At the conclusion of the 2018 West Virginia University football season, Mountaineer fans were once again left with disappointment. What could have potentially been a Big 12 Championship football team turned into an 8-4 football team that dropped their last three games of the season Will Grier, David Sills and Gary Jennings all anchored what was one of the best offenses in the nation, arguably the best offense that WVU has ever had. How could this team possibly fall off the way that it did at the end of the season? The answer to that is two words…Dana Holgorsen.
Again and again throughout his tenure, Holgorsen underachieved. He never beat Oklahoma during his time with the Mountaineers, finishing 0-7 (later becoming 0-8 after an opening season loss to OU with Houston). Outside of 2016 and the first three quarters of the 2018 season, Holgorsen never had the Mountaineers contending for a Big 12 Championship. Things began to feel stale for fans and the program, and Holgorsen’s decision to leave to coach the University of Houston was met with applause. It was finally the fresh start many were yearning for.
On January 4th, 2019, Athletic Director Shane Lyons made the announcement that Troy Head Football Coach Neal Brown would be the new leader of the Mountaineers. After three straight 10-win seasons and an impressive 3-0 record in bowl games, it was shocking that Brown was still available. Luckily for Lyons and the Mountainers, he was, and the match made in Almost Heaven was made. Both fans and boosters alike have take to Coach Brown. His friendly nature and very professional demeanor have been welcome warmly to the state of West Virginia. This is a complete shift from the hot-headed, often “standoff-ish” nature of former Head Coach Dana Holgorsen. This was exactly the type of man that the Mountaineers needed to lead them moving forward.
Coming up on the conclusion of the 2019 season, both Dana Holgorsen and Neal Brown have compiled the same exact win-loss record, 4-7. This was expected of Neal Brown considering how bare Holgorsen left the cupboard, but not so much of Holgorsen considering he had potential Heisman dark horse candidate D’Eriq King. King called it quits for the 2019 season after just four games and the season quickly began to fall apart for Holgorsen. What began as what seemed to be a match made in heaven became a disaster. Embarrassing sideline antics, as well as a player claiming that the coach was blatantly tanking for the season have all added up to what has been a very long season for the Cougars and Holgorsen.
Meanwhile in Morgantown, Coach Brown go the Mountaineers off to what was a very promising 3-1 start. Things appeared to be “climbing” up, until the gauntlet arrived. Five consecutive losses followed for Brown and the Mountaineers until the streak was finally snapped with a 24-20 upset win over Kansas State. Thought it has ultimately been a disappointing season in West Virginia, there are still plethora of bright spots to be excited for. The Mountaineers will return the bulk of both their offense and defense for the 2020 season, and they have also found their quarterback in Jarret Doege.
The “Trust the Climb” motto that has been used all over the social media during the duration of the season appears to have started to take shape. The ascension of this football program has begun. While Brown and Holgorsen have been identical in their first seasons at their new schools, Neal Brown has done a far better job of the two. Showing progress in every single game this season, even with a chance to pull out a win over a few of the “top dogs” of the Big 12 before ultimately falling short. Houston could potentially be faced with issues heading into the 2020 season with rumors surfacing that quarterback D’Eriq King could potentially transfer to a Power 5 and Group of 5 program.
What has resulted so far in Houston is nothing more than a visor wearing, bald-headed mess. It was said during the introductory press conference in January for the Cougars that “an 8-4 record will get you fired.” If this is the case, then Holgorsen may want to go ahead and pack his bags.
Two different personalities, two different hairstyles, two very different coaches. Outside of offense, Holgorsen and Brown cannot be compared. They are both unique in their own way, for very different reasons. Neal Brown has shown that he has the manners and has shown to be likable enough to be a hit with the fans. Top that off with a southern charm straight from Kentucky, Coach Brown is the full package. Red Bull-fueled, foul-mouthed, raspy-voiced, and habitual cougher during press conferences, Dana Holgorsen may not be so lucky. Once thought to be the solution for the Cougars, he may have just brought more issues with him. As Mountaineer fans we should be thankful that Shane Lyons made the move to not extend Dana, ultimately leading to his departure. At least now we can say, “Houston, his is YOUR problem now.”