Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Brown only focused on winning amid AD change

MORGANTOWN — While the WVU fanbase only seems to want to talk about Neal Brown’s job status in the wake of Shane Lyons’ dismissal, the man himself is only focused on winning a football game.

“My focus is we’re just trying to get better today and trying to go get a win on Saturday versus Kansas State,” Brown said during his weekly press conference Tuesday.

Brown spoke highly of Lyons, WVU’s former athletic director who hired Brown to WVU in 2019.

“Shane is a strong administrator, but he’s even a better guy,” Brown said. “He’s a good man, I think that’s very important to note. I think people forget that behind titles and decisions are real people with real families. He and his wife and their two kids served this university and they served this university well.”

News of Lyons’ firing was made official Monday morning and interim athletic director Rob Alsop assured Brown that a decision about his future will not be made until a new athletic director is hired in a few weeks. In the meantime, all Brown can do is focus on winning the team’s final two games of the season, starting with Kansas State on Saturday.

“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that he gave me to come here,” Brown said of Lyons. “We’re going to continue to fight and get better and win as many games as possible and do it the right way, like he would want.”

A university firing its athletic director is always big news, but Brown does not believe it will be a distraction for his players as they prepare for the final few weeks of the season.

“The good thing is, with our players, that’s old news because that happened (Monday),” Brown said with a laugh. “When they’re in their seats when we come back (Tuesday), that’s not going to be at the forefront of their mind. What I’ve been telling them, and this is kind of how I live my life, is you’ve got to be where your feet are planted. Be where your feet are, do the very best you can each and every day and if you do that over the long term, good things are going to happen. For us, the only thing they can control is how they prepare. If they do what they’re supposed to in preparation and practice then we’ll perform well enough and we’ll have an opportunity to get a big win on Saturday.”

Virginia football

Brown began his press conference Tuesday by offering condolences to the three University of Virginia football players — Lavel Davis, Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry — who were killed in a shooting in Charlottesville Sunday night.

“On behalf of our entire program, I want to send our thoughts and prayers to the Virginia football team,” Brown said. “Just an unthinkable tragedy, really. We lost two players at Troy and that’s the hardest thing, there’s nothing that prepares you for that. I can’t imagine that kind of situation.”

Winning feeling

With Saturday’s win over Oklahoma, the Mountaineers snapped a three-game losing skid. Brown went through the usual team awards given out after victories and talked about the need to celebrate accomplishments, even during a down season.

“You’ve got to appreciate the good things,” Brown said. “So much is next, next, next. After a loss, you want to get through to next, but there’s a reason why you do all the work, there’s a reason why you invest and you need to celebrate.

“My assumption is (the players) probably had a pretty good time Saturday night and more power to them as long as they did everything legally and they got here rested and ready to go to practice Tuesday night.”

In addition to the typical offensive, defensive and special teams player of the week awards, Brown also gave out three blue-collar awards and three scout-team player of the week awards.

“It builds goodwill,” Brown said. “We always recognize scout-team players in our team meetings, but to do things and give awards after you win, that’s an important part of program building … It’s impossible to get ready to play unless you have a quality scout team.“

No turnovers

For the second week in a row, WVU’s defense failed to produce a turnover Saturday.

“You’re always trying to create them and they’re always a big difference,” said defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley. “Sometimes the team you’re facing does a better job than they have been doing with ball security and you don’t get the opportunities and then other times, the opportunities are there and for whatever reason, they don’t happen.”

While not recording any interceptions or fumble recoveries, Lesley said two fourth-down stops and two missed field goals worked functionally the same as getting a normal takeaway.

Ball security

Redshirt-freshman Justin Johnson committed a cardinal sin for running backs, putting the ball on the ground twice Saturday against the Sooners.

“If a guy has a couple fumbles, I try not to let him think about it too much after it happens,” said offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. “You have to address it, figure out why it happened, but it’s not something you harp on, I think.”

Harrell said WVU works on ball security more than any other place he’s been and that running backs coach Chad Scott works on it with the tailbacks during every practice. But, Harrell thinks talking about fumbling with one player repeatedly will only have the opposite effect on him.

“If you tell your kid ‘Don’t jump in the lake,’ he’s probably going to jump in the lake,” Harrell said. “Same thing with fumbling — ‘Don’t fumble, don’t fumble, don’t fumble’ — then all you’ve put in his head is fumbling and the ball seems to pop out for whatever reason.”

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