MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A transcript of WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen's weekly news conference:
Oklahoma is going to be a tremendous challenge. They are a very storied program that is extremely well coached. Bob (Stoops) has been there for 14 years and won many championships. They have great players, and they develop them well, they recruit well, it is a very structured program. We are talking about a place that has won seven national championships and seven Big 12 Championships so they are used to winning. They have always been known for their defense. His brother, Mike (Stoops), is back with them after being a head coach at Arizona for a while, but you can tell that it has made a difference. It has made a difference from a discipline, effort and scheme standpoint. They play with tremendous effort. They are very sound, and they are very physical. They are very talented. All those things exist with their defense.
They are very talented in the back end. There is going to be one-on-one matchups everywhere. Not from just a coverage standpoint, from an upfront standpoint. They are going to be one-on- one matchups everywhere, and they are going take pride in the fact that they are going to win those one-on-one matchups. They have got two great safeties that tackle well. They lead their team in tackles. They are very good on defense and very talented on offense.
Everything starts with their quarterback, Landry Jones, it seems like he has been there for six years. I remember him in high school, and he came out of New Mexico. He came to our camp, and he is very talented, big kid with a great arm and is a winner.
Then they put in the “Bell-dozer,” (Blake Bell). That is their backup who poses different problems. He is obviously a runner and will do wild-cat stuff with them.
This is probably one of the most talented groups of receivers we have faced all year and possibly in the country. Kenny Stills has been there for a while and is good. They hit two home runs on two transfers. The (Justin) Brown kid from Penn State, and the (Jalen) Saunders kid from Fresno are special. They have tremendous depth and some capable running backs. We will have just as much of a challenge on offense.
The special teams is probably the top special teams unit in the Big 12, and it goes back to just having a lot of depth. They have a whole bunch of people who could start anywhere in the country, so when you have that kind of depth, that makes you good on special teams. They have two good return guys and take it very seriously. It is a challenge we are looking forward to.
We encourage everyone to come support the team. The kids are playing hard, the guys are motivated, and we are ready to get back to work today. I understand the frustrations that have existed. Not only with the team, but coaches and players are well frustrated, but we are going to get back to work. Our approach last week was good, and I thought we had good work last week and we traveled well and I thought we wanted to play. We just made too many simple mistakes that prevented us from winning the game. We will get back to work and looking forward to a good week of working and then a great atmosphere Saturday night in Morgantown.
On Oklahoma coming in and helping the players focus
As many challenges that exist with Oklahoma, I don’t see how it can’t help. We came back to work Sunday and went back to work. I don’t think anything was wrong with our approach and our approach is going to be the same this week. We are playing a challenging team just like we faced a challenge last week at Oklahoma State. We didn’t play well enough to win. We will get out there and practice hard and put them in a position to hopefully make some plays and catch some breaks to where we can win this week.
On if he has ever been on a four game losing streak
No I haven’t. It is not a lot of fun for anybody. The only way to get out of it is to work hard so that is what our coaching staff is doing. We put in a long day Sunday, and we put in a very long day yesterday, and we are going to put in a very long day today. That is the only way you are going to get out of a losing streak. We understand what the challenges are, and we are realistic with them and recruiting hard, and we are managing the team hard. When we are in the weight room, we are lifting weights hard, not us personally, but the team. There is only one way to get on track, and there is only one way that you can win in college football. I don’t care what conference you are in. The only way you win is by hard work. We are going to work hard.
On how to coach basic, simple, fundamental stuff and fix the junior high mistakes
It’s coaching, and we have to coach it. What is sad about the special teams’ situation is that obviously it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing last week, and I sat here a week and a half ago after TCU, and I thought we played really well on special teams other than the execution of our snap and the execution of our kick whether it was a kick or a punt. We worked hard on that all week, and if you look at the execution of our snap and our kick, we were really good. Our snap and our punt, we were excellent. Bitancurt responded and probably had his best day that he has ever had here. (John) DePalma snapped and did his job and ran down field with a tremendous amount of effort. With that said, everything else is bad. Everything that I said was good, turned bad. We went out Sunday night, and we worked on fielding punts. We worked on the “Peter Call”, where Tavon (Austin) does this and everybody runs away from the ball, which is what a “Peter Call” is. The kickoff return when Quinn (Sharp), who is special, put some stuff on the ball, we had to make a decision, whether we field it or we make a decision to get out of the way and let someone else field it. We worked on Tavon (Austin) in the back and Stedman (Bailey) in the back fielding a kick. The guys covering the punt would get inside the five, see the ball, and then catch and down it, before it goes into the end zone, so we worked on that. It is all elementary stuff, so we worked on it. We put them in those positions, and we worked on it. Was it frustrating? Yes. Should we have to work on that? Yes, I guess we did. We kind of took some of that stuff for granted, which I will take the responsibility for that.
On Oklahoma State kicker Quinn Sharp and how he squibed the ball.
He did, but maybe he is that good. We tried to do it and when we tried to squib it, it went like 10 yards. We worked on that too. We worked on our kickers putting their foot on the ball and it going down field.
On playing field position football on fourth down
It is our job offensively to score. It is our job to keep going forward. If you look at all seven of them, there is only one of them that I questioned after the game and that was the one in the fourth quarter that we were backed up to our 35 or 40 or somewhere in there. Looking back at it, I kind of questioned that one a little bit, but I think at that point, we were down 14, they had just had an 80-yard score, and we made the decision to go for it. Other than that, the other six, I would do it again. We are talking again in that 35-yard line, which we scored with Paul (Millard), which that was on fourth and 12 on the 35. I didn’t feel good about the field goal, because of the wind. I didn’t feel good about the punt, because you have a chance at only gaining 15 yards, so we took a chance, and it worked out. Then a couple of the goal line ones, we had third and short and fourth and short, we have to be able to get it. If we are going to be successful offensively, we have to be able to get those. I only kind of regret one of them. I don’t want to get into a habit of going for it on fourth down five to seven times a game. I don’t want to, and if you look back at the games, there has been a couple of times this year that we have done that, but over the course of the 20 some games since I have been here, that hasn’t been the norm and don’t expect it to be. But it is all the situation. The situations dictate that.
On evaluating the defense versus Oklahoma State
There was still too many mental mistakes. More mental mistakes than physical mistakes. We were good against the run against other than the reverse, which was a mental error on two of our guys being in the wrong spots. They didn’t read their keys, and they were in the wrong spots. But other than that, we did a pretty good job of stopping the run. The pass defense issues, we didn’t get any pressure on them. Our pass rush was bad and keep in mind, I do think Oklahoma State’s offensive line is the best in the conference, and that is consistent over the years. Coach (Joe) Wickline does a great job, and those kids are good. We didn’t get to the quarterback. We didn’t pass rush well. When we blitzed, we screwed up the blitzes half the time, and we didn’t get there, which put our DBs in some bad situations. What looks bad on the back end, could have been prevented with doing things right on the front end. They work hand in hand. The physical stuff, they didn’t have a ton of missed tackles, played hard, just too many mental mistakes and not being where they needed to be 100 percent of the time. You have to be there 100 percent of the time if you want to play good defense. It has got to be all the time. You can’t say we played good defense for the exception of seven or eight snaps, which they scored on. We have to play like that all the time. We are having a hard time getting through to our guys, which is coaching, that we have to play like that all the time. That is the challenge.
On the WVU run game
It is a huge issue, and we are going to work hard on it this week. We did a poor job of establishing the line of scrimmage. Look at all our third and shorts. We have no push. We had none. We were garbage on third and short, fourth and short, when we handed the ball off. That is combination of just not controlling the line of scrimmage up front and not having good enough running backs to be able to get the yards that we need. You can blame it on what you want to. Shawne (Alston) is hurt. It is not what people want to hear, but he is hurt. That is why he is not playing. Dustin (Garrison) is still six months out from being where he was last year, which means we put it in the hands of Andrew Buie, who is averaging almost five yards a rush, but you give it to him 20 times a game, he is going to wear down. He is not that type of guy who can handle that many carries. We are working extremely hard to recruit about five or six running backs who can come in here and give us help and until that happens, it is what it is.
I wish we could clone him and put three of him out there. We have obviously felt like he is a pretty good inside receiver, and it has always been the thing on what can we do to get the ball in his hands. And you want to get it into his hands as much as we can. With that said, his trade has been being an inside receiver for four years now. We will continue to try and come up with creative ways to get him the ball, because he is dynamic as it comes in college football, when it comes to him having the ball in his hands.
On Oklahoma against Baylor’s Running Game
They do the same thing every time. They are going play a 4-1 or 4-2 front and their safeties are their fill guys. And if you remember what Baylor does; Baylor spreads you all over, and they go from way out here to way out there. They are going to line up like that. which means they are going to rely on those people in the box and those two safeties that come down to stop the run. There is going to be people in space. Baylor does as good of job as anybody in the country of putting people in space. I feel like we do a pretty good job of putting people in space, and then once those guys are in space, it is about making some people miss, and Baylor did a pretty good job of making some people miss.
On Oklahoma playing straight up in the secondary which is something they haven’t seen yet this season
This poses different challenges. I can assure you it poses different challenges. There is one-on- one matchups. Are our guys good enough to win those one-on-one matchups? We will see Saturday night. When you think of a one-on-one matchup, you are not looking at one receiver having to beat one DB. You are looking at four receivers and potentially a running back who have to win those matchups, and then you have two safeties that do what they want to. They still have help over the top, and then there are four people up front, and then add the linebacker, which is a fifth guy up front. So there are five lineman and five people. They have to win that one-on-one matchup too. It boils down to they think they have better players then who they play, which is why they are pretty good at that scheme, because they have pretty good players.
I would choose Stedman last week, because he had a better game, and I would choose Tavon the week, before that because he had the better game. These two guys are completely different than the guys that have won it. A couple of the guys who I have been fortunate to coach that are in the NFL get by with just sheer will. They just want to, so these guys are completely different. These two guys are not like people I have had. They are quicker and skilled and different. We rely on them a lot.
Yes. I hope he gets out there and practices hard and gets better. We need him and a lot of other people to get better. So hopefully, they take to the coaching and get better.
On certain receivers making plays for the first time last week
Effort was really good. What I am talking about as far as what needs to happen on every position involved is that it (being on the field) means a whole lot to those guys. You take guys like Connor (Arlia), Ryan (Nehlen) and Cody Clay. Cody has been a fullback for the last seven or eight weeks. We lined him up at receiver and ran routes. I don’t think he got targeted ever, which they probably should target him because he is a big body. Just sheer effort, grit, want to and it means a lot to them. Those are three of the most disappointed kids in our locker room after the game. We need more of that to exist. I am proud of how they did that. I can’t manufacture new people. It is what we got.
On if certain redshirts will play this late in the season
There are not many of them. It would be pretty hard at this point. If they would have been ready, they would have gotten pulled a couple of weeks ago.
On Paul Millard
It was kind of what you see in practice. He gets out there and throws an interception or a touchdown. We need a little bit of consistency to happen for him to be a productive football player. I was proud of how he went in there. He didn’t bat an eye. He ran in there, called a play and didn’t flinch. He took the snap, worked the pocket and threw a great pass. Then the second time he went in there, he panicked and he threw it right to them which they dropped luckily. He is doing good. It is going to be a good battle between him and Ford (Childress) and whoever else we bring in here. That decision won’t be made for quite some time. A lot needs to happen for us to figure that out.
On the inside receiver being a bigger body and a different look
It helps on the inside. Texas Tech’s inside guy, Jace Amaro, who hasn’t played since we played them. We watched Texas Tech offense against Oklahoma’s defense. I studied that a lot this week. That guy just destroys people. So the physical presence on the inside is necessary. We don’t have that physical presence on the inside. You have Tavon (Austin) and Squirt (Jordan Thompson). Those guys run circles around people, but they don’t necessarily run right into people. Having Cody (Clay) at that spot last week did us some good. He sprung Tavon for a touchdown, and he blocked well on the perimeter. He probably blocked better on the perimeter than he did in the back field. Having those guys I think is important, yes. Connor (Arlia) brings some toughness like that to the inside. He will get in there and give it everything that he has got. He will in there and stick his hat on somebody and fight for everything that he is worth. That type of guy is important. You need those type of guys who can score too. A Wes Welker type and Danny Amendola, who stick their nose in there and be gritty and then also make a guy miss and go score.
On what makes a good inside receiver
It is grit, toughness and effort.
On determining who will be a fit for this program recruiting wise in junior colleges
It is just evaluating. We have sent coaches all over the country to go to schools and ask questions, get transcripts, watch practice or watch games. Identify your needs and then go recruit them. Everybody in the country has needs. I can assure you of that. You do it like any other high school. You go recruit high school guys, and it is all just evaluations and trying to figure out what your needs are and identifying if they fit the needs or not. Which is a little easier said than done.