Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU coach Dana Holgorsen’s weekly news conference.
We came in and had a normal Sunday and got the game over with. We made our final comments about Connecticut. I was very proud, especially defensively, with how we came out and played well for four quarters. We held UConn to nine points. Three field goals is a winning performance. Special teams-wise, we had our best day; all six sides did some good things. The six phases of the special teams units did their job and put our team in a position to be successful.
Offensively, we did just enough. We had a lot of opportunities, because the defense was giving us the ball and the field position was good. We ended up making some plays, but it wasn’t our best offensive performance to date. Physically, we got beat, which is pretty disturbing. We did make some plays that got us in a position to win. Today and tomorrow, we’ll have two good two-hour practices and try to maintain our football shape and our timing. We will get out there and play a bunch of ball for a couple of days, lift weights for a couple of days, take a couple of days off and come back the week after to move forward to Syracuse.
On offensive timing of the game
You can lose it really quick. If you take a couple of weeks off, you’re back where you started. That’s the reality of throwing the ball and maintaining how fast you run your routes and knowing when the ball needs to come out of your hands. The timing from an offensive perspective is critical, and if you do take too many days off, then you’re going to lose it, and you’ve got to start over. Our goal is to not lose it this week. Defensively, our goal is to get better at the run, fitting in specific stuff. Syracuse poses some problems, much like UConn did. They’re a big, physical team, and they’re going to try to pound us and keep us off the field. UConn did that for a quarter, then we got it together after that. That’s going to be Syracuse’s plan, as well. Our goal at the end of the week is to be a week better and to learn something.
On the second half of the season
We talked about our goal of being BIG EAST champions. That’s the other seven teams’ goal, as well. All seven teams in the BIG EAST are capable of winning this thing. That’s something that’s been talked about for a long time. That’s what the BIG EAST is about. It’s the way the BIG EAST has been over the course of the last decade or so. Each game is going to present its own challenges, and we know what the challenges of the next game are going to be. The following week (after Syracuse) against Rutgers is going to be the same bit of challenges.
On focusing on tendencies during the off week
We pay attention to it. We compile those tendencies from game one to game two. Heading into game three, we look at the accumulation of the first two. After six and heading into game seven, we’ll look at the accumulation of the first six. That’s an on-going thing. That’s not something that we need an off week to do.
On the combined roles of the special teams and tight end assistant coaches
I’ve done it both ways. At Houston, we had a special teams’ coordinator, who was one of the best in the country. At Oklahoma State, we had a special teams’ coordinator, who was one of the best in the country. I’ve seen it done that way. Here, in the situation that we were in, I didn’t want to change anything, because we had already worked heavily on everything throughout the spring. We were able to hire Daron Roberts to come in and take over the return units. He’s a relatively young coach who’s getting better at it every week. He’s done some good things already this year. It fit the current situation.
I wasn’t hired to be the head coach in January. When I was hired to be the head coach in June, I did not want to change anything. We didn’t change anything. That’s where the cards were dealt. Steve Dunlap is doing a great job with the kickoff team. Those guys are better every week, and he’s also doing a great job with the punt team, more so from a coverage standpoint than a kicking standpoint. We’re pleasantly surprised with how (Michael) Molinari punted. The PAT field goal unit is something that people were complaining about, and that has probably been the most consistent on the team. Special teams-wise, we got exposed in one game. Other than that, I think it’s been a winning performance.
On the offensive transition compared to Houston and Oklahoma State
It’s similar. I don’t think about it. I think about what we’re doing right now and what we need to do to get better for the next game. That’s how I’ve always been. After the season, there’s always time to reflect back and compare it to this year or that year. We’re still trying to figure out who we are offensively and what we do best and what we need to do a little bit better. That’s a week-to-week thing, and that’s the way it’s going to remain. In the offseason, you can reflect on the big picture and compare it to years past. Right now, we’re focused on what we’ve got to do to get a week better and to get a game better with Syracuse.
I don’t think we’re very good right now, to be honest with you. We did enough offensively last week, but we weren’t very good. You can take it for what it’s worth, but that’s where we are.
On what he’s impressed with so far
I’m happy with the whole team. Everybody talks about the slow starts. Defensively, I think we started pretty fast. Special teams-wise, I think we started pretty fast, too. We talked about it all week. The offense went out there and fumbled around a little bit, punted, got beat and, me included, started pressing a little bit. That doesn’t mean our team started slow. It means one-third of the team started slow. Our job offensively is to get first downs, and that’s it.
On scrimmaging freshmen and redshirt guys
We do a little bit. There’s still not ample time to do that. You only have four hours a day. Those young guys, for one, we’re playing about six of them. Those young guys are so vital to our scout team look that we still use them for that. Their time is going to come. The majority of our time right now is to continue to get better at what we’re doing in all three phases. It’s more important for us offensively to keep timing in practice against specific looks. It’s more important for our defense to practice against specific looks to where we can’t give each other that. That’s what our scout squad is for. We do it a little more than normal, but the majority of our time today and tomorrow will be designed toward getting people better.
On the improvement from Brad Starks
He’s padded up. He’s practicing. He made a great catch. We’ve seen that here out of him before. He’s functioning well, and he’s practicing well. The more he does that, the more we play him in a game - his effort has been really good.
On recruiting this weekend
We’re focusing on the area right now. For evaluation purposes, it’s area. This one week, we’ve designated as our off week, and we’ll send all 10 coaches out, me included. That’s an NCAA compliance thing. Everyone goes and hits his area. Everybody’s got an area, and everyone will be out focusing on his area.
When it gets into the contact time, which is December and January, that’s when the philosophy changes a little. You’ve got to narrow down toward position guys and that sort of thing.
On comparing NCAA leaders and past Holgorsen quarterbacks Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden
I’ve got my hands full with the one that I’m coaching right now. He’s a daily challenge. He learned stuff again this past week. He gets so wrapped up in the game, which is a good thing. He’s all in, it means so much to him, and he wants to be successful on every play, to the point where he probably tries too hard. He’s a great player. He’s going to continue to get better and better over this next year and a half to the point that you’ll see a finished product. Right now, you’re not looking at a finished product.
Guys like Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum are more finished products. They’ve taken more snaps in the system. When I left Houston and Oklahoma State, they kept the same system for a reason. They have the same guy doing the same system - Case four years now and Brandon two years now. You’re seeing some pretty good football out of those guys. They’re both 6-0 (team records), and they’re playing at a very high rate. We’re 5-1, and we’re not playing at that rate right now offensively.
They know exactly what to do with the ball and know exactly what we’re trying to get accomplished. They understand it a little bit better than Geno (Smith) does right now. Geno can do some things that those guys can’t do, but they understand it a bit more just based on experience. It will be fun a year from now watching what Geno, with that kind of experience under his belt and knowing exactly what to do, and being a year advanced with everyone else around him, can do. Then you can start talking about good offensive football.
Our job as coaches and players is to get better every week. It takes time. It’s not a snap of your fingers. It’s not like you can just show it to them on tape and say, ‘Go do it.’ He (Geno) can do a lot of things that other people across the country can’t do. His competitiveness is something that is irreplaceable. It takes reps, it takes experience, and it takes time to get to the point where it’s more efficient.
On watching film of Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden
I don’t have any of their film from this year. I should probably get some. We reference some of that stuff, specific plays, specific ways of doing things. The best way for a kid to understand it is to see it. Kids are film-oriented that way, I guess it’s because of video games or something like that. If they see it, they’re probably going to do it a little bit better. We do go back and reference it.
On Geno’s unique abilities
They’re all good. I don’t want to sell Geno short. He’s got six games now (under this system), that the other guys have used for a longer period. That said, Geno’s still a great player. One hundred percent of my focus is to make sure that he continues to improve as a player and as a person. It’s a hard job right now. That’s why I don’t worry about the other guys. I worry about what we have right here.
On TCU leaving the BIG EAST and the effect on WVU recruiting in Texas
I never bought into that, to be honest with you. I know who recruits Texas, and I know where guys from Texas go to school. They go to school for reasons other than ‘I get to play TCU.’ There’s something to be said here at West Virginia for, ‘I get to go play West Virginia’ as opposed to ‘Golly, I get to play TCU.’ I never bought into that. We’re going to continue to recruit the same people and sell what we have as opposed to who we play. To me, it’s more the place where you’re at and what you have to offer. West Virginia, not only from a football standpoint, but men’s and women’s basketball from the product that coach (Mike) Carey and (Bob) Huggins put out on the court, it’s a very attractive situation. The support is here, the finances are here, the facilities are here but can get better. The product is pretty good.
On what he thought of last week’s crowd
It was a great environment. It’s what we’re after. The kids hit the field, and there was a lot of excitement. It’s not for me, I can assure you that. It looks like everyone was having a heck of a time out there tailgating and enjoying the weather and enjoying a good product on the field. It was an exciting atmosphere and an exciting environment. I know the 12 recruits that were here had a heck of a time. It all ties in. If you missed it, it’s a shame.
On the conference situation and what to tell recruits
We get a few questions. We get questions from recruits about absolutely everything. That’s called recruiting. Every time you talk to a recruit, you ask, ‘Do you have any questions?’ They usually have questions, and you usually answer them.
I think the product that we put out there is very appealing to a whole lot of people. People want to come to West Virginia because of what you see. The atmosphere, the excitement, what you’re putting out there on the field, what the athletic department brings to the table, perennial Top 20 programs in football, men’s and women’s basketball. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it? The geography is fantastic, the landscape is fantastic. Why wouldn’t West Virginia be attractive from a conference realignment standpoint and from a recruit’s standpoint? I firmly believe that.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
Coach Dana Holgorsen
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