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Asti: Rivalry Game Against Virginia Tech is Must-Win for Neal Brown, WVU

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Calling the 2022 edition of the Black Diamond Trophy rivalry a big game for West Virginia is a major understatement at this point. And while the Mountaineers did beat Virginia Tech in Morgantown last year, a loss this season would only further the conversation about the concern about the future of the program under head coach Neal Brown.

Brown, who currently owns a 17-20 record now in the midst of his fourth year at WVU, desperately needs to claim a statement win, and ideally one that checks out the rest of that season. Virginia Tech was ranked number 15 at the time of the game in 2021, but then lost 6 games including the bowl game following their loss to WVU. That didn’t do much for cementing that as a win to mark as a big deal for your tenure for Brown.

It is possible few will be willing to classify a win over the 2022 Hokies as a big win either, mostly because the Hokies already have a pretty bad loss on their resume, falling to Old Dominion to open the season. With that said, a loss could reflect poorly on WVU since all the Mountaineers have done to this point this season is lose and dominate an FCS opponent.

Asti: When it Comes to Neal Brown, Something Has to Give

Any good favor of a close loss in the Backyard Brawl to favored Pitt in Pittsburgh was quickly washed away after a home defeat at the hands of Kansas, a program that may be improved from the past but most feel has been among the worst “Power 5” teams over the last decade. A loss in Blacksburg to a pretty average, and this time unranked, Virginia Tech team will likely destroy any belief of hope or that the team was back on the right track after clicking on all cylinders in the win over Towson.

The excuse that Lane Stadium is a tough place to play, and this was something Brown addressed during his weekly press conference on Monday, saying it will be a louder and more rocking atmosphere than what the Brawl was like at Acrisure Stadium, won’t work as well as it may have in the past either. The Hokies home field advantage hasn’t been what it once was during the Michael Vick days as a true national contender, or honestly even just  a few years ago. After owning a solid 6-1 record at home in 2019, Virginia Tech only posted a 3-3 home record in 2020 and a 4-3 home record in 2021.

No matter how it happens, and it isn’t going to be easy, Brown and WVU desperately need to chalk up another win against Virginia Tech, keeping the Black Diamond Trophy in Morgantown and restoring any positivity about the state of the program.

Another double edged sword for Brown and WVU is this game will be viewed by a national television audience. A win and more people than normal could be impressed. But a loss then also means more people than normal may offer criticism.

WVU and Virginia Tech will kickoff at 7:30 pm on ESPN this Thursday night.

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Mike Asti is an experienced media personality and journalist with a vast résumé and skillset, most notably with TribLIVE Radio, WPXI and 93.7 The Fan. Asti now serves as the Managing Editor of WV Sports Now, manages and serves as the lead host for Pittsburgh Sports Live and contributes to Steelers Now, Pittsburgh Sports Now and Nittany Sports Now. He also contributes to West Virginia's Metro News among other outlets.

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