MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The dust has settled, the film was meticulously criticized, and the calendar has flipped from Week 1 to Week 2 of the college football season.
WVU head coach Neal Brown and the Mountaineers are on to Duquesne.
Brown revealed his final thoughts from the Penn State game on Monday before offering updates on his roster and previewing the home opener to Duquesne. Here are the main takeaways from his weekly media session:
Missed opportunities at Penn State
Upon his rewatch of the Penn State game, Brown dictated several key turning points at which point WVU did not capitalize on Saturday night.
Defensively, Minnesota transfer defensive back had two first-half opportunities for interceptions that were dropped. The first would have set up WVU with a short field around the 50-yard line. The second occurred in the end zone, though PSU would miss a field goal on the drive.
On the next drive – which was the first of the second half – the WVU defense once more induced a fruitless drive from Penn State. The Nittany Lions went three-and-out and forced a punt, but Brown believes that there was a “missed opportunity to change the game” on special teams that could have set up WVU with a short field and some momentum.
“Literally the ball goes between our guys hands,” Brown said. “If we do what we’re coached to do [and] have our hands together, we’ve got a blocked punt there on the first punt of the second half.”
The Mountaineers were down 14-7 and in a prime position to even things late in the game, but WVU responded with a three-and-out of its own when an illegal motion penalty negated an explosive run from running back CJ Donaldson.
“We just didn’t make enough plays that you got to be able to make to win those type of games,” Brown said.
Shoutouts from Week 1
Brown applauded the play of a handful of players on both sides of the ball, some of which flew under the radar.
- WR Devin Carter – 6 receptions for 90 yards
- TE Kole Taylor – 2 receptions for 31 yards
- LT Nick Malone – Started game on the bench, entered for injured LT Wyatt Milum
- RB CJ Donaldson – 18 carries for 81 yards and 1 touchdown
Brown indicated that there were 20-30 more receiving yards on the table for both Carter and Taylor based on the game plan, but a few missed opportunities in the passing game prohibited that from happening.
LT Nick Malone earned playing time after Milum left with an ankle injury. Milum later returned to the game.
- DE Sean Martin – 3 tackles
- DL Mike Lockhart – 2 tackles in his “best game as a Mountaineer,” per Brown.
- DL Eddie Vesterinen – 2 tackles
- LB Lee Kpogba – 13 tackles (7 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit
- DL Hammond Russell IV – 1 tackle
- DE Tomiwa Durojaiye – 1 tackle, 1 sack
Playing FCS opponents as an FBS team
Critics may say that, as a Power-5 team, scheduling an FCS opponent is “buying” a win early in the season.
A former FCS player and coach, Brown believes the dynamic has deeper reasoning, and both teams benefit from the experience regardless of win/loss.
“This game for Duquesne, it’s very important for FCS programs to play Power-5 and get payouts so they can continue to finance their program,” Brown said. “The other thing is, I think it’s really important [when] you give yourself an opportunity to play some people if the game goes in a certain direction.”
On a similar note, Brown noted he wished he could have doled out a few more snaps to some of his reserves – such as freshman Rodney Gallagher III – last weekend, but the magnitude of playing a ranked opponent on the road provoked caution from the coaching staff.