Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU coach Dana Holgorsen’s weekly news conference.
Coming off a bye week, far from an off week, we got a lot accomplished last week. We got a lot of Syracuse stuff handled, we recruited on Thursday and Friday, came back and had a great day on Sunday, hopefully became better students yesterday, and we’re back to work today.
We got about half our work done. Today and tomorrow, we’ll continue to focus on Syracuse, which will be a very challenging opponent. Every game in this conference, you have to get ready to play, as West Virginia learned last year. Syracuse played with more effort , more energy and more excitement for four quarters and ended up knocking off West Virginia. If we need any more motivation than that, then we’re out of luck. That’s all I’ve got for them this week, and that should be plenty.
Syracuse is a good football team. They’re 4-2, and they figure out ways to win. Both of the opponents that they’ve lost to are 5-1. They play a very physical brand of football. Defensively, they pressure you a ton. It’s the first time I’ll play at the Dome. One of our players told me that it’s loud, it’s rowdy, and it gets warm. It will be played nationally on ESPN, so there will be a lot of people watching us, so it’s a challenge we look forward to.
On watching last year’s game
No, I haven’t seen it. I’ve watched two sides of the ball. We’ve watched some special teams stuff, and I watched West Virginia’s offense. I visited with Jeff (Casteel) for quite awhile about what they did offensively to our defense. I’m pretty familiar with how the day went. We jumped out to a lead and didn’t have enough excitement and energy to finish the game.
It’s something we’ve talked about all year. Every game is a challenge – you have to get up for every game. You have to play your best every game. Every game is going to present its own challenges. We’ll know what those challenges are this week, and we’re working hard to make sure that we accomplish what we’re set out to accomplish.
On the importance of getting off to a fast start
It helps. You look back at our one road game against Maryland. We jumped out in front and were able to hold on at the end. Every game, there is adversity. A couple of games, we jumped out to a good start and finished people off, a couple of games we didn’t jump out to a very fast start and had to battle at the end.
Two weeks ago against UConn, we started fast on two sides of the ball. We’ll always talk about jumping out fast on all three sides of the ball. Whether that happens or not, it’s about how you finish more than anything.
On plans for the day with an 8 p.m. kickoff
I don’t know yet. We talked about it this morning a little bit. Everybody plays at night at times. During a day that there’s no football going on, that presents a few more obstacles. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do from 12-4. We’ll keep talking about that and come up with something that we’ll try to keep everyone occupied. You don’t just want to take naps.
On playing on a flat field as opposed to a crowned field
I prefer playing on a flat field. It’s overrated, something you don’t really pay attention to. We’re only talking about a few inches. I prefer a flat field. I’m used to a flat field – that’s what I always played on, practiced on and coached on.
On what stands out from Geno Smith’s performance last year against Syracuse
Turnovers. Those will get you beat – we’ve talked about that before. Much like UConn the week before, we’re talking about West Virginia not being able to get up for that game. The one thing that sticks out is turnovers. If I tell our guys that, they’re probably going to be able to relate to it.
I watched the game, but I didn’t study it. We’ve got six good films of their team this year. Every year, a team is different, which is why I don’t go back unless you absolutely have to. They were really good defensively last year. They have the potential to be really good this year. It’s not the same team. It’s the same scheme, the same coordinator, the same what’s trying to be accomplished, but what they want to do is pressure you.
They rush about 50 percent of the time, and that’s the way it’s always been. I guess when we practice, we’ll probably prepare for a lot of pressure.
On Syracuse’s low ranking on both pass and rush defense
They’re getting one of their pass attackers back. No. 99, what I’ve seen on film from last year and their first game this year, is as good as any defensive end in the league. Getting him back will cause problems. Their whole secondary is back. They’ve got good safeties. Their corners are guys who have played. Their scheme has been the same. They’ve been out of position a couple of times and have been beat, or they haven’t gotten to the quarterback in time on pass defense, but it’s a variety of things (for the low defensive rankings).
They’ve played against some pretty good offenses, too. Toledo is good on offense, Wake Forest is good on offense, USC is pretty good on offense, so they’ve played some guys that give us an opportunity to see what they do against the spread.
On anything different that Syracuse will do that’s not on film
We’ve seen pretty much everything. I think we have a fairly good idea of what they’re going to do. If they come out and do something different, then that’s why coaches are paid to do their job. They figure out what they’re doing and try to adjust and take advantage of what their plan was coming into the game.
On watching film
We watch the same amount of film now as we did 20 years ago. Developing tendencies have become a little more challenging, both from an offensive perspective and defensive perspective. You come up with what you think they’re going to do. You practice against that and try to give the team as many looks as you can. You give them all the looks quickly, because you can’t sit out there for four hours and practice.
You only get four hours a day, and that includes meetings. The days of giving them a whole bunch of looks and then practicing for three hours are gone. You don’t have enough time to show them all the looks. You try to guess what they’re going to do in specific situations, and you practice that, but if they don’t come out and do that, what are you going to do? Are you going to adjust and try to make it work or are you going to throw the towel in?
On if a limit is needed for watching film
There are diminishing returns at some point, where they stare with blank looks and don’t absorb anything. The film rooms are always open. It comes down to compliance issues. You can’t meet with them very often. You get an hour a day that you can sit and watch film with them, which is not enough, which is why you encourage them to come back in and watch film or take iPads home and watch from home, take DVDs and watch them from home, etc. Whether they really do and how much they’re getting out of it probably differs from kid to kid.
On Geno Smith’s progress from a sophomore to a junior
The scheme looks a lot different to me. I hope Syracuse prepares for last year’s offense – that would be good for us. We’re coaching them. Geno had good coaches here last year, too. You just have to keep working with them. He’s willing to work hard every week and get better every week. You put that kind of time in, and you’ll probably get better. Due to the fact that he’s a hard worker and wants to get better, it probably has everything to do with him working harder and wanting to get a lot better.
On Syracuse’s style of offense
It’s pretty obvious what they want to do. Coach Doug Morrone has had some pretty good quarterbacks. A couple years ago, he had a pretty good one. They want to control the game. They want to get in the huddle and run pro-style stuff. They want to beat you with formations, grind the clock down and get first downs. That’s what they did last year and had success with it. I think they had about 260 yards last year, converted some big third downs and ate some clock up.
Whatever defense you’re running on a third down, you have to get off the field. We need to do a good job when we’re in third-down situations of getting off the field and creating turnovers. If they want to grind it and run the ball on third down and three, then we need to be able to stop them. If they’re in the two-minute offense and need to score, they do what they have to, but don’t prefer it. Our job is to try to get up on them, get them out of rhythm, and if they do happen to be in a two-minute situation, much like UConn was at the end of the half, then we need to be able to stop them.
On what he looks for when evaluating a game
The score’s a good place to start. How many plays they get is something that’s pretty important to me. Then you look at turnovers, third downs, how many times they punted, those sorts of things. Everyone wants to know how many yards a player had, but that’s indicative of the number of plays that you ran. If you get a large amount of yards on a small amount of plays, yards-per-play is pretty important. That’s a big one. The amount of first downs that a team had in a game can have a direct result on what your time of possession is. Time of possession is the last one I look at.
On keeping the team busy during the day when it’s a night game
It’s important. I don’t know what that schedule is yet. When we played here against LSU with an 8 p.m. start time, we backed everything up. The night before, we didn’t get done here until about 7 p.m. and went back to the hotel at 8 p.m. and let the guys sleep until 11 a.m. We had lunch, had meetings, and shortened the day in those ways. The flight schedule has been set for some time. We’re leaving early, which means we’ve got Thursday night and all day Friday, so that’s something that we talked about today and will need to talk about how we deal with it. You don’t want them laying around in a bed for 20 hours. We’ll figure that out.
On players leaving Morgantown last weekend during the bye week
I hope it was the first time leaving. We didn’t want them to go to Florida or Texas or any of that, so if they were close like Ohio, Pittsburgh, Maryland, that was fine. We checked their classes on Friday, but it was fine if they left Friday afternoon and came back Sunday morning. As long as they kept within a somewhat close distance, that was fine. We showed up Sunday, and I was the only one late. I was a minute late, coming in at 3:31. I was actually only 30 seconds late.
On punishments for arriving late to meetings
If you have a good reason and call ahead of time, it’s fine. If they’re coming late from a class, we’ll make it work. We had technical difficulties on an airplane from Chicago, so it wasn’t my fault. We left with a wide margin for error, and I was late by 30 seconds.
On scheduling the amount of consecutive home or away games
It doesn’t matter. You know how many home games you have and how many games are on the road, so it doesn’t matter. You only worry about what you can control.
On his experience in domes
The last game for me was at Tulane, which ironically Syracuse was there a couple weeks ago. The difference is that at Tulane, it was about 25-30 degrees inside, because they had the air conditioner set at 20 degrees because the Saints and Cowboys were playing the next day. They tried to get it as cold as they possibly could so when they put all the people in there it wouldn’t be so hot. It was cold. We won. The more people you put in there, the hotter it’s going to get. We’re going to be in a game that it gets hot where as before we were in a game that they were cooling it off and there were about 500 people there.
On Dustin Garrison playing more than the other backs
Yes, he’s in there. Now his job is to play better than the guys in front of him. Do you lose your starting job to an injury? It depends on how you play once you get back. We’re going to play the guys that are playing the best. Whether it’s because of an injury or because of performance or because someone got better and beat you out, whatever it is, we’re going to hold you accountable for your actions. (Andrew) Buie was our starter, so (Dustin) Garrison went in, and we’re pretty happy with his performances. When Buie’s in there, he has to take advantage of his opportunities and do what he has to in order to get ahead.
On the play of the offensive line
Same thing. We put (Quinton) Spain in, because we didn’t think that (Pat) Eger was playing very well. Eger came back and has done a little bit better, so we’ll probably start him. If one of those guys is not playing up to par, then we’ll put Quinton Spain in there.
He (Spain) could go right guard or right tackle. We’ll keep him on the right side, because that’s where he’s been practicing since camp started. We could possibly move him to left tackle. He’s played at left guard, but that’s not fair to do to a young kid. We’ll do what we have to, to get the best players out there.
On Syracuse’s defense
They lost two all-conference guys from last year who were really good. The freshman kid, No. 35, has some big-play potential to him. They’ll blitz him a bunch. He’s got four sacks and seven tackles for loss. No. 11 is a rangy kid, not as tall and massive as No. 33 was for UConn, that dude was enormous, but No. 11 has some range to him. No. 33 is active and runs around. They’ve got guys that can make some plays. They’ve got guys who haven’t played very much. They’re going to get better as they play more. Their safety is a guy who’s always around the ball and does a good job. They’ll play him down and move him around a good bit. They’re getting better on defense. They’re well-coached, and much like our guys who are well-coached on defense, it takes time to get them to mesh together. They’re in the same place that we’re at defensively.
You have to adjust to what they’re doing and just handle it. To say they’re not going to pressure is the same as saying that we’re not going to pass the ball. It’s what they do, and they’re good at it. When they bring it, we’ll have to be able to recognize it and block the guys that are coming. Geno will have to recognize it and know when he has to get rid of it or when he can hang on to it.
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