MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media for his weekly media conference
Opening Statement I am looking forward to this week. It is really our first road game, which is going to be fun. I have obviously known a good bit about Mack (Brown) and the rest of their coaches for a good while. I have coached and competed against a lot of them. It is one of the premier programs in the United States. Their tradition is fantastic. Their facilities are fantastic. It is going to be a tremendous environment. They have everything going for them. They have great coaches. When they went out a year ago and hired Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz, I knew they were going to turn the corner and play well. They also made a change in their strength program and put Bennie Wylie in charge of it. I was with Bennie for a long time at Texas Tech. They just have a tremendous program, and coach Brown is one of the most respected guys in our profession. His reputation precedes itself. His winning record is something that is pretty impressive.
They are good on all three sides of the ball. They are still young. They have nine returning starters. We have nine returning starters, but eight of them are seniors. Potentially, we could have nine seniors. They have a bunch of sophomores on their team. They are going to continue to get better. They do a great job of taking care of the ball. They do a great job of staying ahead of the chains. They are in the top five as far as third-down production. They have running backs in the backfield that are very athletic. Defensively, they are tremendous against the pass. They also have great pass rushers and tremendous speed in the secondary. They are a little nicked up at linebacker, but as always, we expect their guys to be back and to play at a very high level. We will have our hands full with them defensively. On special teams, they are very good. They probably have blocked as many kicks in the last 13 years as anybody else. Their kicking game has always been solid. They are in the top 15 when it comes to punt return and kick return. On all three sides of the ball, it is going to be a chore. When you couple that with being on the road for the first time this year, we obviously have our work cut out for us.
On what he has seen on tape with the WVU defense We always look to make changes if we need to. College football is what it is. We can’t call somebody and ask for a trade or try to pick someone up off of waivers. Those are guys that have played around here for a long time. We have to get them better. The freshmen have to continue to improve, and it is our job as coaches to get the young guys more experience in practice, so we can trust them a little bit more during the game. After the course of 92 plays, you have to play other people. You are going to see a dropoff. If there wasn’t a dropoff, then those backups would be starters. The young guys are backups, and they have to get better with our coaching and experience.
The front seven played well. Shaq (Rowell), Doug Rigg, Will (Clarke), Terence (Garvin), Jorge (Wright), Isaiah (Bruce) and Josh Francis all played well. They were holding Baylor to two yards per carry – that is pretty good considering Baylor came in averaging over 250 yards of rushing. They were disruptive at times when they were rushing the passer. We need a little bit more out of the defensive line when it comes pressuring the quarterback. We gave up too many big plays on third down.
On the confidence and improvement of his defensive players There are different ways of developing confidence – one is being successful. There are guys back in the secondary that have been successful in the past, but others are true freshmen. The other way is to man up a little bit and work hard. One of the things that we have told every one of our players is that no one is going to give you anything. You have to earn everything, so if you don’t like the result, you have to work hard in order to change it. That isn’t just a reality in football, that is a reality in life the last time I checked. You need to get experience for the young guys for them to truly understand it.
On Cody Clay He played well. I am really proud of that kid. We didn’t know what he was going to do when we recruited him. The kid is playing well. He loves his role, whether it is tight end or special teams. He is doing a great job. Ryan (Clarke) and Donovan (Miles) are out with injuries, and he stepped up and played 45 snaps on offense at a pretty high level. He had a lot to do with springing (Andrew) Buie for a lot of those runs. He is a very consistent guy and is hard worker. He loves his role and understands his role.
Being able to get into the different sets with the same personnel drives defensive coordinators crazy. We are not going to put guys in there that are unable to fill a role. He can run and catch. He is not very fluid at it, but he can get the job done. He does a great job of blocking on the perimeter.
On five receiver sets You think that is the first time we have done that? We just didn’t have any running backs. They were pretty beat up. I told you guys that I am not going to use that as an excuse. If we don’t have any running backs, we will make it work with receivers. If we don’t have any receivers, we will make it work with running backs. It is our job as coaches to make sure that happens. We were down at running back, and we liked it. We moved some guys around and got into some new sets.
On Geno Smith and Heisman hype It is all about handling expectations, whether you are talking about a specific trophy or a big game on national television. What we are talking about is handling expectations. It is the same thing we talked about when Geno was picked to as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year – those are just expectations. When you win a BCS game by 37 points, there are going to be expectations. We talk about expectations all the time, but Geno does a good job with that. Geno understands that when he gets in here at 2:30 p.m. today, he needs to get ready to face his next task.
On Texas quarterback David Ash He has handled the ball. He has taken care of the ball. He has gotten a lot better. Bryan Harsin is a good quarterback coach. He coached a kid named Kellen Moore, who won a few games. He developed him. He has a system that he believes in, and it is the same one that they run at Boise State. It is scary to see nine returning starters, seven of which are sophomores. He is doing a great job with the whole offense, and David is one part of that. I watched David play a tremendous amount in high school. He has ability, and he has talent around him. It is a group that continues to get better.
On their edge pass rushers They are pretty good. Jackson (Jeffcoat) is a good kid. I worked with his dad, Jim Jeffcoat, at Houston. He looks exactly like his dad. He was always around the office – great kid. They are long and talented. They love to rush the passer. I would assume that they are extremely fired up about doing their job this week. I would assume our offensive line is fired up about blocking them.
On Texas facing a similar offense in its previous game against Oklahoma State It depends on how you look at it. We have a whole game of watching how they defended it.
On Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium It is pretty nice. They have done a lot of work to it. It is a large stadium, and it is manicured. There will be a lot of people, cheerleaders and Longhorn in the endzone.
On Joey Madsen’s play last week That is one thing that gets overlooked when it comes to Geno’s play. Who has been snapping the ball to Geno since Geno has been here? It has been Joey. Jeff (Braun) is right there, too. There is a level of comfort that exists. To have a consistent center-quarterback exchange is something that is often overlooked. Cody Nutter was great last year, but no one ever talked about him. He is a guy that has been missed. I took some criticism from some people for naming him the offensive champion, but those plays never get started without a center that does everything right. You can delete a few of those touchdowns or rushing yards if the center isn’t doing his job. It wasn’t just the center, though. The whole offensive line played well. Joey graded out the best out of all them, so he is the one that earned that award. I will be quick to point out if they go south on me, however.
On the running game against Baylor I thought we did well running the ball. I don’t remember the exact yardage, but I don’t necessarily look at the yardage. We want to have the threat of it being there. When Buie creases it for 12 yards, the defense has to do something about it. I think everyone is happy with the 51 passes we threw, but without that threat, people do different things defensively. I have always run the offense with the idea of developing that threat.
On Texas perimeter players, specifically their corners and pass rushers Whoever wins that battle will be extremely significant in the outcome of this game. That is four of their best players. They also have two good safeties back there. I think they have seven returning starters. Those six players along the outsides are pretty important to them. The corners are good. They are fast. They can get in your face. What they do with Kenny Vaccaro is similar to what LSU did last year. They will put him down in the slot to try and be disruptive. He does a good job of covering. Our receivers are going to have players in their grill for the first time all year – much like LSU did last year.
On the similarities between the LSU game last year and this game Four turnovers – that is what we learned in that one. We are capable of running routes and pass protecting. You have to block up front, and win one-on-one matchups on the outside. We didn’t stop LSU’s running game and turned the ball over four times. Hopefully, it is not the same outcome. We are not playing LSU, though. I understand the similarities, but we have to do better against the run and not turn the ball over.
On the body language of his defensive players We do the same thing every Sunday. We come in here and talk about the game. We talk about what is right and what is wrong. We watch the film, and then, it is over and done with. We just want to improve. I expect a whole lot of good body language coming in here around 2:30 p.m. today. If not, it will quickly be pointed out.
On turnover ratio I would imagine we have a pretty good record when we win the turnover battle. I don’t have that exact stat, but I would assume we are pretty good. That is the one stat in college football that stands out. The top teams at the end of the year are in the plus when it comes down to it. It is something that everyone talks about. They are pretty good at it. I would assume they have ways of coaching it. We are pretty good at it, and we have ways of addressing and practicing it. We want to win the turnover battle.
On Geno being too critical of himself He is not changing. Nothing is different with him. I don’t see anything different between last year and this, other than the confidence is a little higher. When you ask him to do things, he does it. When you ask him to watch tape or critique himself, he does it. He sits in the front of the room and is bright eyed at when we start at 2:30 p.m. He is ready to get out there and practice. His practice is always the same. If it was affecting him, it would affect his practice and his performance. I see a confident kid that works hard, prepares and is ready to go on Saturday. I have seen the same things with him for the past four weeks. We will monitor that very closely this week. We don’t want him to get goofy. If he gets goofy, we will tone him down.