Neal Brown is fed up. WVU fans are fed up. If the devastating loss to Houston in the final seconds didn’t do it the week earlier, West Virginia’s 48-34 loss to Oklahoma State officially killed any of the good vibes earned from the 4-1 start to the season.
And part of why Brown argues this loss stings even more than last week is because the issues he thought would be corrected were still very evident. It’s next to impossible to win when you hand the opponent 17 points off turnovers.
But now that the dust has settled, where do the Mountaineers go from here?
Defense May Have Been Fooling Us All Along
For the second straight game, the defense was providing flashbacks to 2022. And for as good as the defense was early in the season when West Virginia picked up gritty win after gritty win, it’s been that bad in two disappointing losses.
Last week the missed tackles made life easy on the Houston offense, especially in the second half. Like a broken record, that same situation occurred agains against Oklahoma State. WVU did overcome early mistakes and held a 24-20 lead with one quarter left to play. But one quarter was all the Cowboys needed.
Oklahoma State scored 28 points in the fourth quarter and running back Ollie Gordon gashed the WVU defense with over 150 yards on the ground in just the fourth quarter alone. He would finish the game with 282 yards and four touchdowns.
“They get the ball at midfield and then from then on out it’s the Ollie Gordon show. I don’t know if we tackled him in the fourth quarter. Extremely frustrating,” said an agitated Brown after the game.
And now another poor performance makes people wonder if the defense was simply benefiting from facing lackluster competition. Were they just taking advantage of struggling offenses when they were playing with their hair on fire and leading the team to victory? What if Pitt had a competent quarterback? What if Texas Tech was healthier? These are now all fair questions to ask.
Garrett Greene is Both Fun and Frustrating to Watch
Like a true leader, Garrett Greene always places the blame on his own shoulders. But just like in Houston, Greene is not why the Mountaineers lost. He was explosive and put up numbers again, both through the air and on the ground. Brown said he had a special game again. And he kept West Virginia in the game, even as the defense was watching Gordon run right by them.
But with all of that said, Greene still couldn’t help himself at times. Brown said Greene had to be smarter moving forward leading up to this game, which was in obvious reference to the penalty for taking his helmet off that ended up moving Houston into range for a game winning Hail Mary.
Garrett Greene needs to be smarter. This also needs to stop being something that has to be said about him. He can be explosive, but the "trying to do too much" plays have to stop.
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) October 21, 2023
Greene didn’t make any single mistake as bad as that one, but he did throw a costly interception. He also was close to throwing three more too and started the game off slow yet again.
CJ Donaldson Just Isn’t the Same
West Virginia compiled 228 rushing yards. It’s hard to ask for more than that, granted you will likely need much more when one opposing player surpassed that himself. A large chunk, 117 yards of it to be exact, were from Greene keeping the ball.
Between the actual running backs, WVU ran for 111 yards. The rotation was shortened and only Justin Johnson and CJ Donaldson touched the ball. Johnson, who missed the Houston trip with an illness, posted 72 of those 111 yards. He ran for 5.1 yards per carry on the day.
That leaves only 39 yards and an average of 3.1 yard per from Donaldson. And now Donaldson has posted four straight sub 4.0 yards per carry games. After an offseason about Donaldson being poised for a big year and being in even better shape, he’s just not delivered to those expectations. In fact, he’s not been close to what he was last season when healthy at all.
It’s possible he could explode at any time, but with only one 100+-yard game on the season, there really aren’t any signs that’s going to happen any time soon.
What the Hell Happened?
Traylon Ray ran into Preston Fox as he waited to return a punt and caused a fumble. Yes, that’s right a WVU player ran into his own teammate and resulted in a loss of a possession and points the other way.
The moment was so ridiculous SportsCenter couldn’t resist plastering it all over social media for the world to enjoy. “He ran into his own teammate on the punt,” is how they captioned a clip of the play.
This looked ridiculous watching from the press box, but seeing the clip up close like this makes it look so much worse.
This moment embodies WVU these last two games after starting 4-1. https://t.co/GC89dkvhX2
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) October 22, 2023
That moment now embodies West Virginia’s last two games perfectly. What the hell happened?
And as Brown literally said, no one is going to feel sorry for the now 4-3 (2-2) Mountaineers no matter what’s caused the slide. A road trip to Orlando, Florida for a date with UCF is now on tap for WVU as they look to stop the bleeding and avoid falling to a .500 record overall.
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