Under .500 for the year, for his tenure and in the classic road jerseys.
Just not a lot of fun. There was a spurt of fun, but not a whole lot and I’m not quite sure if that is a summation of the game, the season or the entire tenure of Neal Brown’s time in Morgantown. So I guess let us get into it, but I will warn you, this isn’t all about just the bowl game. I’m not sure I want to write 1,000 or more words about that atrocity and I know you don’t want to read 1,000 words on that ineptitude.
No Progress and No Help
Let’s get the big one out of the way. Jarret Doege had absolutely no time during the bowl game to read the defense. He was hit and sacked numerous times. The offensive line, which was praised for improving in the second half of the season, was back at square one, unable to decipher blitzes, unable to pick up three down linemen and unable to provide a pocket. All in all, they looked like the turnstiles they were in every loss this season, where guys were just running free and hitting the quarterback.
That is weird to say because Tony Mathis Jr and Justin Johnson Jr ran the ball 18 times for 91 yards and a 5 YPC average. That feels like we should have run the ball more and should have taken the pressure off Doege, despite the fact that Minnesota had such a stout run defense. Once you identified that the Gophers were going to make passing difficult, we should have leaned on the run game more.
The bigger problem with the offensive line is that I can’t tell if the line is any better than it was against Maryland and to be honest, that goes for nearly every position group on the field. Three years into this experiement, what does West Virginia do better than it did September 2019? What does it do better than it did September 2021? What exactly does West Virginia do good, other than increase the consumption and sale of alcohol on Friday and Saturday nights?
Doege’s Last Run
Coming into last night’s (this morning’s?) game, the question was up in the air whether or not Jarret Doege would return for his final final season. Following a report during the Texas Longhorns game, Doege was set to return as the starting quarterback. When asked by local reporters, that statement was dodged and the return was muddled. When asked about his return prior to the bowl game, Doege hadn’t made his mind up.
“I don’t really have my mind on a decision at all,” Doege said. “My mind is strictly on the bowl game. I haven’t really gotten to the decision yet. I’m going to focus on the bowl game and see what happens after I talk to Coach Brown. I don’t want to make this about me. I want to make it about winning the bowl game.”
Unfortunately, this is all about Doege and the end his play and his decision. During the bowl game, as Minnesota started to dominate, the same scared spooked look in his eyes and his play resurfaced. At one point during the second quarter, the pocket began to close in and Doege flinched and curled up before realizing he wasn’t going to be sacked and throwing an incompletion. It was indicative of exactly the problems that have faced the team all year and will continue to plague the team as long as he is the quarterback of this team.
Doege is spooked. That’s twice he’s flinched on supposed pressure
— Jake Lantz – WVUNite (@NiteStare) December 29, 2021
I am of the opinion that 2022 cannot feature Doege as the starting quarterback. I’m not sure that Neal Brown feels that way, given that three years into his tenure he is below .500 as the head coach and has now had two losing seasons in three years. I don’t think Doege should start but there is a caveat, I am not sure that starting Nicco or Greene or Crowder is going to lead to a better result in 2022 and I am quite sure that fans are going to demand a lot more than 6-6 next year. So the conundrum for the head coach is does he try to win more games with the most experienced quarterback on his roster, one who can be bullied and hurried, or does he try to start anew with a young, unproven quarterback and hope that fans give him leeway?
I have an idea of what Neal Brown’s offensive philosophy is supposed to be. I believe, he wants to run the ball, throw short quick passes to move down the field and when the time is right, hit a deep ball to keep defenses honest. They hope to get a quick score early in the game, start applying pressure and then in the second half, just G-R-I-N-D. The perfect game for Brown would be 4-5 possessions in the first half for three touchdowns and a field goal. The defense has gotten a couple of stops, perhaps a turnover and in the second half, three possessions, taking 10-11 plays each, running 7 minutes and the game is over. .
That’s what Brown wants to do. My problem comes with execution. We don’t play that way. We play scared and I’m not just talking about the bowl game. We come into games thinking we won’t be able to throw deep / run outside / throw short / run inside / pass block / run block and therefore we don’t try and do not adjust. A lot of our offensive identity still feels like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. We don’t find something to exploit and keep exploiting it.
The Iowa State game was the most fun and the best game in the three years because we had a plan A and a plan B. We went in knowing what we could exploit, what Iowa State would do to adjust and how to exploit those adjustments. It was the only time in three years where we had a plan of attack. It was the only time we looked like a competent offense. We haven’t seen that type of game plan, that type of execution, and that type of planning and confidence in the remaining 34 games of this coaching staff’s tenure. Without Iowa State, are you as confident that this staff can put together a gameplan to attack and exploit an opponent’s weaknesses?
Trust The Climb?
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being I no longer trust the climb and we need a new head coach and 10 being give Neal Brown another raise, how much do you trust the climb?