West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown had nothing but praise Monday for the man leading the Mountaineers’ opponent this week, Kansas State’s Chris Klieman.
Like Brown, Klieman joined the Big 12 last season, hired by Kansas State to replace the legendary Bill Snyder. Of the four Big 12 teams with first-year head coaches last season, Klieman’s Wildcats finished with the best record; 8-5, 5-4 in the Big 12.
Klieman has K-State out to a 4-1 start this season, drawing praise from Brown for being able to continue the Wildcats’ success without mich drop off.
“I think it takes humility,” Brown said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “There’s no need to change things that are good about a place and I think that takes a lot of humility and I think that speaks really well to coach Klieman and really their entire staff.”
Brown referenced Klieman’s time at North Dakota State, where he won four FCS national championships in five years, as proof that he understands how to build and maintain a winning culture.
Brown described his and Klieman’s situations from a year ago as completely different. Klieman was tasked with continuing a culture and maintaining success, while Brown felt he needed to instill a culture. Something that even in year two Brown does not feel he has done yet.
“Are we where we need to be, culturally, or where I’d hoped we’d be midway through year two? Probably not,” Brown admitted. “We’re like most programs, we’d love to have the spring and the summer to kind of grow with our guys, we didn’t.”
Brown said Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech showed that the Mountaineers are not where he wants them to be just yet.
“We’re a work in progress,” Brown said. “We show signs and then sometimes it’s two steps forwards, two steps back. But we’re going to continue to get better.”
Brown had WVU out to a 3-1 start last year but suffered through a five-game midseason losing streak. A win over Klieman’s Wildcats on Nov. 16 broke that streak and the Mountaineers won two of their final three games to finish the year 5-7, 3-6 in the Big 12.
WVU against started out 3-1 this season, but Saturday’s slip-up in Lubbock puts the Mountaineers at 3-2 as they prepare to host the Wildcats this week.