Neal Brown and Staff’s Demeanor Keeps Players Calm in Opener
Morgantown, WV – The West Virginia Mountaineers won their season opener Saturday afternoon over the FCS No. 2 James Madison Dukes 20-13. The game started off a little sluggish offensively and despite beginning the game on a three and out, the defense had their struggles in the first half.
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown begins his era 1-0 and although it’s not necessarily going to be the case moving forward, that calm country boy demeanor we all see at his press conferences carried over to the sidelines in his first game at Mountaineer Field.
“I think they (The young and inexperienced players) take the demeanor of the head coach and the assistant coach,” stated Brown. “I’m not saying I’m going to be that calm every game, but I knew coming into it what it was going to be. I didn’t know exactly how it was going to go, I’m not rubbing a crystal ball, but I’ve played games with young players before.”
James Madison’s defense bullied the WVU offense early in the game, to the point where the Mountaineers should have been charging rent as much time as the Dukes were spending the backfield. The JMU defense grabbed momentum and the offense carried to the endzone for the games first score.
Despite the chaos James Madison was causing at Mountaineer Field, West Virginia remained calm. There was no look of panic, heads were up and remained focused on the task at hand.
West Virginia did respond on the ensuing possession with a field goal; however, they trailed at the half 7-3.
“I think the team takes on the personality of the people who are working with them, whether it’s the head coach or the position coach, said Brown. “I thought our coaching staff did a really good job. I thought we communicated well at halftime, making adjustments to come out in the second half. I don’t think anybody ever panicked on the sideline. The kids took that read and really stayed in it the whole time.”
The adjustments paid off to start the second half. On the first play of the opening drive of the half, WVU quarterback Austin Kendall hit Tevin Bush on a shallow crossing route and Bush turned on the burners and went up the sideline for 41 yards.
Austin then hit Sean Ryan on for 19 yards on a third and 12 before he came up big again, dropping a beautiful ball into George Campbell for the 28-yard go-ahead touchdown pass.
James Madison tied it up on the following possession. Although the Mountaineer offense had to continuously battle, WVU regained the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 43-yard field goal.
Then on the Dukes next possession, Keith Washington intercepted Ben DiNucci’s pass that set the WVU offense up at the JMU 26-yard line and three plays later, Kendall found Bush wide-open in the endzone to push the West Virginia lead to 10, 20-10.
James Madison got within a possession after a field goal with 4:33 left in the game. The Mountaineer offense had the opportunity to seal the game twice in that span, but there was no panic, even with some boo’s raining upon the field, the defense continued to stifle the Duke’s offense and West Virginia held on to win 20-13.
At times frustration from the staff showed but it never hindered those teachable moments as the Mountaineers were able to stick to their game plan and pull out the victory.