Brown Counting On WVU Bounceback In Upside-Down Big 12 | News, Sports, Jobs


West Virginia head coach Neal Brown gestures after a play against Oklahoma during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia coach Neal Brown has to feel like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men this week, trying to put the Humpty Dumpty Mountaineer football team back together to face new Big 12 rival Cincinnati in a Senior Day match up which will also include memorializing former coach Don Nehlen within Milan Puskar Stadium.

They enter the game after being taken completely apart by an angry group of Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday night, but Brown’s approach is opportunistic toward his chances.

“I have zero doubt we’ll bounce back,” Brown said.

Normally you would expect that Brown was providing that quote for consumption from his players, who need a positive message.

But one can’t be sure they are in any mood to be reading about what transpired last Saturday night in Norman.

59-20 … not exactly the kind of reading a West Virginia football player is looking for at this stage in the season.

But there is a reason why Brown can’t count his team out from coming back with a good performance. Take a look at what’s going on with the Big 12.

Seems like you can toss the past performance sheets when handicapping a game and that was no more true than this weekend.

Try figuring how this could play out in the real world:

–WVU beats UCF, 41-28

–WVU loses to Oklahoma State, 48-34

–UCF beats Oklahoma State, 45-3

–Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, 27-24

–Oklahoma beats WVU, 59-20

Round and round it goes. You can almost find an example of this kind of insanity with every team in the league.

How do you explain it?

“Well,” Neal Brown answered when asked, “I don’t know if you can. It’s like misery likes company.”

Brown remembers sitting on the plane as it returned home from Oklahoma.

“I’m sitting there at 5 a.m. and looking at scores and we’re not the only team that got run off the field on Saturday. Ole Miss did, Oklahoma State did and several other teams,” he said, about to offer up a theory.

“It goes back to this. You’re dealing with 17 to 23 year olds. You are also dealing with several things the common person doesn’t understand.”

Indeed, they just see the results on the field.

“What I mean by that is travel plays into it. Being home or away plays into it. There’s not a whole lot of difference outside of a handful of teams. There’s some clear cream in Power 5 right now and there’s a clear bottom. But there’s a whole lot of teams that are very similar.

“So, you got an injury … or, if one of your key players is off — there could be something going on off the field, it could be an injury, but if it’s off it’s a different group.”

The balance, you see, is delicate and changes from week to week, plus ….

“Matchups are so critical,” Brown continued. “Some teams, like Houston, their receivers were a really tough match for us. We went into that game, even though our record was better than theirs, I knew it was going to be a tough match up. Those things happen in college football.

“Central Florida and Oklahoma State. CFU does some things in the run game that were going to make it difficult for Oklahoma State. And then the rain came. No bottom talks about that, but it was raining sideways when I turned it on in the second quarter.

“There’s just a lot of different factors than there are in professional sports.”

So it is that in college football surprises may not really be surprises.

Then, along comes a Saturday in Norman and WVU is playing a better team than they are and there are so many outside forces pulling on the game, along with an off night by the WVU quarterback, and the result turns into a bloody mess when maybe it shouldn’t have been.

“I don’t know if I did a good enough job of this after the game because I was so heated, but Oklahoma deserves a lot of credit. There’s a reason why year in and year out in the country recruiting. They have good players. They had a chip on their shoulder because they lost two games. Their fan base was on their tail. There backs were against the wall and

came out and played their best game of the year,

“With that said, we didn’t play good enough. They’re not that much better than us. That’s a game we should have been competitive in with an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter.”

So don’t be surprised if WVU comes out smoking at home against Cincinnati.

Or don’t be surprised if they wind up a pile of ashes.

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