Nobody’s more frustrated with anything that’s going on on the football field than me, I promise you that.”
Through the losses, poor play and injuries, however, Brown can see hope on the horizon for the Mountaineers and he is adamant that the team will get better as time goes on.
“We have a high percentage of guys that are going to be back, and not only back for one year, but they’re going to be back for three years, and they will significantly get better.”
Through nine games, Brown has started 10 seniors, 11 juniors, eight sophomores and 11 freshmen, including six true freshmen. Of note, offensive linemen James Gmiter and Briason Mays have started for much of this year and will have three years of eligibility remaining. Defensive backs Kerry Martin Jr., Nicktroy Fortune, Tykee Smith, Exree Loe and Tae Mayo will all have at least three years left. Receivers Ali Jennings, Winston Wright, Bryce Wheaton and Sam James could all be here for multiple seasons as well.
Not just the players, Brown knows he will get better too and when the pieces come together he says the Mountaineers will be a team worth cheering for.
“We’ll do a better job coaching them and there will be a product on the field that will match the fans that we have.”
West Virginia has three games left to play this season. The next being on the road against the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday.