“Do no harm.”
Many people mistakenly believe those words are lifted directly from the Hippocratic Oath, an oath taken by many doctors when they enter into medical practice.
While these words did not come from Hippocrates, they do, however, have some application to football.
In their 41-30 loss to Auburn, West Virginia showed that they are capable of playing with any team in the country. But in order to win, they must not harm themselves.
West Virginia beat Auburn on both sides of the ball last night. Despite having their two best defensive players—Reed Williams and Scooter Berry—on the bench, the Mountaineer defense played a superb game.
In fact, West Virginia did everything necessary to win the game. On offense and defense, the Mountaineers were faster, they were stronger. They were better.
However, in only one position did Auburn have the edge: they had the better quarterback.
No, Chris Todd is not a better athlete than Jarrett Brown. No, he is not as gifted. Moreover, it is likely he never will be.
Therein lies the problem for West Virginia.
Todd capably performed his role and really did nothing to hurt the Tigers. And that is the main reason his team came out on top.
When placed on the big stage, gifted athletes often feel the need to rely solely on their individual talents, occasionally forgetting they are surrounded by a capable supporting cast.
In short, Brown tried to do too much.
In 1988, West Virginia quarterback, Major Harris humiliated Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions in a nationally televised game on CBS. Penn State simply couldn’t tackle the man!
However, the following year, realizing they could not consistently tackle Harris, Paterno instructed Penn State's defense to attack the football, something Major often carried like a loaf of bread.
The strategy worked. The Lions’ defense forced three fumbles from Harris.
Major told me that, after the game, his hand was sore and bruised from their helmets going after the football.
With those critical turnovers, it is not surprising that Penn State won the football game. And Major lost any remaining chance of winning the Heisman Trophy as a result.
Sometimes great athletes try to do too much.
As a basketball player who played one season under Bob Huggins, Jarrett Brown understands the concept of a “hot hand” on the court.
I know this wasn’t basketball, but the hot hand in this game easily belonged to Noel Devine.
In his role as something of a point guard for the Mountaineers, it wasn’t Jarrett’s responsibility to score each time he came down the court. It was his job to effectively distribute the ball to the playmakers.
Devine, who rushed for 207 yards, couldn’t be stopped by Auburn’s defense last year. Moreover, I didn’t see any evidence they could consistently stop him this year, either.
In fact, I think West Virginia made a crucial mistake in the second quarter when they quit routinely putting the ball in Noel’s hands, especially when they were in the lead.
I have no doubt that Noel would have eventually broken another big scoring run.
As a quarterback, it isn’t enough that Jarrett Brown tries to win every game; his responsibilities also include the necessity not to lose it.
Chris Todd did his job; Jarrett Brown failed at his.
I am sure someone is going to tell me not all of these interceptions can be blamed solely on Brown. However, if he is going to receive the praise, he must also shoulder the blame.
I love Jarrett Brown. I admire his character and loyalty to the Mountaineer program. I also think he is a remarkable athlete. I like what he brings to this team.
Despite his contributions to West Virginia, Brown’s performance last night cost the Mountaineers a very winnable football game. In fact, it should have earned him the Auburn game ball.
Brown’s five turnovers led to a devastating 24 points on the Auburn side of the scoreboard.
His moments of absolute brilliance were totally eclipsed by the mistakes, poor execution, and bad throwing decisions.
I saw nothing in the Auburn game that convinced me the Mountaineers still cannot win the Big East Championship and play in a BCS bowl.
The Mountaineers are certainly a talented team. And if they will eliminate the mistakes, they can yet be a great team!
Do no harm.
It may not be the oath of every physician; but for the rest of this season, those words should be the motto of West Virginia’s Jarrett Brown.