Morgantown, West Virginia – One of the most important parts of being an offensive coordinator is trusting your personnel on the field. Right now, Neal Brown does not trust his players and his play-calling is a very clear indication of that.
On the first possession of the drive in West Virginia’s embarrassing loss to Iowa State yesterday, the Mountaineers had the ball at 4th and 2 on the 33 yard line when running back Leddie Brown was called for a false start. That penalty put the Mountaineers back to the 38 yard line and 4th and 7. This isn’t an ideal circumstance, but Brown chose to punt instead of going for it. The punt went right into the end zone, bringing it out to the 20 yard line for a total net punt of 18 yards.
18 yards. Instead of coming up with something creative to get 7 yards and get a really important score on the score board, Brown chose to punt and push Iowa State back a whole 18 yards.
On the second possession – now down 7-0 following an easy score by the Cyclones – Brown called a very bad screen play that Iowa State easily read for no gain. Second down, Brown called a slow-developing run to Leddie Brown that went for no gain. On third down and down 7-0 on the road against a Top 10 team, any coach that wanted to give his team a chance would have thrown downfield. Instead, Brown called an ultra-conservative hand-off to Leddie Brown that had absolutely no chance of getting the first down.
— The Voice of Motown (@voicemorgantown) December 5, 2020
It’s just not winning football. West Virginia is not a team that can come from behind and win games and Brown immediately put his team in the hole 14 points with his extremely poor play calls.
West Virginia is currently converting on 39.8% of its third down conversions. That’s bad. As a comparison, #1 ranked Alabama is converting 56.6% of their third down plays this season.
Third downs matter. You can’t simply play field position on the road in the road in the Big 12 Conference. It may have worked in the Sun Belt with Troy but it doesn’t work here. Brown is far too comfortable punting the ball and relying on his defense. Sometimes that works if West Virginia is a clearly better team, but you don’t do that on the road against a Top 10 team.
No other team in the country has a Head Coach and a wide receivers assistant coach (who has no play-calling experience) calling plays and there’s a very good reason for that – it doesn’t work. Successful teams have real offensive coordinator whose primary responsibility is to call plays and put offensive players in position to move the ball and ultimately score points.
Neal Brown has many other responsibilities as a head coach and he’s failing miserably as a play-caller right now. Brown must take a step back, realize that this is a very important role that should be delegated to an experienced, proven offensive coordinator while he focuses on everything else that a college football head coach has to deal with.