Can The Mountaineers Use The Duke Bowl Win To Jump Start A Bigger 2024 Season?

CHARLOTTE, NC—-The West Virginia Mountaineers(9-4) used special teams and a dominant defense especially in the second half to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels, 30-10, to win the Duke’s Mayo Bowl here Wednesday night.

WVU’s Offense behind the gritty play of quarterback Garrett Greene totalled 392 yards. The very first play of the game was a play action pass from Greene to Traylon Ray for a 75 yard touchdown for a quick 7-0 lead. Greene, who wound up being the MVP, completed 12 of 24 passes for 228 yards and added 64 yards on the ground. 

The Mountaineers were playing without All America center Zach Frazier and leading rusher C.J. Donaldson Jr. but the story line tonight was the dominant Mountaineer defense that sacked NC quarterback, Conner Harrell, seven times and held the Tarheels to zero points in the second half. (NC was without first round starting quarterback Drake Maye and several others).

North Carolina’s leading rusher Omarion Hampton, was limited to 62 yards and the Tar Heels managed just 140 yards on the ground.  Harrell was picked off twice and was under pressure all night long.

“This is a special group,” West Virginia Coach Neal Brown said after the game. “I’ve really enjoyed coaching them, and we answered the bell tonight.”  “How about our defense and our special teams?, Brown said. “I thought our defensive line was outstanding, and Mountaineer nation really showed up and did an incredible job,” he added.

The Duke Mayo bowl win was special for Neal Brown. The Mountaineers were picked to finish 14th in the Big 12. He ended up with nine victories for the first time since WVU finished the 2016 season with 10 wins. The announced crowd of 42,925 Mountaineer fans were backing their gold and blue. After the game the fans remained in the stadium to watch Neal Brown have 30 gallons of mayo dumped on his head. It’s a bowl tradition for the winning coach.

Looking ahead to the 2024 season this bowl win will give Brown and the Mountaineers plenty of momentum. If most of his team stays in place there is talk of winning ten or more games next season. Many of his young players said they will be returning along with quarterback Greene.