West Virginia fans and recruits alike have been told to “Trust the Climb” by head coach Neal Brown, but it’s fair to wonder just where WVU is climbing these days.
After an embarrassing 45-20 loss to Baylor, adding on to a two-game losing streak where each contest has been a different form of emotional torture, WVU is 2-4 this season and 13-15 under Brown. Progress has stalled, and without any form of tangible progression from basically anywhere in the lineup, the climb has turned into a plummet.
WVU isn’t a good football team. There’s no other way about it. Yes, the Mountaineers could’ve — and maybe should’ve — beaten both Maryland and Oklahoma this season. And? You are what your record says you are. Good teams find a way to win, and in both games, uninspired play-calling, inconsistent quarterback play and poor game management led to shoulda, coulda, wouldas moments.
When a season, that was supposed to be a continued climb toward relevancy, is basically over after six games, what’s the point?
It’s time for redshirt senior Jarret Doege to cede the starting spot to redshirt freshman Garrett Greene. Brown needs to take the training wheels off of Greene, open the playbook up and let him operate the offense beyond a steady dose of quarterback draws. At least when you’re losing 45-13 with Greene in the game, there’s a point. Running it back with Doege at this point is insanity.
Doege hasn’t necessarily been terrible for WVU this season, but his limitations as a passer and his inability to offer anything on the ground have hamstrung the WVU offense at times this season. He’s been more and more erratic, and the reward isn’t worth the process anymore.
Greene might not be any better, but it’s time for him to get extended looks as the quarterback and see exactly what he can be. And even if he’s a work in progress as a passer, that’s OK; he’s only a freshman. His development in an already lost season at least shows some sort of plan from Brown.
For a coach lauded for his offensive creativity, it’s clear he has no trust whatsoever in his offense. WVU opted for field goals on 4th-and-7 at the Baylor 12 in the first half and 4th-and-9 from the Baylor 10 in the second half in a multiple touchdown game. With time running down at the end of the first half, Brown chose to hold his timeouts and let the clock basically run out as opposed to taking a chance.
WVU’s offensive line hasn’t been good this season, with regular missed assignments leaving senior running back Leddie Brown without much room to work, but the offense has too much talent to be this stagnant. The second half scoring issues are well-publicized, with nine points in three games against Maryland, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, before scoring 20 last week in a loss to Texas Tech, and it’s not likely to change.
Against Baylor, WVU managed just three second-half points before a rushing touchdown from Greene in garbage time. Not that it really mattered with WVU disappearing in the middle of the first quarter.
WVU’s defense has been excellent at times, but against Baylor, the secondary was completely exposed. Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohannon threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns at 11.6 yards per attempt against the WVU defense — starting on the second play of the game with a 75-yard touchdown catch and run.
It’s tough to rag on a WVU defense that has reloaded and played extremely well at times this season, but the secondary was a concern to begin the season, and the secondary was shredded by Bohanon on Saturday. Aside from the Baylor game, WVU’s defense has bailed out the offense more often than not. That caught up to the group Saturday.
WVU isn’t a bad team per se, but this isn’t a good team either. There are flaws across the board, and already sitting at 2-4 before the bulk of the Big 12 schedule doesn’t bode well for the Mountaineers clawing back to six wins.
At 0-3 in the Big 12, WVU is dead last in the conference. Yes, even behind Kansas. And next on the schedule is TCU and Iowa State. Followed by Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas before Kansas to finish off the year.
Does WVU win four of the remaining six games to earn bowl eligibility? Kansas seems like a safe bet, but even TCU and Kansas State appear to be tough games with both coming on the road this season.
There are a lot of problems facing WVU right now, but perhaps the most concerning is how Brown’s climb has derailed. The fans are beginning to lose faith, the product on the field is underwhelming and there’s no clear plan or course of action at this point. It’d be easy to point to future recruiting classes, but is there time to wait for two, three, four seasons? No, there’s not.
Brown appears to be at a crossroads already, and there’s no magic wand to fix what’s ailing the Mountaineers. A bye week is up next for WVU, and it’s never been more needed, but the Mountaineer team that comes out against TCU in two weeks could go a long way in determining the future of this program.
However, it’s clear that West Virginia is stuck in neutral right now, and that’s being polite.