by Jim Buzzerd
I was admittedly nervous about the prospects of the West Virginia University football team to survive a road trip to Fort Worth and a game against the TCU Horned Frogs. The Mountaineers were on a three-game losing streak, and at 2-4, were facing what could be described as a ‘must win’ game if there was any chance to salvage the 2021 football season.
It was hard to be optimistic about the Mountaineer’s chances. Coming off a much-needed open date should provide an edge over a very beatable team, but Markland and Texas Tech were very beatable and WVU found ways to lose those games. Turns out Oklahoma was beatable too, but WVU fell on a last second field goal. In the four losses West Virginia often looked disorganized making many wonder if the hire of third year head coach Neal Brown was a mistake.
Brown’s first two seasons could be described as making progress, but six games into the 2021 season the team seemed to have taken a step back. Of course, with six games left in the season it would be too early to form any concrete opinions. Either way, the TCU game was important for all involved. That’s why when TCU’s Derius Davis returned the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, my nervousness turned to despair.
I imagine the bulk of Mountaineer nation felt similar. I mean I was thinking in that moment that WVU may not see another win this season. Fortunately for the fans the coaches and players strapped it up and outscored TCU 29-10 over the next 59:46 of the game to get a much needed 29-17 road win. It was the first Mountaineer road win since WVU beat TCU two seasons ago and it made Brown 3-0 against the Frogs.
The offensive line had been receiving quite a bit of heat recently about their sub-par play, but they looked better Saturday. Running back Leddie Brown eclipsed the 100-yard barrier with 111 yards rushing and the Mountaineers totaled 237 yards on the ground. Jarret Doege was 21 of 28 for 257 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked once, so while the line play was improved, we’ll know more about that after Iowa State and Oklahoma State visit Mountaineer Field on successive Saturdays.
While we’re looking at improved play, look at the defense that took the ball away from TCU three times. All three came from the WVU secondary. Darryl Porter grabbed a Max Duggan pass and returned it 43 yards, Charles Woods intercepted Duggan and added a 32-yard return and Sean Mahone recovered a fumble. WVU had six tackles for losses.
Afterwards Brown was asked about the turnovers, “It’s really important, so the locker room is excited, but this isn’t an unexpected win,” Brown said. “Our guys have really expected to win, but we haven’t done things in the fourth quarter to go win the games. We went and won the game today.”
The first of two huge tests comes this Saturday at 2:00 when Iowa State visits Morgantown. The game can be seen on ESPN+, the network’s streaming service. The Cyclones are coming off a 24-21 win over previously unbeaten Oklahoma State who will visit WVU next weekend.
One basketball note, ESPN+ customers should be able to see the WVU men’s basketball exhibition against Akron this Friday night at 7 p.m.