MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Neal Brown was probably hoping to enter the locker room for his first halftime speech at West Virginia under better circumstances.
The Mountaineers were listless on offense, trailing the Dukes 7-3. Fortunately a couple of fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal prevented James Madison from giving itself some breathing room, as did the decision to not bother trying a Hail Mary despite having a shot at one more play near midfield before the half.
Brown decided it wasn’t the time to dwell on what he called an ugly half of football during his on-field interview. He told the team that they were going to score on the first possession of the second half and change the complexion of the game.
“I knew if we just calmed down, I felt confident about a couple plays coming out of the half,” Brown said during his Thursday radio show. “I think they feed off the staff. The first half was bad football and we didn’t harp on it a lot. I said if you just make routine plays, you’ll be back out here singing the fight song.”
Wide receiver Tevin Bush made the first of those plays, opening the half with a 41-yard reception from a short passing route.
“Tevin Bush was an explosive player Saturday,” Brown said. “We need him. His stature makes it hard to get him the ball, so you have to be creative doing it.”
Brown is committed to making his fourth-down decisions the nerdy way.
He said that he uses an analytics program to help determine which situations are the most statistically favorable for going for it the day before the game.
“We use a data analytics company to make those decisions on Friday to take the emotions out of it,” Brown said. “Most of the time, you do what the statistics say. You make a lot of those decisions to take the emotions out. A lot of that has to do with your confidence in your play calls as well.”
No deception intended
With the exception of quarterbacks and specialists, none of West Virginia’s players warmed up in their uniforms or pads before the James Madison game. Most came out of the locker room in t-shirts without numbers, making it difficult to see if any players were missing.
However, Brown’s intention was not to trick journalists or opposing coaches. It was to keep the Mountaineers fresh.
“We started that at Troy in 2016 because our kids were losing so much water weight during warmups,” Brown said. “We were playing all our games in the southeast. Then our kids really liked it because they felt fresh.
“Here, the weather isn’t as big a factor, but I told leadership council what we did at Troy. They liked the idea, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Running back Leddie Brown is still considered “questionable” for the Missouri game, though Neal Brown said the sophomore will “definitely” be back for the N.C. State game if he does not make the trip.
Cornerback Dreshun Miller remains out with a foot injury that sidelined him during training camp.
Left guard Mike Brown, who left the game on WVU’s last possession, was not seriously injured long-term.
“Mike Brown got kicked somewhere we don’t want to talk about in this setting,” Neal Brown noted. “So we had to take him out.”
West Virginia will stay traditional in Week 2, wearing blue helmets, white jerseys and old gold pants.