During his weekly news conference Tuesday, West Virginia coach Neal Brown made a lighthearted comment about the memories of college-age football players.
“I’ll say this in a nice way: This age group we deal with, they don’t remember that,” Brown said, referring to a loss to Iowa State two years ago. “They don’t remember last week.”
But the hope is that his team does remember last week, particularly the way it played in a 29-17 win at TCU, and by doing so this week can erase some bad memories of shortcomings against the No. 22 Cyclones.
Those were the major talking points of Tuesday’s presser — what went right against the Horned Frogs, what’s gone wrong against Iowa State and how to turn last Saturday’s momentum into success against an opponent that has definitively had the Mountaineers’ number as of late.
The Cyclones will invade Morgantown on Saturday with the teams slated for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Milan Puskar Stadium. The game will air on ESPN+.
WVU (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12 Conference) will look to put to end a three-game skid against ISU, during which the Cyclones have outscored the Mountaineers by a combined 110-34 score in those meetings. That included a 42-6 thumping in Ames, Iowa, a year ago, a result that by far represented the Mountaineers’ worst showing in a 6-4 campaign.
While that game served as a low point in the 2020 season, Brown said it has served as a motivator in the months since.
“I can list a lot of reasons why, but the bottom line is they physically dominated both lines of scrimmages,” Brown said. “We really worked from a physicality standpoint and a strength standpoint, that’s something that was a focal point for us in the nine months leading up to the season because of that game.”
Though recent history is on the side of Iowa State, a season-best overall performance by WVU in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday at least has the Mountaineers riding some positive momentum into the game. WVU turned in its best performance by nearly any metric, doubling its season total in forced turnovers with three, rushing for 229 yards, allowing just four tackles for loss and one sack and, as Brown pointed out Tuesday, winning the time-of-possession battle 35:30-24:30.
“Much needed win on Saturday night,” Brown said in his opening statement. “Really proud of our staff and our players, not only for the outcome, but the response over the last two weeks has been really positive.”
Indeed, it sure looked like a bye week after three straight losses did the Mountaineers good. From a physical standpoint, extra rest is fairly self-explanatory. But Brown pointed to the mental side of things as the real difference.
For instance, both Saturday’s contest and a 45-20 loss to Baylor, the team’s last game before the bye, started in similar fashions. The Bears scored on the second play from scrimmage, and on Saturday TCU’s Derius Davis returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, putting the Mountaineers in an early hole.
But while the early defensive miscue set the tone for a long day in Waco, Texas, the Mountaineers were able to overcome the early setback at TCU, and, more than anything, Brown said he was most pleased with that.
“[Against Baylor we] gave up the big play and then the second drive, another easy touchdown and I don’t know the last time we started a game where it was one, two, three touchdowns [on the first three drives],” Brown said. “We talked about owning it last week and my point with them was, ‘OK, we made some mistakes — our alignment, our communication — but the biggest issue is man, we didn’t respond.’
“That was probably the best thing for me as a head coach. We gave up the opening kickoff, not that we wanted to, but I told the guys on the headset, I clicked over on defense and I said, ‘Hey, here’s the deal. We wanted adversity. We didn’t want it to be on the first play, but here it is. So, how do we respond?’ And I thought they came out and really handled it well.”
- Brown also provided a few injury updates. Tight end Mike O’Laughlin, cornerback Nicktroy Fortune and defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor all left the TCU game with leg injuries. Brown said that Mesidor practiced on Monday and would be a full go while the other two would likely be Saturday decisions.
- Earlier on Tuesday, redshirt freshman Devell Washington announced via Twitter that he had entered the transfer portal. Washington came to WVU as a three-star wide receiver and entertained offers from Kentucky, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue but was moved to linebacker in the offseason.