Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
West Virginia University
Football Coach Dana Holgorsen
Weekly News Conference
Nov. 28, 2011
It was a great atmosphere Friday night and was a lot of fun. It was everything that everybody said it was. It was great to be a part of that and great to get a victory. I’m proud of how the guys at halftime, down 10 in a game like that and having some struggles offensively, went in and made some adjustments. The coaches made some adjustments at halftime and in the second half, we came out on top. It was great how our guys responded. There was a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. The atmosphere was great. Our players fed off of that. The sidelines were probably as energized and fun to watch and fun to be a part of as any game that I’ve been in from a sideline energy standpoint. It was a big win – we enjoyed it Friday night. We got back Saturday and watched the film. We met with the guys and got it over with and then put it to rest. It’s over and it’s done with.
Moving onto South Florida, this game is what this team is going to be remembered for. You can take the rest of the games, and you can delete them. You can erase them, you can forget them. What this team is going to be remembered for is by what happens this weekend at South Florida. We’re playing a very good team. Their record doesn’t reflect what kind of a team they are, how well-coached they are, or what kind of players they have. They started well at 4-0, beat a good Notre Dame team, then the last six or seven games they’ve come up a little bit short. That doesn’t have anything to do with what kind of coaches they are or what kind of players they’ve got. They’re sound in their schemes; they’ve just lost some tough games. We fully expect to get their best. We just have to worry about what we do and what we practiced last night. We practice late tonight, because today is a school day, and we don’t have our players until 9 p.m. tonight. We’ll get our guys tonight and practice tonight.
When we start stretching at nine, that’s going to be approximately the first quarter on Thursday. It’s going to be a late game Thursday night, so we practiced late last night, we’ll get some work done tonight and tomorrow we’ll tear it up, leave on Wednesday and try to win the game on Thursday.
On different kickers starting on Thursday
Based on yesterday’s practice, I do. Corey Smith punted well yesterday. He’ll be the kickoff guy today unless Tyler Bitancurt does a better job than him today. That’s how we do that. Congratulations to Corey Smith for being the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Week. He could have folded his tent six or seven weeks ago. He remained the kickoff guy and has done a fantastic job for us, but he waited for his opportunity to punt again. He asked me on Wednesday before the Pitt game and asked me if I’m ever going to let him do it again. I told him, ‘Yeah, you better be ready. You never know when your time is going to come. You have to go in there and help the team.’ That’s exactly what he did. He averaged 58 yards a punt, and they were coming after it. It’s not like he just camped out back there. He had to get that ball out. He got it downfield and the coverage units were really good. He earned that; I’m proud of how he hung in there and how he waited for his turn.
The two offensive linemen, Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt, practiced well yesterday. They’ll get to start on Thursday. We’ve got Pat Eger and Tyler Rader that have got to be ready to go. We’re talking about two inexperienced guys that may need to come to the sidelines and take a break.
On what Curtis Feigt and Quinton Spain did well
They’ve still got a long ways to go. They’re not fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, but they came in, didn’t bat an eye, but just went in and played. Feigt didn’t know very much – he’s played offensive line for a year. Spain is a freshman, so we’re talking about two young kids, but they’re massive. They’re big bodied, not try-hard guys, but big bodied guys that can physically handle the game. They’ll keep getting better. With practice and reps, they’ll keep getting better.
On if BJ Daniels will start for USF
That’s one of those things that you’ve got to be careful how you prepare for it. You don’t know who you’re going to see. When guys are injured, you don’t know if they’re truly out or if they’re going to play. Daniels is a runner. He’s a good football player. I’ve watched every one of their games. I haven’t studied their schemes like Coach Casteel has, but watched them based on preparing for defensive opponents. He’s a guy that makes play after play after play. He can make it with his feet, or he can make it with his arm. Even if he does play, he’s probably not going to run very much with a shoulder like that. That’s pretty dangerous. The other guy’s probably not as much of a runner as Daniels is, but we don’t have a lot of material. BJ has taken a lot of snaps for them over the past three years.
On the health of the team late in the year compared to other teams
Each year is different. We’re worn down. That’s probably the biggest problem with what we’re experiencing up front. We have a little bit more depth on the defensive front than the offensive front. Not much, but a little bit. Tyler Rader came into the year at 285 and is now a lot less than that. Eger is the same way. They’ve both lost weight, they’ve taken a lot of reps and taken a lot of practice reps. We can’t back off as much as we want to because we’re in year one, and we don’t have a lot of guys with a whole lot of experience. We can do this a little more defensively than offensively, but we can back off due to having a lot of guys who have played football and have a lot of experience in the system that we’re asking them to do. We have to get out there and practice. We got out there yesterday and took a bunch of reps. We did back off, but tonight we have to go out there and take a bunch of reps.
There’s fine line between taking too many reps and getting them ready to go and not taking enough reps and not having them ready to go. It’s just the way it is. We can’t go out with excuses; we just have to go out and play.
On USF’s defense
They’re No. 1 in the country in sacks. They’re top three in negative plays per game. They don’t bleed too much, which means those guys up front are probably pretty good. By being able to create negative plays with just four guys up front is pretty good. They rotate some guys in there, too, so top to bottom they may be the best defensive line that we’ve faced. We’ve faced plenty of guys on the defensive line that, and I mentioned that this morning on my BIG EAST call, there have been a lot of defensive linemen that will be playing at the next level. We’ve got some guys, Cincinnati’s got some guys, Pitt’s got some guys, UConn’s got some guys, Syracuse has some guys, everybody has guys on the defensive line that will be playing at the next level. These guys, top to bottom, look pretty good to me.
They do it by not blitzing. They play back, they’re sound, and they play good football. It’s going to be up to us to block and win one-on-one matchups. If we can win one-on-one matchups, they’re going to start adding people. Once they add people, there’s more space. They’re a sound team. They’re sound fundamentally. They’re sound schematically. They’re not going to make a lot of mistakes. They make you earn everything you get.
On getting off to a good start
It’s important to start fast all the time. I don’t have a magic formula to sprinkle on our team to be able to go out and start fast. I don’t think we’ve relatively started slow or bad. If you look back at Cincinnati, we started pretty fast. Cincinnati started pretty fast, too. At Maryland, we started pretty fast. I don’t think it’s been a consistent problem. It’s something that we’ve talked about every week. I really think it’s important to start fast. We talk about it each week, and we go out to try to accomplish that. If we don’t score a bunch, it doesn’t mean that the other two sides of the ball aren’t starting fast. By being able to jump up and be ahead 21-0 at the end of the first quarter doesn’t mean that the special teams and the defense didn’t start fast. You look at the scores in the BIG EAST throughout the entire year, there are not many blowouts. Just because we’re not up doesn’t mean that we’re not starting fast.
On focusing on USF as a one-game season
It is a one-game season. We have to prepare like it is. We talked with them yesterday about getting together and moving forward. We’ve got five days here, really four, to where we can take a break after that, but not now. We can’t take a break. Whatever we did to prepare to beat Cincinnati, whatever we did to prepare to beat Pitt, we have to do it again. We have to do it right now. We don’t have any time to rest or feel good about a victory. We have to prepare in five days to go win the game. We can rest after that. The truth of the matter is that it does come down to this one game. It’s the only game left. For the bowl game, once we find out where we’re playing, right now this is the only game on the schedule, and we better give it everything we’ve got. This team will be remembered for what happens on Thursday night.
On USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and his scheme compared to his scheme at Marshall
It was a little different. Coach Dunlap was with him at Marshall, as well. Skip Holtz has a philosophy of what he wants to do defensively, just like it was at East Carolina. When Skip was at East Carolina, I remember him being a very sound, four-down team that had good defensive line play. They remind me a lot of that. Coach Snyder is a great defensive coordinator. We’ve got a great amount of respect for him and have competed against him in the past. He’s done a fantastic job.
On running the ball more with Feigt and Spain on the line
I hope so. It looks okay. The tricky part of it is when you’re not getting what you want. You have to get a feel for how that’s going. You have to figure out why you’re not getting the yards you want, who’s carrying it, who’s not doing a good job of blocking, or if Geno Smith’s not doing a good job of making proper checks. There’s a lot more going into it than saying, ‘We’re going to run the ball eight of the first 10 snaps.’ You go based on what the situation is.
On the amount of his playbook being used
We’ve tapered it some. It’s still all about how it looks within the game. You can go into every game, and you can think that you can protect him or you think that you can call more pass plays. Our preparation standpoint has probably changed a little bit. It’s not going to change drastically. It’s all about what you’ve got to do within the game based on what works and based on how the game is going.
On the punt returner
It will either be Tavon Austin or Devon Brown. We don’t know yet – we’ll figure that out.
On the fact USF has allowed three punt return yards all year
We’ll go with Devon Brown then. Tavon was disappointed with what he did in the Pitt game. He played well offensively. He touched it over 10 times and had over 100 yards. He did well offensively. What Pitt did, which was pretty smart, was they sky-kicked it. They didn’t get any depth. They kicked it 30 yards, which means you’ve got to weave through people to get there. He didn’t do a very good job of it the first time. He jumped them. Ismael Banks was in there at the wrong time. That was Tavon’s job to tell him to get away from it, and he didn’t do his job. In hindsight, I should have taken him out. I didn’t. I put him in there again, and he had to weave through people, was distracted and didn’t catch the ball, which is a losing effort. That gets you beat.
Our defense did a fantastic job of going out there, and another fantastic job after they had already stopped them and held them to two field goals. That was huge. We’re working hard today and tomorrow, and we’re going with who we have out there.
On WVU’s troubles at USF in recent years
I don’t care. It doesn’t make any difference to me.
On USF’s ability to get sacks
We’ve got to block them. They’re not the first two who do a good job of sacking the quarterback. Like I said, this is the fifth team we’ve faced that sacks and has negative plays every game. West Virginia’s not in the Top 15 like most of the BIG EAST, but we do a nice job with that based on our last game. We’ve seen in practice. The BIG EAST has a lot of guys that can rush the passer and create problems in the backfield. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to change something, because we’ve faced it five or six times this year. We’ve got to work on our technique, we’ve got to call plays so we can move it forward, and make sure we’re in the right place in specific situations to where we do move the ball forward.
I wish we could have a few of those games back. We’ve put a couple of good victories behind us and moved forward from them, too. It’s right there for us. This is what it’s about. We have a national TV game, a quality opponent, and if we win the game, we get a share of the BIG EAST Conference championship. That’s where we wanted to be at the beginning of the year and it’s right there for us. Would we have liked to have won a couple more games and have the title with us right now? Yes. Everybody else would like that, too. What it is, is reality and reality, is that we’ve put ourselves in a position that we can win the BIG EAST. We’ll take it. Let’s go to work.
On the parity of the BIG EAST
It’s like what everyone said at the BIG EAST media days. When I was asked about how I felt about being picked first, I said I don’t have any feelings for it whatsoever. It’s probably the same feeling that Greg Schiano had about Rutgers being picked eighth, and they’ve had a good year. It’s a very competitive conference. We talk about it every week. Look at South Florida: they lost by six to Connecticut, by three to Cincinnati, three to Rutgers, three to Miami, 10 to Louisville. They’ve had a whole bunch of close losses. There are very few teams that win by three or seven or lose by three or seven. It’s very competitive. I don’t understand it.
You want to be on the positive side of that. The last couple of games, we’ve done a lot of things wrong. We’ve had some really positive performances, some great atmospheres. You win at Cincinnati, that’s a great football team. You beat your rival after being down 10 at halftime, that’s a good win. We’ve had two good wins in a row. We’ve found ways to win. It’s better than finding a way to lose. We’ll build on that. We’ve been telling the guys after the Louisville game that Louisville found a way to beat us. We can all pinpoint one play if we want to, but they found a way to win. What we talked about was just having energy and believing in your teammates and getting excited about playing and putting ourselves in a position that we’re in right now. The guys bought into that, and we’ve found ways to win. They’ve listened and found ways to do that.
It’s a hard game. As many close games as there are in the BIG EAST, you’ve got to find a way to get it done. It’s going to be pretty tight. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We talked about how important it was for our 23 seniors to go out on top. We’ve got some good senior leadership that did what they had to do to find a way to win the game.
On preparing for weather conditions in Florida
We can’t move practice down there for a week. The weather was pretty good yesterday. It was 60 degrees when we practiced. We’ve faced every kind of weather that exists. We can’t build a bubble and make the weather be what we want it to be. You can’t worry about that. If it’s rain, we’ve got to deal with the rain. If it’s snow, you’ve got to deal with the snow. If it’s wind, you’ve got to deal with the wind. If it’s heat, you’ve got to deal with the heat. We’ll worry about that when we get down there.
On distractions for players from Florida
It could exist. It’s our job as coaches to make sure those don’t exist. We allow family to come to the hotel, but there’s time set aside for when you can meet with friends and family in the lobby. Ultimately, It’s about going to play the game and winning it. It’s not about a family reunion or visitation or any of that stuff. I’m sympathetic with them that if they want an hour to visit family and give them a hug, that’s fine. We’ve still got meetings, still have to get them into the rooms, get them to bed, get up and have walkthroughs, and get to the game.
On not focusing on what other teams in the BIG EAST are doing
Critical. I think we got that last week. We were very motivated to play the game and focus only on playing our game. The Cincinnati game was on TV, and whether it was now or six weeks ago, we still would have watched the game. We haven’t talked about scenarios with bowl game or any of that stuff. We strictly talk about what our goal is. We set a goal at the beginning of the year to be BIG EAST champions. We can’t be the sole BIG EAST champion, but we can have a part of it. It can be as much ours as anybody else’s in the conference. That’s all we talk about. That’s all we can worry about and all we’re going to focus on the next couple of days.
We’ll have several guys staying down to recruit. I don’t understand the schedule. It’s the first time I’ve dealt with it. This is a contact period right now. We’re in a contact period, but 32 or 34 teams across the country have to play a game this week. The other 80 get to go recruiting. That, to me, doesn’t seem fair. We’re one of the 32 that doesn’t get to go recruiting, but we’ll send some guys out on Friday and Saturday and six guys starting out on Sunday to where we’ll have our full allotment out next week.
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