Notebook: Neal Brown critical of West Virginia run blocking vs. James Madison

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There are many fingers to point after West Virginia’s run-blocking woes against James Madison on Saturday.

The offensive line, of course, is the most obvious place to start after the Dukes limited the Mountaineers to 1.4 yards per carry.

In what amounts to a glass half-full or half-empty scenario depending on one’s perspective, head coach Neal Brown said that there were very few miscommunications and missed assignments. The Mountaineers were just getting flat-out beaten upon reaching the point of attack.

“It’s got to be better. That’s pretty evident,” Brown said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “We’ve got to strain harder up front. Our offensive line was getting on people, but not creating movement.”

Tight ends were on the field for 31 of West Virginia’s 66 offensive snaps. Those who didn’t notice they were there aren’t alone.

“Our tight ends were not a factor,” Brown said. “We need to get more from them.”

According to Brown, West Virginia’s wide receivers also blocked very poorly.

“Blocking at every position was severely below average,” Brown said. “The perimeter blocking by our receivers was as bad as I’ve been around in a long time.”

Already dealt with these handicaps in front of them, West Virginia’s running backs did not help the situation any.

“Our running backs didn’t read blocks very well,” Brown said. “And our quarterback’s got to do better in run-fakes.”

Brown’s biggest criticisms were saved for himself.

“We’ve got to game-plan better. That’s evident,” Brown said. “We went into the game thinking we’d win those one-on-ones. We felt we wouldn’t have to trick them in the run game. That wasn’t the case. So we’ve got to do a better job in game-plan mode.”

If West Virginia doesn’t improve, there will be trouble ahead.

“We’ll get exposed the rest of our schedule if we do some of the same things,” Brown said.

Leddie Brown questionable

Sophomore running back Leddie Brown did not dress for the opener, and Neal Brown said he is “questionable” for this week’s game at Missouri. Brown’s right ankle was wrapped up as he watched pregame warmups in shorts.

Brown and cornerback Dreshun Miller were the only two players to miss the opener due to injury. Miller was using crutches to help him walk along the sideline, so his return does not appear imminent.

Drops hurt Kendall

Brown remains pleased with the debut of Austin Kendall, who was 27-of-42 for 260 yards and two touchdowns without any interceptions. Those numbers should have been better, too. Kendall was plagued by six drops from West Virginia running backs and receivers.

“I thought for making his first career start, he handled it well,” Brown said. “We have to do a better job around him. We had three blown pass protections that led to big hits, and six drops. He stood in the pocket and had some courage. His decision-making was good.”

Deep passes are the one area where Brown needs to see Kendall improve.

“We have to be able to connect on the deep ball,” Brown said. “Some of those were on the receiver, some were on him.”

Looking ahead

Upcoming opponent Missouri is licking its wounds after a stunning 37-31 season-opening loss at Wyoming. The Cowboys averaged 7.1 yards per carry to lasso the upset, but the way they did it makes for an unlikely reprise by the Mountaineers.

Wyoming’s rushing attack was led by quarterback Sean Chambers, who had 12 carries for 120 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. Mizzou also racked up 537 yards of total offense, but was undone by three costly turnovers.

“Wyoming did a lot of motions and shifts offensively and got some numbers in the run game,” Brown said. “Wyoming’s quarterback is a really good athlete who can run. Missouri turned the ball over. I think we’ll see a much different team in Columbia Saturday.”