The problems that plague the West Virginia University football team are not going away anytime soon. Certainly not this season.
West Virginia didn’t roll over in a 38-17 loss against visiting Texas Tech on Saturday, but it seemed there was little the Mountaineers could do to stop the Red Raiders from cruising in the first half and sitting on a sizable lead in the final two quarters.
The loss leaves WVU needing three wins with three games remaining for bowl eligibility. Forget about winning all three of those games. The way the last 50-plus days have gone, it feels like winning just one of those last three is asking a lot of this bunch.
First-year West Virginia coach Neal Brown sees the same games we have all seen, and he is no dummy. Brown knows and acknowledges this is a flawed team with problems that run much deeper than who plays at quarterback.
“I’ll say this: I wish quarterback was our problem,” Brown said. “Because that would be an easy fix.”
The Mountaineers found ways to move the ball through the air against Texas Tech, but points were hard to come by. The red zone was not kind to WVU and by the late stages of the second half Milan Puskar Stadium was missing some of the 56,573 announced fans in attendance. Brown ended his press conference after Saturday’s loss with a message for the fans.
“Y’all make sure you include this,” Brown said to the reporters in the Puskar Center. “This is really for our fans. I appreciate them being here. They were here for our Mantrip at 9:30 in the morning [with the temperature] in the upper 20s. They were supportive. They were here through the bad first half. They were here through the second half, and a high percentage of them stayed. I appreciate that. That absolutely does not go unnoticed. We are not playing well as a football team right now. We have a ton of work to do in this program.
“I’ll tell you right now. We will build a successful program here. It doesn’t look like it right now but, because of [the fans] and for them, we will be successful here. We absolutely will be successful here. There’s some growth pains right now. It is what it is. Nobody is more frustrated with anything that is going on on this football field than me. I can promise you that. We have a high-percentage of guys that are going to be back not only for one year but for three years. They will significantly get better. We’ll do a better job coaching them, and there will be a product on the field that matches the fans that we have.”
Brown’s task of turning the Mountaineers around is going to take some time. If he’s lucky, some of the bumps along the way this season — like what happened Saturday or earlier this season at Missouri — are rock bottom for this rebuilding project.
All signs pointed to 2019 being a season that would require some patience from West Virginia fans, and that sure seems to be the case as we hit the final few weeks.
POSITION BATTLE BREWING
It was hard to not notice what West Virginia did with its guards in Friday’s basketball season-opener against Akron.
Sophomore Jordan McCabe, the incumbent starter at point guard and a player who was expected to be leaned on in a leadership role, rode the bench for almost the entire second half of WVU’s win against the visiting Zips, with freshman Miles McBride and sophomore Brandon Knapper, a former standout at South Charleston High, running the point for the Mountaineers.
McCabe is young still and can certainly get better, hang on to his starting spot and play important minutes for West Virginia, but McBride’s talent feels difficult to deny.
The freshman will almost surely look like a freshman at times this season, but judging from what we’ve seen out of McBride, he appears to have arrived in Morgantown as advertised.
McBride’s defense is already ahead of what McCabe gives you, and the freshman getting to play down the stretch while the McCabe sat out the final 18 minutes and 54 seconds.
Obviously, the Mountaineers want to get the most and best out of both players, but it will be interesting to see how Bob Huggins juggles the minutes with his options at point guard.