Through two games, the West Virginia football program finds itself in a very unfamiliar situation.
The Mountaineers have went winless in their first two contests for the first time in 43 years. Head coach Neal Brown has made his feelings very clear concerning it — ‘losing stinks.’
“I don’t think there’s anything earth-shattering about that,” Brown said of his remark. “You don’t sugarcoat these things. Where we’re at is where we’re at. We’re 0-2.
“When you invest time and energy into something and it doesn’t go the way you want it to go, it’s hard. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. The same frustration and disappointment is with the staff and players as well.”
Brown acknowledged he has also heard the frustrations of the West Virginia fans, who have been posting their opinions rather frequently on social media over the last week.
These posts have ranged from issues with the offensive gameplan, lack of execution for the Mountaineers defense, all the way up to calling for West Virginia to change its head coach.
This led to Brown having to remind his players to do their best to ignore the outside noise.
“I get the fans frustrations,” Brown said. “Negativity is never good. This is what it is. This is big time football, and there’s pros and cons to it. The thing is, if you’re affected by outside noise now, you’ll be affected your whole life. The noise that hurts the most is ‘You’re so close. You could be 2-0.’ But, we’re not.
“One of two things happen when you have adversity. You come together, learn and grow from it, or it splinters. It’s up to us to draw and get better.”
Brown went so far as to bringing an example in from his past to try and relate to the feelings of the Mountaineer fans.
“I think back to when both of my parents were teachers,” Brown said. “We had season tickets to the University of Kentucky in the upper deck. Kentucky wasn’t winning a whole lot, of course they changed their fortunes since then, but they weren’t winning a whole lot (at that time).
“I can remember a whole lot of rides home in a beat up van with my uncle and their friends (expletive) about how they played. They were frustrated that they spent money on tickets and concessions. I don’t need to be explained this. I lived it. Nobody feels the frustration more than who’s inside this building.”
West Virginia is set to face Towson, a strong FCS squad, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Morgantown.
The Tigers’ roster is bolstered with over 50 new players, including several transfers from FBS schools. Towson’s talent includes Tyrrell Pigrome, a dual-threat quarterback who previously played at three FBS programs, and Jesus Gibbs, a transfer from South Carolina and a potential pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Facing a dual-threat quarterback presented issues in the Mountaineers’ most recent defeat, a 55-42 overtime loss to Kansas. The Jayhawks’ signal caller threw for 219 yards and three scores, while rushing for a game-high 85 yards.
The West Virginia defense had trouble stopping all phases of Kansas’ run game, giving up 200 yards and four scores on the ground, while also having issues with one-on-one tackling for the second straight week.
Brown mentioned points off turnovers (27-0), missed opportunities, and inopportune penalties, including two illegal procedures at the goal line that cost the Mountaineers a potential win in regulation, as additional problems his team needs to fix.
“We have to learn from our failures, and sustain what we’ve done well,” Brown said. “We’ve run the ball well. We’ve played well offensively through two games. Special teams, outside of kickoff return, have also been a strength.”
The Mountaineers’ mentality is now about the next opponent, and Brown said his team will be ready for Towson. West Virginia is not dwelling on its past losses.
“There’s only one way to get it fixed, and the only people that are going to fix it are inside this building,” Brown said. “The only way it gets fixed is to work. Nobody feels sorry for us, and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’re not throwing in the towel, we’re going back to work.”