MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The quest to climb the rungs of the bowl-game ladder begins Saturday in Morgantown for West Virginia football.
Here are the biggest takeaways from WVU head coach Neal Brown’s weekly media session ahead of the Cincinnati game:
As the Big 12 continues to expand westward, the addition of Cincinnati to the Big 12 is a refreshing one for West Virginia.
“Obviously [they are] a former Big East foe,” Brown said. “I think this is a game that after a while, it should grow into a rivalry. [It is] obviously the closest proximity school in the Big 12 to us, and I think this is a game that both fanbases as time goes on, this has an opportunity to [turn] into a rivalry game.”
The Bearcats come to Morgantown with a 3-7 (1-6 Big 12) record, which places them at No. 14 of 14 teams in the Big 12.
Needing more up front
Brown noted both after Saturday’s game and Monday that the loss to Oklahoma was one of the worst performances all year by WVU’s defensive line and its offensive line.
While Cincinnati is in last place in the conference, other numbers tell a different story, and he believes his big-men need to get back to replicating their production of past games.
“If you just looked at the stats and didn’t look at the win-loss record, they’re a team that’s one of the top rushing teams in the whole conference,” Brown said. “Defensively, they stopped the run at a high rate.”
The Mountaineers will honor legendary WVU head coach Don Nehlen during Saturday’s game by immortalizing his name on the Diversified Energy Terrace at Milan Puskar Stadium along with the other all-time WVU greats.
“If you get your name put in the stadium permanently, that’s a pretty damn big deal,” Brown said. “We’re going to honor him, and I hope we have a big turnout. I know our fanbase really appreciates him, and I hope we have a bunch of people show up and he can feel that when he gets announced.”
To bring things full circle, Nehlen’s first game as WVU head coach – which was also the first game at Milan Puskar Stadium – was played against Cincinnati in Morgantown. He also coached as an assistant at Cincinnati in 1963.
“He’s been really supportive, and that’s really all I can ask,” Brown said. “I have a great deal of respect for him as a coach and a man.”