The Daily Texan spoke with Matthew Digby, sports editor of The Daily Athenaeum, ahead of this week’s matchup between Texas and West Virginia.
The Daily Texan: This week was obviously very complex because NCAA student-athletes were given Election Day off. Do you think the off day is going to end up affecting West Virginia’s performance Saturday?
Matthew Digby: I wouldn’t think that it would, not significantly at least. I feel like they’ve been planning for (Election Day) so far in advance, so I don’t think it would have that great of an impact on the game itself. I’m sure the coaching staff has planned that out way ahead of time.
DT: We’ve heard all about the Mountaineer defense ranked fourth in the nation in total defense, first in the Big 12 and coming off a blowout victory against then-No. 16 Kansas State. Is this defense for real, or do you have concerns as it goes up against Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State in the second half of its schedule?
MD: I will be very curious to see how it goes against Texas because Texas is definitely the best offense we've seen this year, and I don't even think it's really that close. The closest West Virginia played would be Oklahoma State, and I think they played fairly well against Oklahoma State. The offense just couldn't get going. I think it's for real in a lot of ways, but I think it also will be very telling as to how they match up with Texas this weekend.
DT: How does head coach Neal Brown’s coaching style differ from Dana Holgorsen, the previous head coach, now that he’s had time to start making his mark on the program?
MD: It's really clear with the way Neal just talks about the way he wants to build his offense is (through) the running game. He wants to establish the running game immediately, and Dana definitely was trying to get those guys out of space as much as possible and just heave it long with (former quarterback) Will Grier and all those great quarterbacks that he had. Neal Brown wants to get on the ground as much as he possibly can, and (junior running back) Leddie Brown has really stepped up tremendously this year. I think he's definitely taking steps in the right direction for the running game, and I think it can only go up from here.
DT: Last season, West Virginia was very much in a rebuild, but it seems to have turned things around pretty quickly. Did you expect the Mountaineers to have this level of success in Neal Brown’s second season?
MD: I was saying when the season started that if they could make a bowl game, I think it would be a great step in the right direction. Hopefully, it's still going that way. I think the addition of a guy like (graduate transfer linebacker) Tony Fields (II), who is like a senior, (is helpful). He's played ball for a long time. And then having the Stills brothers on defense and just having that kind of upperclassmen leadership just helps so much. I wasn't expecting this defense to come out the way it has. I am really impressed with the way the defense has looked. And they’re so young offensively that I think that there’s so much potential there, but they (haven’t) completely found their footing yet. But they did take a step up last week against Kansas State.