West Virginia football coach Neal Brown opened his weekly news conference Tuesday with a simple statement.
“We’re not at a funeral, just lost a couple of football games, let’s cut the ice with that,” Brown began.
From there, Brown went into his routine of breaking down positives and negatives in all three phases from the team’s 45-20 loss Saturday at Baylor. Obviously, there were more of the latter than the former.
Now in a bye week, Brown said Tuesday afternoon would be the first time he would meet with his team since coming back from Waco, Texas, on the heels of the Mountaineers’ third straight loss. Brown said it was a needed break he gave his team, one that’s beaten up in several ways.
“Physically we’re beaten up and we’re emotionally spent,” Brown said. “It’s a frustrated group, just talking to the players on the phone and through text and meeting with the staff, I think everybody in this building is frustrated. Nobody likes losing, that’s obvious.
“I know our fans are frustrated. This is the way I think about it: We’re in the entertainment business. That’s what we are, and when the product is not good, the people have an opportunity to complain, and that’s probably what they’re doing — and I don’t blame them.
“It’s no different than when you go to a restaurant and the food’s not good or you watch a movie and it’s not good or however you get your entertainment, when the product’s not good, you get complaints.
“But it’s not entertainment for us. It’s our livelihood. The people in this building every day, our job is to get it fixed.”
That was the theme of the day and what Brown said would be the theme of the next week and a half, somehow repairing the Mountaineers before beginning the second half of the season Oct. 23 at TCU.
“I think you reflect ... what’s gone well? Because we’ve had some good things,” Brown said. “We haven’t been as consistent, but we lost three games right at the end and we had a bad showing on Saturday. You reflect ... what’s been good and bad? I think you do it from an individual perspective and you do it from each phase of the game. You repair what we can fix, and the last part is readjust the plan moving forward and that’s kind of where we’re at. Reflect, repair and readjust.
“We have a lot of football left. We have half a season. Everything is doom and gloom right now; I don’t think you approach it like that. From where I’m sitting and when I sit in front of the team at 2:45 this afternoon, not going to be miserable. Right now is the time to lead. It’s easy to lead when things are going well, it’s hard when things are going poorly and our performance on Saturday was poor.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s doable. We’ve played better football and we will play better football.”
To do that, West Virginia will have to drastically improve an offense that has struggled in all areas this season as well as fix defensive deficiencies that came up on Saturday as the Bears shredded the Mountaineers to the tune of 525 total yards.
But while WVU certainly has flaws — a 2-4 start with an 0-3 mark in the Big 12 certainly isn’t ideal — and while Brown admitted changes have to and will be made, he reiterated not to expect a complete overhaul of principles and expectations within the program.
“There’s things I think that are nonnegotiable about what we believe in from a program standpoint and what we believe in from a schematic principles standpoint in each phase of the game. We’re not getting off that,” Brown said. “I’m not sitting here hitting the panic button. I’m not freaking out. I haven’t lost belief in our players. I haven’t lost belief in our staff. But, we have to kind of reflect on where we’ve made mistakes, the positives, how do we compound, how do we continue to build on those positives.
“How do we readjust? And that’s probably what everybody wants to know is how do we readjust, because you can’t continue to do the same things if they’re not working. That’s really what the process of this week is, is figuring out how do we build on our positives, how do we diminish where our deficiencies are, are there some young guys that give us a better opportunity, and then where do we readjust our planning. But the basics and tenets of our program are not changing.”
Also Tuesday, Brown gave updates on a couple of players who did not dress for Saturday’s game against the Bears.
Former Capital standout safety Kerry Martin Jr. was one of those, and Brown chalked Martin’s absence up to an illness that hit early last week. In fact, Brown said Martin did not practice after last Monday.
Another was defensive lineman Darel Middleton, an offseason transfer from Tennessee. Brown announced that Middleton is no longer with the team.