Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
Last week, we talked about what it takes to motivate your team. We pushed them a little bit, which was effective. As the week went on, we got better and better at what we were trying to do. We got to the game and were able to overcome five minutes of bad football. For the offense, defense and special teams to work together for three quarters and 10 minutes was an improvement. There were also a lot of guys that deserved to get on the field and play.
Now, we move on to UConn. We had a good day Sunday introducing the team to our next opponent. We put together a good game plan yesterday. We’re excited to start BIG EAST football. This is season No. 2. The first season is over, which was nonconference. We move on to BIG EAST football and a good UConn team comes in here. Without having to use a bunch of motivational tactics this week, our guys realize that the game last year against UConn didn’t end up the way that they wanted it to.
I spent two hours on Sunday watching that game and how it went last year. It was a tight game; turnovers were the difference. They’ve got a whole bunch of people coming back that were in that game and were able to go on to a BCS game. Our guys wanted that to happen to them last year and it didn’t, so I think that’s going to provide a little motivation for us to get in a good week of work.
On what UConn does well
They’re physical. They’re big. Their defensive front is big, and they try to outnumber and suffocate you. They’re good against the run because they’re physical and they try to outnumber you. Offensively, they’re going to try to run a bunch of power offense. They’ve got a good offensive line, and they are going to play fullbacks and tight ends and try to pound you. It’s much like LSU’s scheme and way of football. We’re going to have to do a good job of being physical and playing with a bunch of effort.
On similarities between UConn’s last opponent, Western Michigan, and WVU
UConn may change what its scheme is defensively and what they’re playing against us. Nobody ever knows. Basically, what they try to do is outnumber you in the box and make it hard to run the ball, which means you have to throw the ball. Western Michigan was pretty good throwing the ball and they had three 100-yard receivers against them, which means they made some plays.
UConn has its whole secondary back. They’re without one of their corners, which he may or may not be back. We need to have our receivers make plays. Western Michigan had guys make plays in space and recover, so I give them credit.
You look at UConn and take their record out of it. They’ve lost to three pretty good opponents. Vanderbilt is 3-1, Iowa State is 3-1 and Western Michigan is 3-1. They were close to winning all three of those games, so they could very easily be 5-0.
On UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee
He’s working on being able to get the snaps, which we’ve talked about here for various positions. Guys that are inexperienced get out there and play, and nine times out of 10, they tend to get better. It’s a new system for him, which probably held him back a little bit. The fact that he’s getting to play a lot of football is why he’s showing improvement.
On Dustin Garrison’s role against UConn
It doesn’t change how we game plan. Every game we’ve gone into, we’ve gone in with the way that we worked. We get into the game doing the same thing. Like I’ve said since the day I got here, if we do it and it looks like crap, we probably won’t do it as much. If we hand the ball off and we’re fitting it upright and he’s hitting the hole and making people miss, he’s probably going to carry it 32 times.
He’s a little bit better than the others right now, but when (Andrew) Buie’s in there, we didn’t take him out. Same thing with Vernard (Roberts). All three of those guys are capable of running routes and catching screens and making things happen.
On getting off to faster starts
We’re talking about it. Against Maryland, we started fast, but that was three games ago. We can’t start faster than we did against Maryland. That was a noon game, so we’ll probably take the same approach and hopefully we’ll have the same results.
We can’t get them up at 8 a.m., feed them and serve them breakfast and then have meetings and practice at noon because they have school. I just talk about it and get them to focus on it and try to get them to buy into it.
On the play of the linebackers
Najee (Goode) is playing well. If we could clone three of him, we would. He’s a good player, he’s a team leader, he’s smart and he understands what Jeff (Casteel) want him to do. He’s physical and makes a bunch of plays. He’s one of the leading tacklers every time we line up. Regardless of where he plays, it’s going to be productive. We’re happy with how (Jewone) Snow got in there with limited experience, and we’re happy with how he played.
On UConn’s defensive front
They’re all back from last year. They’re a big, physical bunch that’s played a lot of football, and they play hard. Schematically, they do things to try to create problems, and they do a good job of it. They get eight negative plays a game and about three sacks a game. It will be another challenge for our offensive line. It will be another challenge for Geno (Smith) and the coaches to come up with things schematically that will put ourselves in proper situations. If they’re trying to suffocate you on the line of scrimmage, then you don’t need to be stubborn and do things to allow them to be successful. We’ll try to figure out what their plan is and attack it the best way we know how to. It will be a challenge because they junk up everything in the front, much like our defense does. It will be a challenge to figure them out and try to finish our blocks.
On how many past seasons he researches to scout an opponent
We probably only go about five games back. We look at some of their opponents and we’ll see how they did things and what we can do. You tend not to go back a couple of years. We did go back last year to Maryland, which is where their defensive coordinator was last year, to double-check some things. It’s hard to go back to the NFL stuff because there are more dynamics to it as far as who’s actually helping to make decisions to call things. Five games is plenty, but we can go back to the previous year if the defensive coordinator or offensive coordinator was truly in charge of what they were doing.
On the progress of our offensive line
It means a lot to most of them. You look at a guy like Tyler Rader, who’s a walk-on here and is a West Virginia kid. It means as much to him as anybody that’s around. That’s why we made him a captain last week. (Don) Barclay was, in my opinion, the player of the week, being as solid as you can be and grading out the highest. He had my vote for player of the week, because without a guy like him doing specific things, Dustin (Garrison) wouldn’t have gotten free. Joe Madsen continues to be consistent. He gets us targeted and in the right direction. Pat Eger’s been a pleasant surprise and continues to play hard.
Coach Bedenbaugh does a great job with those guys. Maybe it’s a shock to you all because you don’t know him, but I’ve been with him and around him for a long time, and I understand how much it means to him and how he gets those guys to respond.
On helping the team avoid complacency
I’m not too worried. That’s why we pay coaches to keep the team motivated. That’s our job and we’ll handle that. Our job is to be the same every week and continue to improve. One thing we talked about last week as far as what our job is and having a decent offense, our job is to improve, which I feel like we did. Not for the first five minutes, but we played fairly consistently for the game. To continue to try to improve is what our job is.
The fact that UConn does a really good job of run defense - they’re only giving up about 80 yards a game – and being one-dimensional is something that’s always on my mind.
In your home games this year, you've had four very different types of dates; the home opener with Marshall, an FCS opponent, LSU at night and the awful weather in the last game. What do you envision or want to establish?
Last week was disappointing. Much like what we talked about offensively, our job is to be consistent and make it as good as we can each week. It's our coaches' and players' expectation to do their best each week.
Whether it was the first game of the year with the excitement, and we didn’t do the best of jobs in the second game, but we ended up playing okay in the second half. Two weeks ago, (LSU) it was easy (to play), then this week, we had all kinds of excuses not to play well. We had to cancel the Mantrip, we had bad weather, it was cold, it was wet, the environment was terrible, it was relatively early, didn’t respect the opponent, no matter what the excuses were, our players didn’t buy into it. But obviously our fan base did.
Whatever our expectations are with our players as far as preparing every week and going to the game and playing our best, I highly encourage our students and our support to take the same approach. You only get seven opportunities a year. What's so hard about it? Is it too cold? It wasn't too cold for our players, it wasn't too cold for our coaches, our managers and our trainers.
So why did we have 20,000 less people out there for this one than that one? The funny part of it was we all were talking about it two weeks ago how much difference the fans and the crowds are going to make to the LSU people. LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and then turned around and went home and played a 1-4 Kentucky team at noon and had 95,000 fans. You want talk about an elite program, that's one. I don't know about this place.
I’m new here. I call it like I see it - you know me pretty well by now. I’m going to say what I think. I went in and beat the drum during the offseason. I found out how important our team is, how important our athletic department is, and our players and our coaches. I saw the level of support and how much we mean to the state of West Virginia. This is the NFL team here in town and hearing, ‘We’re going to be there to support you.’ Well, having 40,000 people at the game isn’t doing that. The only thing we can do about it is fix it. We do our best every week to fix what the problems are offensively, defensively and special teams-wise. Well, what’s everyone across the state of West Virginia, including the student body, doing to fix the fact that our players had to show up in the cold in front of 40,000 people?
We have a conference game this week at noon. I can give you some excuses. We’re playing a team that’s 2-3, but should be 5-0. We’re playing at noon. Who cares? Get up. The Mantrip’s at 9:45 a.m. Are we going to have a good crowd or are we going to have nobody there? Is the weather going to be 85 degrees and sunny, or will it be 25 degrees and snowy? It doesn’t matter, because coaches and players and trainers and everyone else will be there. That’s what our job is, so what’s the support people’s job?
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
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