When Neal Brown became the head coach at West Virginia, it was not going to be an easy task. With this being Brown’s second head coaching gig it would be unfair to call him a savior, but he’s damn near close. He has shown us that he is the type of coach that can weather the storm of turning around a football program.
Currently, the Mountaineers are 3-1, coming off a bye-week, and preparing to host their in-conference foes – Texas. Saturday they face a Longhorns team that is ranked No.11 in the country. It’s an understatement that the Mountaineers are a massive underdog in this contest; but for Brown, that places him in a role where he usually flourishes. Let’s be honest, a win against Texas is a program-changer.
Brown hasn’t personally dubbed himself as “the underdog,” but his path as a player and coach has taken him that route.
After being a prep star in Danville, KY, he walked on as a wide receiver for the Kentucky Wildcats and later took his talents up north to UMass. There, he developed a liking to coaching and spent a few years as a position coach at different universities before becoming a coordinator at Power 5 schools Kentucky and Texas Tech. At those respective schools, he had success as the offensive coordinator. He had three top 40 offenses at Tech and ignited a dormant Kentucky offense as well. Because of said success, it led to him landing the job at Troy.
Brown help turned Troy into a juggernaut after being there for just four seasons. After going 4-8 his first season, Troy amassed a 31-8 record over his last three seasons, which included wins over Nebraska and LSU, and they gave eventual national champion Clemson all it could handle in a 30-24 loss.
Brown has taken that same method to Morgantown and so far it’s paid off. As expected, there were some transfers because players from the previous regime couldn’t handle the new expectations on and off the field. Despite their lone loss against Missouri, the Mountaineers have shown a lot of grit. In their three wins, they have shown the ability to compete at a high level. That will be needed and more come Saturday.
On paper they are the undermanned team come Saturday, but when has the game been decided by looking at the roster? The game has to be played and coming off a bye week, I wouldn’t count out the feisty Mountaineers. Brown isn’t oblivious to things. He knows that Texas is Texas. In an interview with Eer Sports Brown stated:
“I think slowing them down is the key,” Brown said. “I don’t know if you can stop them. The quarterback is a Heisman Trophy candidate, I think deservedly so. They’re super-talented at wideout with multiple guys who are dangerous. They’re able to run the ball effectively. We’ve got to do a really good job on first down and trying to get them behind the chains, and we’ve got to force some takeaways in the game. I think that’s going to be critical.”
With a promising showing from the younger players this season and a talented 2020 recruiting class excited about getting to Morgantown, the Mountaineers are on par for something special. Brown has been in this position before and delivered. If the Mountaineers embrace Coach Brown’s system and play to their strengths, don’t be surprised if history is made and you hear “Country Roads” blaring throughout Milan Puskar Stadium this Saturday.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp