Smoke, no fire
by Jim Buzzerd
What happens when the West Virginia University football team with just one conference win plays winless in conference Iowa State? The answer is the Mountaineers found a way to lose 31-14. West Virginia has now lost three in a row and is 3-6 overall and 1-5 in conference. WVU was very much in the game entering the fourth quarter trailing 10-7.
On the first play of the quarter WVU forced a third down incompletion and forced ISU to punt from its own 21. A good punt had West Virginia taking over at its own 26, except Reese Smith was called for roughing the kicker and Iowa State had new life at their 36 yard line. Neither offense had played well for the first three quarters, but ISU parlayed the penalty by gashing the Mountaineer defense for a 38 yard run followed by a 24 yard touchdown pass and a 17-7 lead.
The Cyclones scored on their next two possessions to take command 31-7 with just under four minutes to go. Backup quarterback Garrett Greene came in and led West Virginia 75 yards for a mop up touchdown. Needless to say, head coach Neal Brown’s hot seat was doing a slow burn Saturday night. Multiple social media and online forums had sources reporting that Brown’s job was in jeopardy, and we would know his fate in 24 to 48 hours.
Monday came and went, and Brown is still the head coach of the Mountaineers. The question is, for how long? That answer is unclear. Reading between the lines, it seems a midseason firing is unlikely. It would be hard to imagine bringing Brown back for 2023 with a 3-9 season, or even 4-8. The thing is, that is still a possibility because WVU is not in a position to eat the $16 million buyout that it would cost to send Brown packing after this season.
Watching the football program unravel in this manner is hard to watch for this longtime fan. I don’t blame coach Brown for anything, this mess has to fall at the feet of athletic director Shane Lyons. Yeah, hindsight is 20-20, but how could WVU decide to offer Brown this kind of security after one mediocre season?
Brown and the Mountaineers have a chance to change direction this Saturday when they host Oklahoma at noon. The Sooners opened as a nine point favorite. The game can be viewed on FS1.
A bit of positive news is the WVU men’s basketball team won their opener over Mount St. Mary’s 76-58 Monday night in the Coliseum. Head coach Bob Huggins has nine new players in the program this season following an exodus of transfers and graduation losses. On Monday night the new parts look like better replacement parts from a season ago, but Huggins will need some time to figure out his lineups.
The biggest blemish in the game was the 18 turnovers committed by West Virginia. Emmitt Mathews return to WVU after a season at Washington was a success. He had 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Tre Mitchell transferred in from Texas and will likely be the most impactful portal acquisition. Mitchell had been sidelined for much of fall practice with a stress fracture in his foot. He wasn’t expected to return for another week or so, but was cleared for Monday’s game and responded with 13 points in 14 minutes.
West Virginia will step up in competition when they travel to Pitt Friday night for a 7 p.m. tip. The game is televised on the ACC Network.