MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The word used by Neal Brown is “grit”.
The West Virginia football team heard a lot this week. It almost became an anthem, Brown emphasized it so much.
His team may not be better than yours, but he expected him to beat you with his grit, just like he did on Saturday by beating Baylor, 27-21, in overtime.
Now you may know that Neal Brown does a lot of self-help reading, finding things he can use in his coaching. Along the way he discovered a work by Angela Duckworth.
The title of the work, aptly enough, was “Grit: The Power of Pride and Perseverance”.
“We have to own who we are,” he told announcer Tony Caridi during the pre-match show. “What we are now is a young football team that needs to be hungry. We must be a worker soccer team that plays with determination. “
It was here that he mentioned Duckworth’s book.
“We got to play today with extreme passion … love not only for the game but for the competition, love for your teammates, where you won’t let them down and then perseverance to overcome adversity,” he said.
As it turned out, that was the road map to victory.
West Virginia dodged adversity at every turn. The result was far better than the performance, but in a way they forced Baylor to a similar performance and it got to the point that Brown would eventually sum it up by saying:
“It wasn’t great, but I’ll tell you what it is, in the second half we didn’t lose the game.”
Brown knows his team. “We won’t be the most talented every Saturday, I’m not sure we will be the most talented in this match today. But we can be the most aggressive, “said Brown.” We have to translate it into success on the pitch. “
And that’s what they did.
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“Coach Brown has been beating our grit in the lead all week,” said Leddie Brown, who scored the match-winning touchdown on a 3-yard run in extra time.
What is grit? It’s just that … pride and perseverance
You are too proud to lose and too strong to let anything get your way, even if that “anything” is you.
What have they overcome? They passed a second week of 12 penalties, some indescribable and others – two interference calls on the pass in particular would have killed a team with less heart, less grit – more invisible than indescribable.
There were five tinkers, two of which were lost, plus a couple of interceptions.
But they persevered.
Why? Take the Bryce Ford-Wheaton wide receiver. He made a terrible special team mistake, stumbling upon Alec Sinkfield while it was right to take a punt, causing a fumble that could have cost him the game.
Brown noted that a year ago he would go into a corner of the bench and likely be useless for the remainder of the game, but returned to make a tough hold in close cover for the first touchdown in extra time.
Persevere? This match was not won in extra time. It was probably won when Baylor landed on the 1 foot line at WVU, on the verge of hitting the ball in the end zone.
But they couldn’t get there. The defense persevered. In the fourth down Baylor tried to make his way but the defensive front, heroic all day, held up.
It was a game that needed to be revised but in one of the endless revisions, the striped shirts could not find conclusive evidence that football had crossed the goal line and confirmed the ruling.
“Sometimes the game gets to us and we love that,” said nose guard Darius Stills, who spent the whole day showing the grit that his career at WVU has been built. “If the game is in our hands , we’ll have the job done. “
Talk about oomph, how about having James Gmiter, the starting left guard and perhaps your best offensive lineman, fail his COVID screening test on Friday and be declared out of the game, forcing real freshman Zach Frazier to replace him. The line had been a weak point and no, it wasn’t exactly Seven Blocks of Granite Saturday, but towards the end of the second half they did what needed to be done.
“I will say, winning is difficult,” Brown said, opening his post-match press conference. “I think in the days of COVID, it’s probably even more difficult. It was a big win for the program. On a day when we had a lot of things that went wrong, we found a way to win.
“It sounds simple, but the teams find a way to lose and we have found a way to win today, which in the end is all that matters. I’ll never apologize for (that). Some people might say it’s ugly, but I say it’s raw. “