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Takeaways: Questions Exist as WVU Football Keeps Winning, Shocking CFB World



WVU Football HC Neal Brown

Upsetting TCU on the road propelled WVU into a territory few thought was possible this season. Neal Brown appears off the hot seat and the Mountaineers are knocking on the door of being nationally ranked. There’s even a strong argument they should be inside the top 25 already based on the landscape around the country.

While being close to the top 25 isn’t exactly something West Virginia fans are going to hold a parade over. They have obviously experienced more success than that. But a 4-1 record and a 2-0 mark in conference play already show WVU has surpassed what most “experts” were predicting.

Asti: WVU Football Deserves to be Ranked Inside Top 25

The vibes are good around the program and even the most cynical fans are apologizing for doubting their team. Despite some excitement returning, West Virginia has been far from a perfect football team this season. With the bye on deck, what did the win over TCU show us about WVU?

Garrett Greene is Best Option at QB

Garrett Greene returned to action and led the Mountaineers to the program’s biggest win in years. However, Brown admitted that wasn’t exactly the initial plan. According to Brown, Nicco Marchiol was slated to play again until he got hurt during practice a few days before the Saturday night game. It’s unclear if that was due to Greene not being full healthy or if Brown didn’t want to change things with WVU winning.

No matter what’s the truth, the right quarterback played. Now like was the case with Marchiol under center, the defense stepping up, especially in the second half, is why West Virginia won. Greene made mistakes and missed targets too. Both quarterbacks have squandered opportunities. That can’t be denied.

Garrett Greene’s Legs, FG Blocks, Power WVU Upset over TCU

But with all of that said, the offense showed more signs of life, had more chances at being explosive and Greene’s running ability and speed can be relied upon more than when Marchiol scrambles. Marchiol wouldn’t have got by the defense to run in for that 35-yard touchdown early in the game. Greene’s numbers were better, more points were literally put on the scorecard and the offense moved the ball with more regularity compared to what Marchiol put up against Pitt or Texas Tech.

It’s no slight to Mrachiol, who did show signs of improvement and the receivers did let him down at times, but here in 2023 the Mountaineers are going to go as far as Greene can take them.

Starting to Get Concerned About CJ Donaldson

From Brown to offensive coordinator Chad Scott, who labeled Donaldson the best back on the field in a game that included a future NFL Draft pick last month, WVU coaches all said the same thing when evaluating CJ Donaldson’s performance against Texas Tech. They all said he had a bad game and can’t have another one. Well, another win may have overshadowed the fact he absolutely had another bad game.

Donaldson, often referred to as West Virginia’s freak athlete, ran for only 61 yards on 22 carries. That’s a pedestrian average of just 2.8 yards per touch. So he actually was worse against TCU than he was in his bad game the week before.

There was reason to believe the sophomore running back would be even better in 2023 than when he emerged out of nowhere last year. He was healthy, had actual games at the position behind him and was in much better shape. And Donaldson did start off the season churning yards and making defenders miss. He was the beast his team needed in a gritty Backyard Brawl win. But he’s not been the same since that night.

WVU Football Nicco Marchiol, CJ Donaldson, Devin Carter CJ helmet off

Kelsie LeRose/WVSN

West Virginia does have the benefit of a loaded roster of running backs and a quarterback who can get yards on the ground himself, but Donaldson was supposed to be the driving force of the rushing attack. It’s fair to now wonder what’s gone wrong all of a sudden.

The WVU Defense is Much Deeper Than Last Year

Most defenses can’t endure watching several key contributors leave a game with injuries. Not only did WVU manage to still win, but the defense actually looked significant better as the game progressed. That’s not in any way saying someone like Aubrey Burks or even Trey Lathan won’t be missed, but it’s a testament to the depth of the group.

When one man went down, another instantly started filling in. Plugging players into increased roles in the middle of a game is certainly not easy, but Jordan Lesley has to be proud of how his players responded to adversity. Lesley has previously said he feels his defense is better suited to handle injuries if (when) they happen. He’s right.


Last week I asked if winning ugly was sustainable for West Virginia. For one more week, the answer is yes. They did have to do a bit more to beat TCU than to get by Pitt or Texas Tech, and that’s expected when you are facing a team that finished as the national runner-up a season ago, but the win can still be classified as ugly in many ways.

WVU showed heart, something that was lacking in 2022, in the win over TCU. Fortunately for West Virginia, the bye is coming at the perfect time. Even with a remaining schedule that’s shaping up to be pretty favorable, Brown and his Mountaineers still need to keep proving themselves.

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