MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia Head Football Coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media for his weekly media conference.
Opening statement I’m excited about this week and getting into a routine. This is the first weekly routine that we’ve been able to have. We had plenty of time to prepare for Marshall and plenty of time to prepare for James Madison, so it’s good to get into a routine that we’re going to be in for the majority of the season.
We have a good, quality team coming to Morgantown on Saturday. They’re 2-1, led by their defense. They have a lot of experienced guys on their defense, much like we have on offense. Much like we are on defense, they have a lot of young kids trying to figure out a new scheme (on offense), and they’ll continue to get better and better as I expect our defense to get better and better. They’re good in the return game; they have a guy that we’re going to have to contain that is Top 10 in both punt returns and kickoff returns. It’s going to be a good challenge for our coverage teams to be able to improve. With that said, I’m excited about the week. We’re going to try to get a week better and focus on trying to win a game this weekend.
On what the team improved on most between Marshall and James Madison We had an awful lot of energy on all three sides of the ball. I thought our coaches did a good job of preparing these guys to play a game and get over there. The excitement of being in (Washington), D.C., was awesome. The fans were awesome, the support was good, the turnout was good, it was festive and we played a good, quality team.
What we saw in James Madison was exactly what we thought we were going to see in James Madison. They did a good job of playing hard and playing sound, and we got better on all three sides of the ball. There was tons of improvement from a team standpoint on all three sides of the ball.
On Maryland’s freshman quarterback, Perry Hills He’s just young. He’s going to continue to get better. He’s a good looking kid that is trying to figure things out. What they’re going through is the same thing we’d be going through if we had to start Ford Childress. When you play that many young kids, there are going to be times where it doesn’t look very good, times where it is frustrating and they’re not moving the ball as well as they’d like to. With experienced guys, that gets easier; like us offensively this year, it’s a little easier to call plays and move the ball because we have experienced guys. It’s always challenging to have a lot of freshmen that you’re counting on, but with that you coach them up and the more you play the better you get.
On whether his high running stats are from scrambling It’s mostly scrambling. He’s been hit a lot. That’s going to be something that’s important for us, and defensively we’re going to want to be aggressive. We’re going to want to attack them in a variety of ways, and with any young kid, you’re going to want to give them different looks and try to confuse them. We know what they’re going to try to do, but it’ll be our job to stop them. We don’t care who we’re playing and we don’t care how good they are - our job is to identify what they’re doing and try to get after them.
On the two defensive linemen The (Joe) Vellano kid is a guy we were concerned with last year. He’s a big, thick, try-hard guy. Defensively it’s about the same people we played against last year. Every one of them is pretty much the same. They lost their good outside backer Kenny Tate. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays; we’ll be prepared if he does. Other than that, all of the backers are the same - the two safeties are the same, one of the corners is the same, so it’s much like we are offensively. We got nine of the 11 starters back and some other key players that played a good bit, and they have eight or nine starters back on defense. From a personnel standpoint, we’re very familiar with them. From a scheme standpoint, it is totally different. It’s a different scheme than what they did last year. We’ve studied it, and we’ll be prepared for it.
On whether the offensive scheme is different with a new coordinator They tempoed a ton last year under Gary Crowton. They had an experienced quarterback and a pretty good running back. They tempoed a good bit, not only in our game, but in a lot of games. They were in a huge shootout with Clemson.
It’s different; they’re a full wide team. They’ll substitute one of the wide outs for a tight end and play a tight end a good bit. (Mike) Locksley’s been a guy that has tempoed; he and I have had conversations about tempo and the running game for years. He’s a guy that likes to tempo. It’s hard to do when you have a freshman quarterback, a bunch of new running backs and an inexperienced o-line. They’re not tempoing very much. If they do, so be it, we’ll be prepared for it, but they’re not doing it very much.
On the similarities of Tavon Austin and Stefon Diggs On tape, he has some twitch, but there are a whole lot of kids that have twitch. He’s a Baltimore kid that wears No. 1 that’s a receiver and return guy - I guess they’re clones. I don’t know the kid, but he’s a good player.
On how to defend a player like Diggs They are the same scheme that we’re going to have to figure out when we play everybody else on our schedule .Everybody else on our schedule is going to have a quick twitch return guy that can make plays and is problematic because of talent and all the rest. We faced a guy that was just like it in the bowl game last year. They’re called good players, and there are more than just Tavon Austin and Stefon Diggs across the country, I can assure you that. We don’t care who they are; we figure out what their schemes are and what we have to do to contain guys like that. It’s about our coverage units, and we spend a lot of time on kickoff coverage, we spend a lot of time on punt coverage and we have to get people down the field and make tackles.
On whether there is a difference in the fast starts this year from last I know we didn’t start very good in the first two games, but we started fast against Maryland last year. We hit the field and started fast, and it’ll be something we talk about all this week. We’ve talked about it the prior two weeks; we’ve done a good job of starting fast. We need to start faster in the second half, and we need to finish people. We haven’t done a good job of that. We let Marshall keep playing, we let James Madison keep playing and score late.
Last year against Maryland, we let them keep playing and they scored a bunch in the second half and almost beat us in the end. I’m pleased with how we’re starting, I’m pleased with our tempo, but we need to do better job of starting fast in the second half and do a better job of finishing people off.
On whether he has seen a start like Geno Smith’s From a statistical standpoint, no. He’s done well. Completion percentage is awesome and throwing touchdowns is awesome. Taking care of the football is more important than those two stats, and he’s perfect on turnovers. He hasn’t thrown an interception, he’s doing a good job of taking care of the ball and I credit our receivers as well, as far as getting open and making catches.
In the pocket, he hasn’t taken a sack either. He got awfully close last week, and there were three or four times they could have got to him and he physically threw people off of him because he is a strong kid. We need to tie that up. There was some miscommunication with the o-line and that can’t exist. He’s doing a good job of taking care of the ball.
On the importance of the fourth quarter subs We played 59 guys this past week and a lot of people, even myself, have been guilty of saying well it’s just the young kids in the fourth quarter and we’re not doing a good job of finishing games. We gave up the touchdown in the fourth quarter last week. There were six missed tackles, and offensively for the second game in a row we didn’t score in the fourth quarter with our young guys.
It’s not all just young guys. There are some experienced guys out there as well, and I don’t care who they are, their job is to move the ball or tackle people. It’s great to play those guys in situations, but it needs to look better than it has the past two fourth quarters.
On Geno’s progression of reading the blitz He got caught a couple of times, and he got hit a couple of times. It was good to see James Madison hit us up like that because we hadn’t seen that very much. We hadn’t seen that very much for some time, and we have to be able to recognize it and we to have be able to communicate up front as far as what’s going on.
Geno has to change his thought process from not having time in the pocket to having time in the pocket. From a receiver standpoint, we have to do a better job of running our routes quicker, looking quicker, expecting the ball quicker. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t what we wanted from a blitz standpoint.
On how he feels about the second inside position The second inside position is less important than the second outside position because we can switch out some of those inside guys for backs, which we do a lot. Where you need three to four outside guys, you really need two inside.
Jordan (Thompson) has done fine; he hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunities. He’s blocking well. For as little of a guy that he is, he’s covering people up. Stedman’s (Bailey) touchdown was a result of him and a couple of those screens that Tavon broke out were a result of him. He’s a second inside receiver whether they’re both out there at the same time or Tavon is off and he is in there.
Dante Campbell caught his first touchdown. He is a physical kid and will continue to get better and better. Connor (Arlia) went in a few times and ran around and did some good things. Do we have any more game-breakers like Tavon? Not yet.
On what happened with the safety Soft. Soft and not ready to play. They were clearly playing harder than us. Other than the four snaps of goal line, the defense started slow. We gave up two drives all the way to the goal line, and yes I’m happy with the goal-line stands, they were tremendous, but we were really soft in the first two drives.
Offensively, we looked like crap on the third-and-one. We went for it and were soft. We got the ball on the goal line, and we were soft. We were soft up front. We ran soft. It was just soft. They played with more effort and played harder than us for half of the third quarter.
On whether the offensive line or Geno makes blitz calls It’s the o-line. Geno understands the schemes, but we’re not having him make decisions. He has enough to worry about.
Joey (Madsen) is pretty fortunate to have two guys next to him that have started 35 or so games. Those three guys (Madsen, Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins) have been playing together for a long time. We put a lot on those three guys, and they didn’t play too good this past week. They were relatively soft and their communication wasn’t very good. We’re going to challenge them to get better. We were really excited about all five of those guys playing really well together, and they’re still going to. I’m not going to say they took a step backwards, but they didn’t play very good.
On the difference in talent Maryland has compared to the previous two opponents It’s definitely not a concern. We expect to play at the highest level of college football. We want everybody’s best every week that we play them. We expect to get everybody’s best, and we encourage them to bring their best.
They are talented. They have experienced guys on defense, they have talented secondary guys that tackle well and cover well. Their backers are physical and they’re experienced.
From a receiver standpoint they’re going to look good. The two older kids, the (Kevin) Dorsey kid and the (Kerry) Boykins kid, are who we played against last year. They made a lot of plays against us and physically looked good. They’re getting outdone a little bit by two of the younger guys that look really good. They have a bunch of running backs they’re trying to figure out what to do with. Are they better than the teams we’ve played? We’re certainly expecting that.
On what Andrew Buie’s blocking does He had five knockdowns, so he is becoming more versatile. What you guys see is a guy that catches the balls on the flats, but from a protection standpoint and from a run blocking standpoint, he’s a powerful kid that puts his body in danger sometimes because he plays so hard and plays so physical. He ran the ball well, he did a great job on punt return and he knocked five or six guys down throughout the course of the game. From a receiver standpoint, he looked good, so a guy that does that many things is a guy who will get rewarded.
On how valuable a running back like that is It’s very valuable to have a guy that can do all of that stuff. Shawne (Alston) is a little limited in the pass game from a receiving standpoint because he is a bigger, physical kind of guy. That is probably why we’ve always had guys like Buie, because they can do all of that stuff. Shawne is our starter, and Shawne is a great player, but you need a variety of people. From a running back standpoint, we’re recruiting a bunch of different body types because each of them can bring a different thing to the table.
On Dustin Garrison We’ll see how he does today. Each and every week we look to see if he’s getting stronger. He’s been practicing some, so we’ll see how he is and play him if we need him to play and if he is ready to play.
On the rivalry of WVU-Maryland Every game is important, and I think from a fan base that this one is pretty important. I think we have 10 or 12 guys from Maryland, and it’s going to be important to them. One of the things last year that was big, like when we went and played at Cincinnati, was that the Ohio guys got everybody cranked up. When we went and played Maryland, the Maryland people got people cranked up. When we went and played South Florida, the south Florida kids got people cranked up, and when we went and played Rutgers, the Jersey kids got people cranked up.
It’s important. This series is one of the few remaining rival game because it is a neighboring state and we have a history with them. This isn’t the last time we’re going to play; we’re going to continue to play. It’s going to mean a lot to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. From a regional standpoint, it’s very important.
On if he is disappointed about the noon games Not at all. You have to play at some time, so we might as well get it over with. We’re trying to play fast around here. What is a better way to start fast than playing early? As opposed to sitting around being lethargic, let’s just get up and play. Plus, we get to practice for the next week.