MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia Head Football Coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media at his weekly news conference:
Opening Statement We got the kids back on Sunday after a couple days off. We had a really good week last week. We practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then, we gave the kids Friday off. We got back into things on Sunday just as we would for a normal game week. We started to introduce some James Madison stuff to them on Sunday, and then, Monday was a school day. We will get back out there and have a normal Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before traveling to Washington, D.C., on Friday to play the game on Saturday.
Our guys are excited about playing this game. You worry about having an off week this early in the year, and the guys losing routine. That concerned me, but I like our team’s mentality. They wanted to get back out there and get back in the routine, as well as play another game.
Just some notes on JMU - they are a very sound football team. Mickey Matthews has done a very good job in the 13 or 14 years that he has been over there. Just getting to know a little more about their football program, they do a good job recruiting and do a good job coaching. They have the best facilities in the country in FCS. That will attract a lot of talent. They are in a talent-rich state of Virginia, and it shows. They have good players. They are very fundamentally sound. They play with good technique and effort. They play smart football. Offensively, they don’t turn the ball over very much. Defensively, they are as sound of tacklers as I have seen in some time. Schematically, they don’t do anything that is very risky. On special teams, they have the kicker, punter and snapper back, and you can tell they spend a lot of time on it. It is going to be a challenge for us coaches, and it is going to be a challenge for the players. We would like to get better on all three sides of the ball, and this game will give us a chance to do that against a good, quality football team.
On practices last week I thought we got a lot done last week. Tuesday and Wednesday was a lot of football. We put them in about four or five different situations and let them play. The competition was high, and I told them to compete within their positions. I was happy about how that went. On Thursday, we did more individual work and let the young guys get after it. Watching the young guys play 30 or so snaps was fun to do. Overall, I was happy with it. If I wasn’t happy with it, we would have practiced on Friday.
On improving offensively after the Marshall game I thought we executed well against Marshall. I felt we were good on third downs, but the biggest thing was keeping our tempo. The best way to do that is to put the ball down and play football. We focused on not turning the ball over. There were three plays that were reckless that I wasn’t very happy about. We went backwards too many times. I think we went backwards five times, and that is too many for us. If we can improve on those two things, then we became better offensively.
On yards after catch It can be both. It is part of our offense. We want to put the ball on the perimeter. We want to move the ball sideline to sideline. If they start smothering the line of scrimmage, we have the ability to push it deep, too. The more skilled the players are, then the more they will get the ball downfield. We concentrate on getting guys that can make guys miss – that makes the offense better.
On in-game tempo The better we are offensively, then the more we can go fast. We have the ability to do things fast if we want. In the three-snap scoring drive, each snap was done very quickly.
On Saturday’s game being a home game We will treat it like a road game. We will travel like a road game, and our hotel routine will be like a road game. We will treat the whole thing like a road game.
On JMU’s defense They tackle well, and they are sound. If you are fundamentally sound and you play with effort, you will be good. What I see out of them is what I would like to see out of us. We want to get to the ball and make tackles. We need to do it all the time, instead of two-thirds of the time. It is really pretty impressive watching them get to the ball and making tackles. The challenge offensively for us will be getting to guys and sustaining our blocks. It is going to make our job harder offensively because of their fundamentals.
On improvements defensively from the Marshall game You don’t get better at something unless you work on it. Those guys do a great job on defense. They were first in their conference and top-10 nationally. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t coached well, didn’t have good players or weren’t fundamentally sound. They get off blocks, play with effort and get to the ball. We want to see that from our guys.
On JMU’s offense compared to other Big 12 teams I haven’t really studied anyone else at this point. They do use a tight end 90 percent of the time. What it reminds me of is what the Big East is or was doing. It is the old Northeastern football. It is what old Big East teams were. It is what West Virginia was before I got here, what Pitt was a couple years ago, what Syracuse and Connecticut did last year.
I do think the offenses in the Big East are changing. What the Big East used to be is what the Colonial Athletic Association (JMU’s conference) is now. They will get the ball off to tight ends, they will try to establish the run and they will control the clock. It is all about playing with effort. I think JMU defended around 62 plays per game last year – that is what West Virginia was defending before I got here. The landscape of college football is changing slightly, but I don’t think it has gotten to them yet. They have some guys up front that look the part. If you put too many people in the box, they will try to challenge you one-on-one.
On changes filtering from the college game to the NFL instead of vice versa It looks like it to me. You saw the Baltimore Ravens game last night. It looked like a whole lot of up-tempo offense coming from the shotgun with downfield throws and reverses. I would say that the NFL is headed there.
On referencing JMU’s upset over Virginia Tech during the 2010 season I’m sure we will have something in the highlight tape. We did last year when we played Norfolk State. You are going to make reference to that, but it is happening more and more. Everyone remembers when Appalachian State beat Michigan. It is happening almost every week now. We are going to be motivated this weekend. We don’t want them talking about us in that category on Saturday.
On potential use of grey uniforms Maybe, I don’t make that decision. The captains make that decision. You can wear grey on the road or at home.
On playing in Washington, D.C. It is important to us to have a presence over there (in the area). It is important too, recruiting-wise. It is important to the 20 or so kids from that area. Oliver (Luck) and Dr. Clements have looked at it as important. We have switched conferences and will be playing a lot of games in the Southwest and Midwest, so this is important for us. In the Big East, we played over there three times a year. We want to have a presence.
It is nice for our guys to play in the pro stadiums. I wouldn’t want my home stadium to be a pro stadium. We did it twice last year, but it seemed like our guys got juiced up for that. Next year, we will play in the Ravens stadium. Family and friends get excited for that, too. Recruits and players do, too.
On JMU potentially being without Dae’quan Scott He is a good player. That would be like us being without one of our top guys. There is nothing we can do to worry about that. We don’t worry about injuries too much. We want to line up and play. He is a great player on tape. We are going to anticipate him playing. If he is questionable, we are going to anticipate him playing.
On the offensive line’s play against Marshall All of them played very well. We got to our guys and we sustained blocks. Last year at this time, we were talking about guys being targeted right. We have always been targeted right. Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh does a tremendous job in ensuring that the guys are targeted right. Sustaining blocks is important. We are light years ahead of where we were last year. Having Josh (Jenkins) back brings a presence and mentality to our line. He has played a lot of ball. Those guys are playing well, and they are a pretty confident group.
On quarterback Geno Smith running with the ball and what is opens up It makes people think twice about rushing people up the field hard, and it makes them think hard about dropping guys really, really deep into coverage. If they are deep into coverage, they better have someone to spy him. We don’t want him to run a ton. Last year, he would be slow in making that decision to run. Now, he doesn’t take a lot of shots and gets out of bounds. It is going to pose a problem for some people.
I have never had someone spy one of my quarterbacks. Obviously, I have never had a guy have the offensive ability that Geno has. He has improved his size and speed. He said after the game that the game slowed down for him, and he is making better decisions. These things are a sign of his maturity as a quarterback and where he is as a quarterback.
On wide receiver J.D. Woods I don’t mind talking about him now. I did mind for a while. He is just doing everything right. He is even going to class. He brings us a ton of energy. His demeanor in the locker room, in practice, in the weight room and in study hall has changed for the better. It is fun to watch a kid to look at his senior year and say ‘I better get my stuff together here because it is about over for me.’ He has taken advantage of being a senior. He is playing well. We are going to throw it him.
On Ryan Clarke running the ball in the future Maybe, you never know. Running backs take a beating. Last year, we had five running backs and we got down to where we are now. That is a position that is tough, physically. It is very demanding. I am really happy with both guys that we have back there. Ryan is probably the next guy right now.
On the secondary during the Marshall game It starts with pressure. We didn’t do a very good job of getting pressure, whether that is individual guys winning or through blitzes. If we let the quarterback just sit back there, he is going to find guys. (Rakeem) Cato did a good job of finding his open guys. Defensively, we have to match routes and makes plays on balls in the air.