MORGANTOWN — Let’s play a game and see how many excuses we can come up with for West Virginia University being crushed 42-6 by Big 12 regular season champion Iowa State, the nation’s No. 9 team.
They were rusty, hurt by not playing last week when Oklahoma had some COVID-19 problems that caused the game to be postponed until Dec. 12. See, the Mountaineers were off the previous week, so it was really three weeks between games.
Oh, and this week, WVU had its own COVID-19 problems. Starting wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton had to miss the game, as did wide receiver Sam James and tight end TJ Banks and safety Noah Guzman.
And, as always, there were calls that defied description, obvious interference fouls that weren’t called.
Or ... Wait a minute.
West Virginia got beat and beat up because it wasn’t good enough. If you watched the game, you have that opinion.
So does Neal Brown, the Mountaineers’ coach, whose program is in its second year at the school is under construction.
“There isn’t much to say,” Brown said, beginning his post-game press conference. “We were soundly beaten in every phase.”
Simple as that.
Oh, all those excuses were brought up and Brown admits that they were part of reality, but he was not about to pounce on them and use them to explain away the obvious — the best team won.
“I can give you a bunch of excuses, but it doesn’t matter,” said Brown. “Here’s the thing. We didn’t play very well in the first half. We didn’t have a lot of energy. This was the first time we had some adversity. He had some dropped passes. We had some calls that didn’t go our way. We played against some elite guys, running backs and tight ends, and they made some plays.
“Things didn’t go our way and frankly, we didn’t handle it very well. We got exposed in some things today in a way we haven’t been exposed all year.
“Did it hurt us not playing in three weeks? Absolutely. Is that the reason we got our tails kicked? No chance. Did any of that help us? Definitely not. Would we have been better if we played last week? Absolutely yes. Is that the reason Iowa State soundly beat us? No, and if someone wearing this logo or myself ever try to come in here and try to make excuses, we’ll figure this out. That’s not ever what we are going to be about.”
They want to be about making the other team make excuses and to do what they have to to reach the point that Iowa State has now reached.
“The thing that’s impressive about this team, and it’s something our program needs to get to, is we’re in Year 2 and we’re a lot better than we were a year ago but we’re a long way from where we need to be to be competing to be in that championship game. That was clear today,” Brown said.
It was blurred coming into the game because WVU had played well all year.
“We were in every game until the fourth quarter. That was not the case today. I don’t know if we were in the game past the first quarter. They soundly beat us,” Brown said.
“That being said, they are playing with a lot of veteran guys. That quarterback [Brock Purdy] has been in a lot of games. They’ve had a lot of off seasons. That’s a big strong group that’s been recruited to do this.
“So, I’ll leave this game not discouraged, not upset. I’m disappointed how we played. This is not going to set us back as a program. It just shined a light on some things we already know.”
What it was like was a middle-aged, out-of-shape man going to the beach and seeing this bronzed, muscled Adonis and thinking “That’s what I want to look like.”
But he also knows that it is going to take time and work to do that.
That’s how it was when Matt Campbell came to coach at Iowa State. He once was Neal Brown in teal. He had a building job to do, openly stating he wanted to be competing for championships in five years.
On Saturday, in his fifth year, he clinched the school’s first league championship since 1912. I’ll do the math for you. That’s 108 years.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he has Brock Purdy, a blossoming star at quarterback to run his program.
You cannot play the game of football better than Purdy did against West Virginia, completed 20 of 23 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns while also running for another.
“Purdy is super underrated,” Brown said. “He’s good at extending plays. You get to third and fourth down and that matters. Look at their big plays and I’ll bet that’s what he did.”
So, here’s the deal and it isn’t much different than the day Brown walked into his office for the first time. You set up a plan, you work toward executing that plan and you have the patience to wait, just as they have done at Iowa State, until you reap the dividends of your work and your patience.
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