Saturday’s Matchup with TCU is Mountaineers’ Biggest Chance to Prove Themselves
All season, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown said his team has been sporting the “next up” mentality for its games.
Whether it follows a quality win or a gut-wrenching defeat, the Mountaineers are always looking ahead to their next opponent, thinking of how they can improve or continue the strong play in their upcoming contest.
But, no matter which side of the scoreboard West Virginia ends up on, there is always outside criticism flowing in from all directions. This is something Brown said his team has to overlook it when peering towards the upcoming game on the schedule.
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“Basically, it’s about next,” Brown said during Tuesday’s news conference. “When you look at it, you have to put it in the perspective of them. After they put their time and resources into it, what does it look like on film? It doesn’t have anything to do with social media. It’s about how are you gonna be a better player?”
Brown’s attempts to inspire and instill confidence in his players will be more important this week than the rest of the season, as the Mountaineers will be matching up against TCU (7-0), the top team in the Big 12 and the No. 7 ranked group in the FBS standings.
While preparing for the Horned Frogs, West Virginia is trying to stave off this past Saturday’s 48-10 loss to Texas Tech, where the 38-point defeat is tied for the largest deficit the Mountaineers have endured in Brown’s tenure. This matched a 52-14 setback to Oklahoma on Oct. 19, 2019.
“I was extremely disappointed and frustrated to say the least,” Brown said. “We refuse to accept that’s who we are. Failure is temporary unless you accept it, and I refuse to accept it. Nobody that’s coaching here is gonna let that be who we are.”
Through seven games, West Virginia sits in very familiar territory. The Mountaineers are 3-4 for the third time in four years under Brown.
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This means, just like last season, the Mountaineers will need to win at least three of its final five games to be able to finish the regular season at .500 or better and qualify for a bowl game.
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The road to get there, however, is more difficult than it has been in the past couple of seasons. After TCU, West Virginia faces Iowa State, followed by three top Big 12 opponents — Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State — two of whom are currently ranked in the Top 25.
So, Brown and the Mountaineers will have to think about what it will take to reach their goal. Brown kept it simple.
“We just need to play better,” he said. “I can deal with outcomes. If they beat us, and we played like we’re capable of playing, I can say it didn’t go our way.”
West Virginia’s defense will likely be the primary focus for this week’s matchup, as the Mountaineers allowed 40-plus points for the second straight game and third time this season, after doing so on just four occasions the last three years combined.
Offensively, TCU leads the Big 12 in points per game (44.7, ranks third in FBS), touchdowns (41) and yards per play (7.4).
On the flip side, West Virginia ranks last in the Big 12 in all three categories. The Mountaineers have allowed 33.7 points per game, 31 touchdowns and six yards per play.
“I’m going to say the same thing I’ve said back in the spring,” Mountaineers defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “I love this group. I’m excited about this group. Things didn’t work out like I thought they would, and we didn’t have all the pieces, but that’s a season.
“We have to play with fundamentals. We have to make plays. When the ball is in the air, get it, and when the ball is on the ground, get it. When you play an explosive offense and don’t do that, they’ll make you pay. It’s all about confidence.”
Despite the large obstacle that lies ahead, recent stats may hold the confidence boost for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia leads the all-time series 7-4 versus TCU and have won four consecutive meetings by an average of 17.5 points. The Horned Frogs have not been victorious in Morgantown since 2014.
“If them being seventh in the country and the top of our league doesn’t get your juices flowing, you’re probably in the wrong thing,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re back at home. We feel really good about playing here.
“We’ll be ready.”