MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The final third of the season is here, and the WVU football team is still in a position to make some noise within the Big 12 conference.
The final stretch of the year for WVU starts with another first-time Big 12 opponent in BYU.
Here are the biggest takeaways from head coach Neal Brown’s weekly media session:
It takes a village
Over the last three weeks, WVU has gone from muggy Houston and back to chilly and rainy Morgantown before traveling to hot and humid Orlando for the team’s first early kickoff of the year.
Consistency in environment is not something WVU has the luxury of experiencing as one of the Big 12’s eastern-most schools, and that will only become more relevant when the conference expands again next year.
“I thought our support staff was critical,” Brown said. “We go play in 86-degree weather. We don’t even have that in fall camp here. So I thought our strength and conditioning, nutrition [and] athletic training, all those were really critical. We didn’t have anybody that missed time due to heat, so I thought that was really good, and then I think out sports psych has really been helpful getting our guys back after two emotional losses.”
Getting off the field
The Mountaineers controlled the game against UCF enough to win a majority its battles Saturday, but one negative stat sticks out for Brown and the coaching staff.
UCF converted 9-of-12 third-down attempts against WVU, and the Knights also went 1-for-2 on fourth down.
“On third down, they had a day on us,” he said. “Some of that is we’ve got to continue – and you’ve heard me say this – but we’ve got to continue to work on our zone drops. We’ve got to be better in that.”
By zone drops, Brown means that his linebackers and defensive backs are not quite in their intended position after the ball is snapped and they drop into coverage.
“It’s something really, really small,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “It’s very correctable. We did it today. We do it at least twice a week.”
The BYU brand
WVU and BYU are meeting Saturday for the first time as Big 12 foes, and the Cougars (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) are having the most success of the four newcomers this season.
“BYU is a national brand,” Brown said. “They travel well wherever they go. I think this is really their only east-coast game of the year, so I’m sure there will be a lot of their fans here.”
The Mountaineers are familiar with BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis from when he played at Pitt last year, and his supporting cast has helped him transition into his third school in as many years.
“Offensively, they’ve got a first-round pick in their left tackle [Kingsley Suamatala],” Brown said. “They’ve got two wideouts [Chase Roberts and Darius Lassiter] that I see repeatedly on the top-10 plays on SportsCenter, so they’re doing something right there, but they’re really good players, and they’re an issue for us.”
Brown noted that BYU’s strengths on the outside present a matchup problem for WVU, who has struggled keeping contain of the edge on defense.
“We’re not doing a good enough job, which teams are kind of picking on us in the boundary B-gap,” he said. “So we’ve got to shore that up, and then we’re missing too man tackles.”