Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Neal Brown: While COVID-19 has made things different, WVU adapted as it heads into game week vs. Eastern Kentucky

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU football coach Neal Brown has made it clear he likes to plan ahead — from scripting the start of games to having the perfect setup for game week.

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing changes across the college football landscape and making things far from perfect, Brown personally had to adapt with the way he’s handled fall camp, and now his game prep heading into Saturday’s season opener against Eastern Kentucky at Milan Puskar Stadium.

“I talk about this a lot, change is difficult,” Brown said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “I think change is difficult with males a lot of the time, and it’s definitely difficult with football coaches. You either adapt or die, and in this case, dying’s losing.

“We’re adapting, and I knew that was going to be an issue when this started playing out in March and April, and I feel like we’ve adapted. Whether it’s COVID protocols, whether it’s practice requirements, how we’ve gone about conditioning … any of those things have been fluid.”

Brown believes how the coaching staff has handle this up and down offseason has reflected on the players. With many different aspects to how fall camp and the OTA period were handled, getting into game week is a breath of fresh air.

While there are still differences in how practices are held compared to “normal” circumstances, Brown said once the Mountaineers hit a groove in the regular season, things will hopefully feel a bit normal.

“The preseason was a lot different — we probably have more offense and defense installed than we normally would because we had the OTA-type workouts coming in,” Brown said. “We had about 12 of those, and then we had Zoom time where we were able to install offense and defense. What we don’t have as much of is full-speed reps because of split practices. We’ve really only been practicing all together for about two weeks.

“Once we get into this game week, we probably won’t go as long or as many repetitions in practice as we normally would during the week just because I don’t think our conditioning levels are where they need to be at this point. Other than that, everything else is at status quo.”

The Mountaineers are preparing for EKU, which was throttled 59-0 in Huntington by Marshall last Saturday. The Thundering Herd picked up 627 yards of total offense — 345 through the air and 282 on the ground — while the Colonels mustered just 166 total yards. EKU quarterback Parker McKinney was held to 7 of 10 passing for 71 yards and an interception, and star running back Alonzo Booth had only 39 yards on 16 carries, 2.2 yards per attempt.

Despite a miserable performance, Brown will not take the Colonels lightly.

“Now it’s time to get to 1-0, and that’s our goal this week,” Brown said. “We host Eastern Kentucky, who struggled last week, but they’re a proud program with tradition there at the FCS level, and we expect them to bounce back.”

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