December 2, 2021

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Mountaineers look ahead after loss | News, Sports, Jobs

MORGANTOWN — A week into the season, the West Virginia football team is in a position that it would undoubtedly rather not be in.

The Mountaineers dropped Saturday’s season opener to the Maryland Terrapins, 30-24, in a game that appeared much further apart than the scoreboard showed. It marked the first time since 2017 the team would open the season with a loss.

Yet, when head coach Neal Brown spoke to the media on Tuesday, the defeated, perplexed Brown seen after the game was replaced with one much more energetic and optimistic.

“I still have extreme faith that we’re going to prevail, and we’re going to build a program here that’s going to have a great infrastructure and be set up to win long term,” Brown said. “But I’m also not blind to what our brutal facts are right now, and that’s that we’re zero-and-one and we didn’t play very well.”

Talk during Tuesday’s press conference ranged around the Mountaineers’ miscues on both sides of the ball: struggles at quarterback and on the offensive line, as well as a lack of good team defense.

The most critical, according to Brown, was addressing the turnover issue that plagued the Mountaineers. Quarterback Jarret Doege threw two interceptions Saturday, while running back Leddie Brown and kick returner Winston Wright Jr. each fumbled away possessions. Maryland was able to capitalize, adding 10 points on the board off of those mistakes.

“We’re sitting here having a different story,” Brown said. “The fact that we didn’t play very well, if we don’t turn the football over, we win. I think that is the most important.”

Overall, Brown expressed that many of the game’s struggles boiled down to not executing the fundamentals properly.

“I think, as we move forward, we’ve got to learn from it and grow,” Brown said.

“We didn’t perform very well. We’re judged on games, that’s the way it is in this business. We’re all big people here. One game won’t ruin a season … I hope our fans don’t give up on us after one game, and I don’t believe they will. I get that they’re frustrated, and I think our players and our staff are frustrated as well.”

Injury update

Tight end Mike O’Laughlin, who was sidelined against Maryland, was dearly missed while his backup, T.J. Banks, played the majority of the game. Brown said Tuesday that he isn’t optimistic O’Laughlin will be available to play this weekend.

“Hopefully getting him back where he can play some snaps against Virginia Tech is the plan,” Brown said. “But we’ll see how that goes cause it’s gonna take him a little bit to get into some football shape and that’s a physical position he has to play.”

Reserve running back Tony Mathis was also out last week, but Brown is hopeful he will return to the field against LIU. Freshman Justin Johnson Jr., playing in Mathis’ place against Maryland, saw limited playing time.

Spring Valley’s Milum to play extensively

After splitting time last week at right tackle, true freshman Wyatt Milum will continue to see reps with the first team.

Milum struggled against Maryland, giving up a sack. However, Brown expressed that he still had confidence in his young offensive lineman.

“When he goes in practice and when he lined up against Maryland, it was different for him,” Brown said. “He’ll only continue to get better. He’s got big time talent, he’s got a great motor, but there’s going to be some ups and downs.”

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