MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia Head Football Coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media for his weekly media conference:Opening statement
Obviously, we have an offweek this week, and we will practice today, Wednesday and Thursday. We have to take the things we need to get better at and fix them this week. We’re usually game-planning this week, and then we get into the game and try to make corrections in the game. Seeing how there is not a game this week, we’ll try to make the corrections Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice. We’ll do some recruiting Friday and Saturday and then start back up on Sunday, 100 percent preparing for game week.On how drastic the improvements are
Defensively, we need to tackle better and get better on third down. If you tackle better on third down, you’re probably getting off the field, which reduces the snaps, which reduces the yards. It always comes back to that. We lined up well, we played physical, we played fast and our first downs were great, we just didn’t tackle very good on third down.
Offensively, I like the way we operate. The one glaring thing was the two times the ball was on the ground, which was two times too many. We did a heckuva job recovering that. The one interception at the end of the game was K.J. Myers (fault). He has to prevent that, it wasn’t Paul (Millard), it was K.J. If we don’t get those two fumbles back, we’re probably looking at 21-20 at halftime. That can’t ever happen.
On special teams there are some things we have to do better from a protection standpoint. Our protection operations standpoint, our PAT field goal and our coverage teams were pretty good. The kickoff return team was good; the punt return was very average.On what critical plays are
Third and fourth down. We were good in critical downs offensively, with the exception of the one fourth down. The one third down and the one fourth down on the goal line, which was a combination of Shawne (Alston) not hitting the hole and me being stubborn and stupid at the same time in going for it on fourth down. That shouldn’t have happened. We were 5-of-8 on third down, which is really good.
Defensively, they were 9-of-19 on third and 2-of-3 on fourth, so around 50 percent is not good enough defensively.On whether tackling gets better throughout the year
Yes and in situational scrimmages we probably tackled more than anywhere I’ve ever been. We remained healthy, we tackled good and practiced well together, but it’s still different on gameday. It’s especially different when you have about 14 freshmen out there. If you count the redshirt freshmen and true freshmen, those guys have never tackled in a college football game. It’s one thing that should improve, and if it doesn’t we won’t be very good defensively.On whether any defensive leader stepped up on Saturday
I’m not prepared to say that yet. The three guys that the defensive staff mentioned, obviously Isaiah Bruce
. He was the player of the week and had 16 tackles, he’s a freshman. Karl Joseph
played fast and tackled well, he’s a freshman. Kyle Rose
on the defensive front may have played better than the rest of the guys, so those guys are all freshmen. I don’t care if they’re freshmen or seniors; we need guys we can count on.On whether he is worried about the cornerback play
The corner play was okay, it wasn’t great. It’s no different with the linebacker play, the safety play, the d-line play or the outside backer play. There are things that need to be corrected.
Nana (Kyeremeh) played good when he was in there. The 18 snaps that he played were decent, which is encouraging, because he is young and he’s only going to get better. If Pat (Miller) and Brodrick (Jenkins) don’t pick it up they are going to lose their spot to a freshman. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but we’ll do it if we need to.On whether the depth chart will change
It’s pretty early, and we’ll see a lot when we practice today and tomorrow. Today and tomorrow are going to be pretty physical. We’re going to make some corrections, which means we’re going to put the ball down and play some football for the next two days. A lot can transpire here in the next two days.On whether the offensive tempo to start the game was ideal
I thought our tempo was real good. We’re going to vary tempos and go fast when we can. It’s all about it looking good. When you get out there and score your first two drives, it makes it easier to press the envelope on some things. I was really happy with the tempo, and I was really happy with Geno (Smith) and the operation. As you can tell he’s seasoned, it’s the best quarterback I’ve been around from an operations standpoint, from a handling the game standpoint, getting the calls in, taking care of the football and checking plays. There are a lot of things he does that you can’t see unless you’re out there. I was happy with the tempo and how he played.On how they will recruit this week
We would’ve gone out yesterday, but it was a holiday. When we have an off week later in the year, we’ll go out Monday and it’s all local. We’ll hit West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland and Virginia. When we have a couple of days we can get to Texas and get to Florida. We’ll probably send four to Texas and three to Florida. I think Steve (Dunlap) is going to stay local, other than that everybody is going to be on an airplane going somewhere.On visiting the guys that are already committed
The guys like to go evaluate them and watch them play. From a support standpoint it’s tremendous. Fall is just evaluation. We can’t’ go talk to parents, we can’t go talk to the kids; we can basically go to the high school and talk to the high school coaches. We’ll be at a bunch of high schools all day Friday and then we’ll pick a game and really just watch, evaluate and support. I’m going to watch my nephew play in Houston, because that is the only time I can go watch him play is if I count it as an evaluation. I can only go watch my nephew play one time, that’s the dumbest rule in the world. We’ll be at a high school game, possibly two on Friday night, and they’ll be a bunch we can go watch on Saturday, because there are a lot of games in Texas and Florida that are played on Saturday.On if it unusual to have this many freshmen playing and playing well on a highly ranked team
We still have more seniors taking snaps than anybody, which means we have a chance to be a pretty good football team. I think we had 40 percent of our snaps by seniors and 17 or 18 percent by freshmen or redshirt freshmen. We have more seniors playing than freshmen. I think there is a problem if you have more freshmen playing than seniors, but that’s not the case. We played approximately 62 players in the game, that’s a lot of people playing in a football game. We knew it was going to be like that, and we’ve been gearing our schemes and our team to be able to handle that. That’s exciting as a head coach to be able to see a whole bunch of people contributing.On Geno Smith taking snaps under center instead of shotgun
Looking back on it last year it probably would’ve been beneficial for us to do it a bit more than we did. Geno is good at it. My last year at Oklahoma State, we didn’t do it because (Brandon) Weeden broke his thumb. We were doing it prior to that and then he broke his thumb so we just got in a habit of doing a bunch of shotgun stuff. After doing it for a full year consistently, I wasn’t happy with not being able to do it more under center. It gives Geno the ability to do a quarterback sneak, and it gives our running backs the ability to get downhill quicker, so it should help our short yardage. The play action out of it is a lot better. It’s something we’ve been working hard at. We practiced a bunch of it last week, and I thought it looked good.On whether he was expecting that out of Isaiah Bruce
He practiced well in spurts. I didn’t know if he could do it for four quarters, but he did and he has tremendous conditioning. Not everybody looked the same in the fourth quarter as they did in the first quarter, but he looked like he was doing the same stuff consistently for four quarters. Karl Joseph
looked the same way, but we need to get some older guys to do that consistent.On what traits Isaiah Bruce has to be a good player
He’s a smart kid. When the referees were in here going over all of the rules he raised his hand three or four times and was asking questions. He’s a smart kid, his conditioning is good, and it was a pleasant surprise, but he, along with everybody else, has a whole lot to work on.On the difference of FBS and FCS and how they play
They have a few less scholarships, but they probably have the same amount of people on their team. They can break their scholarships up, so they still have a good bit of kids on their team and playing with the same numbers. They’re playing with 20 less scholarships, but across the board playing with as many people as we do. They’re quality. We’re going to talk about it a bunch next week, but this same team beat Virginia Tech a couple of years ago. That pretty much sums it up.On the coaches coming from FCS to FBS level
I think there are good football coaches everywhere. I don’t know if the schemes are that drastically different. What Shannon (Dawson) and I did was basically the same job for a couple of years, mine just happened to be at Houston and his was at Stephen F. Austin. It’s the same type of football, we’re doing the same thing and coaching the same way. There are a whole bunch of good coaches in Division II and Division III. It’s about your path and getting opportunities. Erik Slaughter is making the most of his opportunity right now. He has as much energy as anybody I’ve seen. He’s been at the Division I level and he was probably a better coach at the I-AA level, because he was 10 years older. There are a lot of good coaches out there, some of them get opportunities and some of them don’t.On whether Andrew Buie’s block would have been the hit of the week
Buie’s was slightly better than K.J. Dillon
’s. K.J. Dillon
’s happened right in front of me, which I got really, really excited when I saw that. I even showed emotion, it was awesome. Looking back on it, Buie’s was better and the ironic thing about it was that it was the same defender.