MORGANTOWN – Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment, football being the emotion game that it is.
And so it was on Thursday night when West Virginia played Baylor.
Mountaineer nose guard Darius Stills was coming off the field after stopping the Bears on their first series.
As he was leaving the field, pumped up with emotion and feeling confident, the junior from Fairmont Senior High approached sideline reporter Molly McGrath.
“Make sure you report Baylor is soft up front,” Stills said to her.
And that was just what she did.
“I’m going to say it is a first,” Coach Neal Brown said when it was brought up, much to his discomfort, during his Tuesday press conference. “It doesn’t stick out in my mind that it ever happened before.”
Did Stills understand what he was doing when he made such a brash move?
“I knew who I was talking to. I’ve never done that before,” Stills said.
So why did he do it then?
“It was a last week thing,” he said on Tuesday. “I said it. I did it but I can’t dwell on the past. I had a good game, but we didn’t win.”
Good game is something of an understatement for his 10 tackles and three sacks won him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
And were there any repercussions from the coaching staff. No one said a word.
Like Baylor, they were probably thrown for a loss by Stills.
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West Virginia’s offense has not been very effective this season, ranking 10th in the Big 12 in rushing, 10th in scoring and 10th in total offense.
Most of the blame has fallen on the offensive line, but when you are that bad, there is a lot of fault to go around.
Certainly the running backs have produced far less than expected and now are down in numbers through injury and Martell Pettaway’s decision to redshirt. But Neal Brown also faults the great number of drops among the wide receivers.
So, how is he and his staff going about improving that?
“It’s all about repetitions,” Brown said. “Confidence has something to do with it, as you start thinking about it.”
There are fundamentals that can improve one’s ability to catch the ball, but how do you get the repetitions in.
“We moved a tennis ball machine into the position room,” Brown said.
Shooting a tennis ball allows you to work on hand-eye coordination, concentration and handwork.
“We’ve added a JUGGS machine into their workout, too,” Brown said.
That’s an air-powered gun that shoots a football at a receiver, the drill often used with the receiver starting with his back to the machine, turning and having to react quickly.
“You can get better,” Brown said. “You go from average to good. You can go from bad to average. I don’t think you can necessarily go from bad to great.”
Brown believes that his team’s offense has been hurt as much by the timing of the drops as the drops themselves.
“It hasn’t just been the drops,” he said. “It’s the critical point of the drops.”
By that, he means drops on what would have been first downs on third down plays or on plays that could have turned into long gains.
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The 2021 West Virginia Quarterback Derby begins in earnest on Saturday when Texas comes to town.
Incumbent Austin Kendall will start the game but Neal Brown expects to get either or both of his backups, Jarret Doege and Trey Lowe III, into the game.
“Jarret Doege and Trey Lowe will both have an opportunity to potentially see time in this game,” Brown said. “We’re going to kind of let them compete it out for the backup spot.”
Right now it’s the back up spot, remember this is the lowest scoring team in the Big 12 so very few people on the offensive side of the ball can feel secure in their positions moving forward and that includes Kendall.
“We’re looking at quarterback like we are for all positions on offense – we’ve got to get better,” Brown said.
Lowe already is guaranteed some playing time, but maybe not where you would expect for he spent last week on the punt team – a rather strange place to find your back up quarterback even if he is 6-3 and 220 pounds and athletic.
How did that come about?
“We had some difficulty with the rush against Oklahoma, and one way you can kind of stymie that is to give them a fake look,” Brown said. “Obviously, you’ve got an opportunity to do multiple fakes with Trey Lowe on the punt team.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel