MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media Tuesday in his weekly press conference.
If you remember last year when I was talking about Kansas State, they 3
were top two or three in the country at that point in time. They are 2-4 at this point this year. A lot of the things I say about them this year is going to be the same things I said about them last year.
It starts with (Kansas State coach) Bill Snyder and the job he has done as a head coach and the program he has built over his 22 years he has been there. I know he was gone for a few years, but he got it right back on track with their record and what it has been over the last couple of years. He is a tremendous football coach that has done a lot of things for our profession. He does a lot of things for his kids, like building character, being a disciplined football team on all three sides of the ball and getting kids to play with tremendous effort.
There is a little different of a vibe with them this year because we have to go there to play as opposed to them coming here. They played a phenomenal football game when they came here last year, and they finished the year very strong. I have been to Kansas State several times, and they have built that up from nothing to what you see there today. It is a heck of a place to play a college football game. There is going to be 53,000 people there - they are loud and they are rowdy. Their student section is great, which is right behind our bench. It is a challenging place to go play. All venues in the Big 12 are challenging places to go play. It will be a tremendous challenge for our football team.
Offensively, they are searching for an identity at this point in time, like a lot of teams, including ourselves. You lose a quarterback of the caliber of what they had last year, and it will take some time before you find some sort of a rhythm. They have been searching with the two kids they have been playing. It looks to me like they have been settling in on (sophomore quarterback) Daniel Sams a little bit. They are two different type guys; they do different type schemes with the two of them. We will have to prepare for both. Daniel Sams presents problems from an athletic point of view, as he is their leading rusher. He averages over six yards per carry. He has run the ball 86 times. We will have to keep him in check. He is 6-foot2, 210 pounds, really fast, very athletic and will hurt you with his feet. The last game against Baylor, he controlled the game and clock. He did a phenomenal job of keeping them in the football game.
I anticipate their receivers to be back - (junior wide receiver) Tyler Lockett and (senior wide receiver) Tramaine Thompson. This is their third year now; Thompson’s senior year. They are smaller guys that play on the outside that are dynamic, fast and stretch the field. They make plays and are great in the return game. We anticipate them being back. It does start with the quarterback making things happen with his feet. If they have the receivers back they may end up putting the other quarterback (Jake Waters) in there and throwing to those guys the whole time. So we are going to have to adjust. You can tell they are well disciplined, well coached and that they play hard. They are searching because they are trying to find out what their identity is because they are playing a bunch of people. We just have to coach up on that and coach on the go when we find out what that is going to be.
Defensively, they lost a bunch of seniors last year. They were pretty good last year defensively, I thought. When you look at them on film they look the same just with different people. They are not giving up a ton of points. They have only given up about 25 points a game. They get off the field on third down relatively well and have only given up 150 yards a game rushing. The scheme is the same as it was. They are just a well-coached and disciplined football team that has a bunch of effort, holds their gaps and blocks and makes plays. It really does not matter who they are. If it was the same people as last year it would look the same as you see on film (this year). The speed of it is not as good, but I do see them getting better each and every week. I would expect nothing else from a Kansas State coached football team.
Special teams (this week) will be the biggest challenge of the year. Their special teams coach (Sean Snyder), coach Snyder’s son, has been there for a while. They have no weaknesses, special teams wise. We need to try to battle and break even. Their punter is averaging 43 yards a kick, their kicker is extremely solid, they have got the best snapper in the league and they are good in the return game. You can tell that they spend a bunch of time on special teams and that there are no weaknesses. We will have our work cut out for us. That has been one thing that I have noticed with us over the last couple of games. We need to continue to improve with special teams.
It will be a big challenge for us. I am still disappointed in the loss last week. I thought it was a game that we could have won. We have to bounce back from it and move forward. There are never going to be any easy games. Welcome to the Big 12 - this is what we signed up for, and we have to play a tough opponent of the road (this weekend).
On change in Kansas State’ offense depending on quarterback
It changes. If you look at ours, it does not matter who is in there it will be relatively the same offense. What they do with (junior quarterback) Jake Waters is that they go a lot of empty and spread it around. It is more of a pass game. They let him throw it around and distribute the ball. With Sams, it is more of a run threat. What they do there is going to change with the personnel. You have to prepare for it all. You don’t know. If you take just what they did against Baylor, you can do that, but they have the potential to do the other stuff as well.
On defending a running quarterback
You look at the Baylor and Texas Tech quarterbacks, and they are pocket passers. Both teams are good up front. Texas Tech was better up front than I anticipated. Baylor was really sound up front with a little different of a scheme. They (Baylor) would run the ball and then play action the ball 48, 58, and 68 yards deep. So they would sit in the pocket and throw the ball around, and they were really good at it. Texas Tech has improved each week with it.
Kansas State is runs more with its quarterback. Teams we have played prior to Baylor were all against quarterbacks that were runners. So we were facing teams that were running the quarterback a good bit, and we showed that we could defended that pretty well. We just got to work on it.
On talking about bowl eligibility with the team
We are focused on Kansas State right now. A bowl game is important, but a fourth win is more important. We have not gotten to the point where we need to talk about the motivation to win. I think the motivation to win is there.
If you are not able to execute things, then you cannot win. We are continuing to focus on being able to execute better. Offensively I think we began to execute better last week, but I was extremely disappointed in how we finished the game, especially offensively. Prior to that we were moving the ball better and the flow that had not existed in most of the previous games (was there). So offensively, we have got to continue to improve. We have shown where we can play at a high level, and we have shown where we can play at a very low level. We need consistency on defense, and we need to continue to improve offensively and get into a rhythm and glue it together with special teams. We need them to do what we’re asking them to do, which will lead to a victory.
Obviously making it to a bowl game is one of our goals that we have set as a program, and we obviously want to meet that goal.
On improvements on third-down conversions
It is better. I cannot remember the stat, but it was clearly better until we got to the fourth quarter. Everyone asks why did those drives (in the fourth quarter) look different than the previous seven drives, and the answer is we just did not execute. The game was on the line and I saw Texas Tech up their game and execute their calls a little better than we did.
Whether you want to call them good calls our bad calls, you can put the calls on me, that’s fine - we just did not execute on all three sides of the ball as well as we needed to. They did, they were able to win the game.
On Kansas State being better than its record
They are. I think we are better than our record. Look at their three previous games. The first game against North Dakota State happens. North Dakota State is a good football team. We are all aware of that. They are a good football team. They are searching - no one wants to hear an excuse about not winning the game because the level of competition, whether it is at West Virginia or Kansas State - nobody wants to hear that you are not winning a game because of experience. Nobody wants to hear those excuses. Why not get better and try to go win.
On Kansas State slowing down Baylor’s offense
(You have to) stop the run. They are thick up front in the middle, and they play with tremendous effort. They are going to give you five in the box. They gave Baylor five in the box, and so did we, and they run through us. Baylor did a good job of coming right off the ball and moving us. You heard me talk about them moving the line of scrimmage - they did not move the line of scrimmage against Kansas State. Hopefully that does not pose problems, but it is going to be a challenge blocking their guys. They do a great job with their D-line and linebackers on filling gaps and holding them on the line of scrimmage and not letting you establish the line of scrimmage. They played physical against Baylor.
On play of the offensive line versus Texas Tech
I thought we improved. We did not finish the game with a winning effort, but we improved. Texas Tech was giving us the run - they were giving us the numbers. In the past, we have shown that we cannot handle that, but we rushed for 170 in the first half. It is not just the run game - our pass protection is getting better. We improved, and we have to keep improving.
On approach to kick return
Score. Here is what happened with kick return. We got pinned inside the 10 three times. Texas Tech did a good job at pinning us, which we knew they would. So if they pin it, you can go that way (forward) and you’re going to get to about the 20-25 yard line, which we did until they converge and you stop. After being pinned inside the 10 our second time or our third time, I said we cannot try this anymore. What you try to do is when they pin you, you try to go here (forward) and then fan it out to the rest of the field. There are about four guys back here (opposite side of the field) that have to get their blocks. If one of them misses their blocks, there is a free guy that can get you inside the 10. If you make that block, you have a chance to score. So we tried that once we got pinned on the second time and got pinned. That’s when we made the decision to go straight with it and get to about the 20-25 yard line and be happy with that.
A couple yards into it (the end zone) is okay (to field the ball). When they changed the rule where you cannot get a 15-yard start, I saw a lot of teams backing the threshold up where they were fielding the ball five to six yards deep and still bringing it out. What we told our guys is that if you are a step or two yards in to go ahead and take the ball out. Five yards to me is too risky.
On injuries to offensive linemen
They are good. They were in the weight room working out, so I anticipate them being fine. Tech was physical. It is a physical game in the trenches. There are going to be time when guys get nicked up and if they cannot play through it then you have to get the guys like (redshirt sophomore offensive linemen) Marquis Lucas
, (redshirt freshman offensive linemen) Tyler Orlosky
and (redshirt freshman offensive linemen) Adam Pankey
in and get them snaps. Those guys need to be able to go in there and play a series and keep it going without us taking a step back. They got better last week, and we need to continue to do that.
On changes to the travel schedule
Maryland was a bus trip. We always try to get to the hotel at the same time whether it is home or away. So we will probably get over there around 5 p.m. Where we are staying is not far, so there will not be much travel time. There was a lot of transition time with Baylor, so we had to make some adjustments.