Quick Hits: Neal Brown on “hard win” over Kansas, team’s bowl eligibility

Gold and Blue Nation

Head coach Neal Brown likes how his team handled adversity in the win over Kansas. He also likes how one unit, in particular, is playing as of late.

LAWRENCE, Kan. – West Virginia head coach Neal Brown called Saturday night’s win over Kansas a “good win, a hard win.”

The Mountaineers are now bowl-eligible, and will learn their bowl destination on Dec. 5.

Here are some of the biggest takeaway’s from Brown’s postgame press conference following the win over the Jayhawks.

Handling adversity

West Virginia had to handle some of that adversity early in the game. Kansas got itself inside the red zone on two of its first three possessions, but only walked away with a pair of field goals from those trips.

During that stretch, WVU came up with a key stop on fourth down to end a Jayhawks’ drive that started in good field position.

“I thought we handled adversity extremely well today. I thought we were resilient,” Brown said of his team. “And I think it says a lot about them, not just as a football team, but as people.”

He added: “Resiliency is a life skill. And [I’m] really proud of them. When we had turnovers, we responded with positive drives the next time we had the ball.”

West Virginia scored on three of its four drives that started as a result of a Kansas turnover (on downs or interception).

4th down success

West Virginia finished the regular season as one of the best teams in the country on fourth down.

The Mountaineers entered Saturday’s game against the Jayhawks converting their fourth down opportunities at a 65.2 percent rate. They improved on that mark against KU.

“I thought fourth downs were huge today, if you look at it,” Brown said. “We were 3-for-3. They were 1-for-4.”

One of those fourth-down miscues for the Jayhawks came at the WVU four-yard line early in the game. Another came near midfield, as the Mountaineer defense sniffed out a run play that kept Kansas from potentially tying the game.

On the other side of the ball, Leddie Brown picked up four yards on a fourth and short play. That drive resulted in a touchdown. West Virginia’s starting running back also converted on a fourth down in the third quarter. Three plays later, he ran 44 yards to the end zone to put WVU back in front.

West Virginia’s other fourth down conversion also resulted in points.

Running with authority

“We ran the ball very well. I think we had maybe our biggest rushing day of the year,” Brown said.

He’s right.

The Mountaineers ran for 261 yards as a team against Kansas, marking just the second time this year that WVU has eclipsed 200 yards on the ground as a team.

Two different running backs — Brown (19 carries, 156 yards, 1 touchdown) and Tony Mathis (22 carries, 118 yards) — ran for more than 100 yards.

Brown also became just the eighth player in WVU history to rush for 1,000 yards in two different seasons.

“I was really excited for Leddie getting over 1,000 yards two years in a row. That’s a special feat,” the head coach said. “And then Tony Mathis, I was really excited for him. He’s really practiced well. And for him to go out and be productive in this game, I thought he would.”

The Mountaineers are undefeated under Neal Brown in games in which they’ve rushed for at least 100 yards.

O-Line is playing well at the right time

The offensive line has been a talking point throughout the season, from both coaches and fans alike.

While there have been questions about that unit, Neal Brown believes that group has responded, and is playing some of their best football at the right time.

“Since the bye week, we’ve played better. And the last two weeks is the best, as a collection, that we’ve played in the three years here,” Brown said.

The head coach gave credit to offensive line coach Matt Moore, but also acknowledged one player who has taken charge.

“They’re starting to take on the mentality of our leader up front, which is [sophomore center] Zach Frazier,” Brown said.

The offensive line has allowed less than two sacks per game down the stretch. That’s not including an outlier performance against Oklahoma State, in which the Cowboys sacked the quarterback eight times.

West Virginia has also run the ball better since the bye week. Each of the Mountaineers’ 200-yard rushing performances have come over the final six weeks of the regular season.

Quarterback Jarret Doege has also produced some of his better performances over that same time period, including a performance worthy of Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors against Texas.

Bowl eligibility

West Virginia is going bowling.

For the second-straight year, and for the sixteenth time out of the last eighteen years, the Mountaineers are eligible to play in a postseason contest after defeating Kansas.

The head coach is excited about that.

“I think it’s critical,” Brown said.

WVU entered its open week with a 2-4 record. It then rebounded to win four of its final six contests, reaching that six-win threshold for bowl eligibility.

“I haven’t looked at one bowl projection. I have no idea,” Brown said. “I haven’t looked at a schedule for how we’re going to schedule the bowl. I haven’t done any of it. I thought it was really, really important — I respect Kansas, first of all — but I thought it was important to stay in the here and now.”

That week-by-week mentality appears to have worked for the Mountaineers, who are now bowl eligible for the second time in Brown’s three seasons with the program.

“We’ve got a chance to finish the year with a three-game win streak. We’ve got a chance to send our guys that are exiting out in the right manner,” Brown said. “We’ve got the chance to really set the tone for next year, because we’ve got a lot of these guys coming back. So it is. It’s an important mark. And our guys in that locker room are excited about it.”

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