MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Following West Virginia’s big win over N.C. State on Sept. 14, coach Neal Brown wanted to see how his young team handled success — all of the pats on the back, hand shakes and applause for beating one of the better teams in the ACC.
In the next game against Kansas, Brown was happy to escape with a Big 12 road win, but he brought up “prosperity” as something he didn’t think the Mountaineers handled well in Lawrence.
Prosperity, defined as “the condition of being successful or thriving” by Merriam-Webster, is what Brown wants to see continue moving forward — handle success the right way. After the N.C. State win, that’s not what he saw.
“We did not have a great week of practice last week, and I thought it showed (against Kansas),” Brown said. “We did not handle prosperity very well, I think that’s something that young teams have to overcome. We did find a way to win, but we’ve got to do a better job in preparation and in practice.”
Brown mentioned there are players on the team that have won and played in important games before, but were not factors in the outcome. Seeing a winning culture is one thing, being a part of it is another.
That’s something else Brown was interested in seeing after the N.C. State win — how would guys who played well against the Wolfpack bounce back at Kansas?
“We go out and we play really well against North Carolina State and beat a program that’s won nine games the last two years with the second most wins in the ACC,” Brown said. “That’s a really good program win, especially taken how we played the week previously against Missouri. What happens is Sam James gets newcomer of the week, the defense is praised for how they shut them out in the second half with a lot of sacks and tackles for loss. Offensively, we’re able to play with a lot of tempo, the young guys played well, we were able to run the ball. All of these guys are like, ‘Yeah, well, maybe we are pretty good.’ ”
That’s where complacency set in, thinking the team was “back” rather than continuing to get better, Brown said. Those issues arose during Kansas prep and overflowed into the game — pass protection wasn’t as good offensively in front of quarterback Austin Kendall, and there were breakdowns defensively in the third and fourth quarters that led to 17 second-half points for the Jayhawks.
When Kansas decided to blitz Kendall, he did not complete a pass and was sacked three times. As a group, the offensive line was charged with seven of the 11 hurries on Kendall.
Defensively, missed tackles reared its ugly head after it improved from the Missouri to N.C. State games. Against K.U., WVU had 10.
What was lauded the previous week took a step back, so Brown believes the bye week comes at the right time before No. 11 Texas comes to Morgantown on Oct. 5.
“I’m going to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, here’s the deal — we won the game and I’m proud of you for winning the game and here’s why we won, but this is also why we didn’t play our best,’ ” Brown said. “If we continue at this rate, we’re not going to be successful for the rest of our season. We have to understand that we got away with these mistakes in this game, but we’re not going to be able to continue to do that. It starts with our preparation, it starts with our practice habits, and then we’re going to go over some practice clips from last week and see how it matches up with game film.”