Neal Brown’s postgame tone a sign that 17-point loss at KSU hit differently

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Neal Brown has expressed disappointment in different ways after West Virginia’s six losses this season. There was encouragement after a three-point loss to Oklahoma, resolve after a six-point loss at Maryland, frustration with the effort in a loss at Baylor. After Saturday’s 17-point loss at Kansas State, Brown seemed puzzled that mental mistakes prevented opportunities to steal a road victory.

“Because we were using poor technique,” Brown said. “We are tackling at ankles rather than going through our thigh boards. It is the same thing. Look at the kickoff return — we had two guys right at the point of attack that didn’t make the tackle at the 30-yard line.

“It is not an effort issue. You can watch it. Guys played hard. It is not an effort issue. If it is, I will tell you on Tuesday, okay. But it is not an effort issue. It is us not doing things that you need to do to win games — ball security, tackling, blocking.”

There were the noticeable splash plays that allowed K-State to build a quick 14-point lead — the tipped ball for an interception on the second play from scrimmage, the interception negated by a targeting penalty and the blocked punt. There were also plays that WVU left on the table, such as an under thrown flea flicker that could have gone for a touchdown.

“It happens with really every skill player and receiver, honestly. You are thinking about what you are going to do with the ball instead of practicing your fundamentals of catching it and securing the catch. You are thinking about more than that,” said WVU receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton.

As injuries mount up, younger players are breaking into the lineup with more regularity. Second-year wideout Reese Smith caught a touchdown pass. True freshman Kaden Prather had the best performance of his young career with four catches for sixty yards. He also recovered a fumble.

“He is going to be a player,” Brown said. “He has gotten better. He made some big plays today. He won versus man coverage on third down. He is a kid I have a lot of belief in.”

Frustrations are obvious and are well-worn by the players and coaches. The question going forward is can frustration be spun towards motivation for WVU’s two must-win contests to close the season with a chance a bowl eligibility?

“We just know we can be better,” said WVU defensive back Charles Woods. “We know these self-inflicted wounds are hurting us. I don’t think it is frustration. I think as a team we have to move on, go to next week and prepare for Texas.”

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