MORGANTOWN — Sometimes you have to admit you were wrong, and this is one of those times.
As West Virginia prepared to open the season against Penn State, coach Neal Brown wouldn’t name a starting quarterback until game day.
Now, everyone knew it would be Garrett Greene over Nicco Marchiol, but the media was baffled by his inability to reveal it. All of his statements during the camp indicated that this would be his choice, but he refrained from making any announcement.
Well, we were wrong to be upset with their approach. He worked against Pitt and now he’s trying again against Texas Tech in today’s Big 12 showdown at 3:30 pm at Mountaineer Field that will air on ESPN+.
With Greene missing all but six offensive snaps last week due to an ankle injury and his backup, Nicco Marchiol, leading the Mountaineers to victory over Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, there were real questions about who would be the quarterback. field.
Would it be Greene, who practiced something during the week? Would it be Marchiol, who had reps with the first team during the week?
Suddenly, Brown became clear. If it was difficult to write about the game without knowing the quarterback, how difficult was it for Joey McGuire and Texas Tech to prepare their defense for the game?
It’s not just a question of whether it will be the left-handed Marchiol or the right-handed Greene. This is not baseball. You don’t build a lineup against an unknown pitcher, but it’s much more difficult to build a defensive game plan when you don’t know who the quarterback will be.
On Thursday night, when almost everyone expected Brown to name Marchiol the starter, Brown threw a change and said it would be a game-time decision.
Why not? There are no rules for making an advertisement.
“It’s an ankle injury,” Brown said in his Monday news conference. “A lot of this has to do with how he responds over the next few days. We won’t play him unless he can utilize his best skill set, which is his athleticism. “It’s too early to tell.”
On Wednesday, Greene was getting some exercise, but there were reports that he was wearing a red shirt, which typically indicates a player is out of the game. There was more work for Greene on Thursday, but anyone who’s had a sprained ankle knows it’s been around for a while and it’s keeping him from being…well, athletic.
“If he can’t go, Nicco will play,” Brown said Monday. Brown was still saying Friday through his sports information office that it would be a game-time decision.
“There is a lot of confidence in him in the locker room. The guys believe in him,” Brown said of his players.
In fact, they do.
“We know Nicco is ready and can step up any time GG goes down,” guard Doug Nester said.
If Marchiol, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 60 yards, overcoming a nervous start to complete his final 6 passes in a row, can avoid early-game jitters, he hopes to benefit greatly from the experience against Pitt and a full week of practice with unit number 1.
“We have to realize that we have to calm down. He was probably very excited to come in. He has to calm his nerves and we will let him know that we are still here and we have his back,” Nester said.
If WVU wants to advance during the season, proving itself against Texas Tech is crucial.
“Texas Tech has had our number,” Brown admitted. “They’ve beaten us four times in a row and they’ve beaten us the last two times at Mountaineer Field,” Brown said. “This is the first opportunity for this team in the Big 12 Conference to prove the so-called experts wrong.
“We were picked 14th in the league and this is our first Big 12 game. So let’s see what we have,” Brown added.
Marchiol or Greene, WVU must stay close so their running game can be used like it was against Pitt when WVU rushed 51 times and threw only 10.
Much of that challenge falls on WVU’s veteran offensive line, which is said to be the heart and soul of the offense…except against Texas Tech.
“They’ve been after us, their D-line versus our O-line. We’ve had problems and they’ve won those head-to-head battles, especially on the inside.
That group, especially in the middle with Tomas Rimac, Zach Frazier and Nester, is determined to prove it can compete with Texas Tech. That would make life easier for CJ Donaldson, Jaylen Anderson and, it is hoped, Jahiem White, a threat escape.
WVU has played well in run defense, but this year faces a different type of challenge than Texas Tech running back Tahj Brooks.
“He’s probably the best player in our league that nobody talks about,” Brown said in his Monday news conference. “I think he’s at the top of our running back league.”
He rushed for 157 yards on 19 carries against Tarleton State last week and carried 17 times for 107 yards and two scores against WVU last year.
But the Mountaineers must forget about last year, just as they must forget about winning the Backyard Brawl a week ago, to avoid disappointment.
“Last year was probably the worst performance I’ve ever been a part of,” Brown said. “If you watch that film, it won’t take you long to prepare for this one because of that bad ball last year.”
Texas Tech is 1-2, WVU 2-1. The series is tied with 6 wins each.
According to reliable sources, WVU entertains Texas Tech today in Big 12 opener.