Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
It’s a short week . Today is off for the players. We had them yesterday. There was no school, so we brought them in on Monday, their usual day off. We had a bunch of meetings and got a lot of work done. We watched tape, fed them and sent them home. Based on the game lasting 12 hours, we felt that we should give them some time off. We’ll practice Wednesday and Thursday, have a normal Friday routine and tee off on Saturday.
On having a Sunday game and resulting short week
You’re missing a day. You have two padded practices where you get some popping in. We’re down to one padded practice, getting half the amount of reps and work, so it hinders you, but you don’t want to hit them too much before the game or too close to the game. If we kept it the same, we wouldn’t have the reps that we want.
You feel like it’s more important to keep the routine the same from Wednesday to Saturday than disrupting it leading up to game day.
On Marshall’s strong defense of WVU’s running game
Marshall’s got some good players. They’ve got good coaches. Are we happy with it? No, we’re not happy with it. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to. I’m not surprised - it’s a work in progress and we’re going to do some specific things to correct it. Probably the biggest disappointment I had offensively was the blocking. When you think about blocking, all you think about is the offensive line. That’s not necessarily the truth.
Some of the running game problems were the running backs not blocking for the other backs. Some of the running game problems were inside receivers not blocking for running backs. The others’ blocking was just as bad as the offensive line’s blocking. The name of the game offensively is blocks. We have to do a better job with that.
On how to correct the running game problems
One is being targeted right and being in your position for certain plays, which is coaching, and the other thing is getting these guys to give effort and wanting to do it. It was very subpar, and we’ll get it corrected this week.
On blocking from the running backs
It was spotty at best. We’ve got two different types of running backs - smaller guys that carry the ball and the bigger guys that block for them. All of them need to pass-protect. All of them need to run-block. When you play that many backs, they’re always going to be in a position where they’ll have to hold their own. It was subpar.
On Matt Lindamood’s absence
He’s been a bit banged up, which results in hesitation, which results in Ryan Clarke getting more snaps.
On what he liked and didn’t like from Sunday’s game
The blocking was a huge disappointment. We can dissect it as much as we want to, but the one component is and always will be blocking. Geno (Smith) did a nice job of making some plays. Our receivers ran some good routes and caught some balls. We did a decent job of converting third downs. We had no turnovers, which is spectacular. It would have looked a bit better and lot easier if we had covered some people and made routine plays.
On Tavon Austin’s play within the offense
He’s a bit disappointed. If you watch him on three punt returns, he looks like what he should look like all the time. Then you put on 50 snaps of offense, he’s a different guy. He’s disappointed. Look for him to learn this week and get it corrected.
On the play of Ivan McCartney
He played well. Far from perfect, but took good snaps, ran good routes and when the ball was thrown to him, he caught it. I was happy with his performance. Stedman (Bailey) was the same way. They both caught balls and made some plays, but that’s half the game. The other half is playing fast without the ball. I’ve mentioned it 275 times so far - we’ve got to block better.
On what he’s seen from Norfolk State
I haven’t watched a lot of film yet. The other coaches are game-planning right now. This is our game-planning day. We’re a day behind, so I will spend the next eight hours dissecting what they’re doing and help come up with the game plan.
Defensively, they run the same scheme that our defense does. Their coach and Jeff Casteel are buddies. Jeff coached him, and so schematically it’s going to be similar. They may come out and do something completely different, which most teams do, but it shouldn’t be a problem figuring out what they’re going to do based on the familiarity we have with our own defense.
We treat every opponent the same. We didn’t make a huge deal last week of being with in-state Marshall. We make a big deal of saying ‘This is who our opponent is. This is what they do. This is how we’ll prepare for the game. This is the routine of the game week, let’s worry about ourselves and go out and execute it’.
When they (the student-athletes) come in tomorrow, we’ll show them who they (Norfolk State) are, what they do, what situations we need to be prepared for, and then we need to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and figure out what we need to do, what our job is and get it done.
On his first game at WVU compared to his first games at Houston and Oklahoma State
It’s a different situation. The three previous years, there wasn’t an emotional tie with our opponent. I gave Marshall credit after the game and give them more credit today. Defensively, they did a good job. Their scheme was good, they knew where they were going, they played fast, they all played hard and it meant a lot to them. It was a quality first-game opponent. That made it difficult for us since we have new guys and a new system. The one thing that kept it going for us was Geno’s experience. He’s played a lot of football, and he loves to play the game. He got us out of some bad situations.
On the team’s special teams play
It exposed some problems that we need to work on. In 45 minutes of special teams evaluation, it exposed some people. It’s how you play at that level and at that speed that shows you some things you don’t know. We learned a lot. Even though it was only three quarters, we learned an awful lot about ourselves and personnel things. We saw what guys can and can’t do. We saw what we need to improve from a technique standpoint. The effort was great and the assignments were generally pretty good. With techniques and new bodies out there, we’ll see if they can handle the speed of the game.
On Cecil Level’s play on special teams
Did you watch the kickoffs? He was about 15 yards ahead of everybody else on our kickoff team. It takes a situation like that to notice things. He ran down on kickoffs about seven times and was clearly playing at a different level than some of the others. When you see a guy do that, you look for other areas to get him on the field and give that kind of effort.
On the team’s injuries
We’ll know more tomorrow. Today’s a school day and a treatment day. We’ll have a meeting tomorrow to see if they can or can’t practice. We’ll figure it out. Same thing tomorrow. It’s too early in the week to know.
On playing in the heat
It was a bit of a challenge. The guys were dragging a little bit. We haven’t practiced in that heat a whole lot. It seemed like that was the hottest day of the year, by far. It’s something that we’re not incredibly accustomed to, but we were out in it 4-5 times last week. We didn’t cramp or have to pull people out. It looked like we were a little bit sluggish at times throughout the course of a drive, not necessarily at the beginning of the drive. It’s something you have to work through.
On being able to move the ball offensively
If you don’t block the person in front of you, and that guy goes by you and makes the tackle, then typically you’re not going forward, but backward. There were a couple of times, like the reverse we handed to Tavon (Austin), we ran that reverse probably 15 times during the game. It’s a safe play; it’s not a trick play. It’s a safe play, but they didn’t show the blitz, and as soon as we sent him in motion and snapped the ball, their corner ran right into it. That’s just football – you have to live with stuff like that.
Schematically, it got us a couple of times, but if we had our blocks down, we could at least get back to the line of scrimmage.
On the running backs
(Dustin) Garrison had a rough game, but he’ll get better. Vernard (Roberts) played well. That last drive we had, he ran hard. He’s very capable. We’ll get Trey (Johnson) back and he’ll be capable of carrying the ball. (Andrew) Buie’s going to be fine, as well.
Shawne Alston is moving into a green jersey this week. I don’t know what that means, but they told me yesterday that he’s going with the green jersey. If they’re out there, we coach them; if not, we won’t.
On his pre-game speeches
I’ll make a few statements about what’s important to them, focus on that throughout the week, get them ready and mention a few things about what it’s going to take to win the game and then hit the field.
The build-up is the biggest thing. We had to lighten up a bit before the game. The Mountaineer Mantrip was spectacular – that thing gave them a huge charge and I really compliment the fans. The fan base made that as good as I’ve ever seen from a walk like that. I’ve seen a bunch of them. They got onto the field and got together at midfield. They were juiced up. We got into the locker room and they were still juiced up. I told them it wasn’t the game yet – we’ve still got two hours before we kick off. The emotions of getting them ready throughout the week and having them prepared is way more important than a little two-minute rah-rah speech.
You have to be able to read your team every week. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing because they all count as a win, and some games are obviously more challenging than others. Some opponents are more challenging than others. Your job as a coach is to get them ready to play every week.
On the purpose of the Mountaineer Mantrip
(It’s for) the fan base. It’s a win-win for both. The fans got a great kick out of it, and the players got a great kick out of it. It helped with the energy and excitement. We talked about that all week. If they don’t have the energy and the excitement to play, then you’ve got a problem. It’s for both the fans and players.
On Norfolk State’s offense
I’ve watched about 20 minutes so far. It is similar to ours. They spread it, they do some motion, they run the ball with a motion guy like we do, which should help Jeff (Casteel) with it since he’s seen us. It should help our offense prepare for these guys because it’s familiar with what we offer defensively. Whether it is or it isn’t, our job is still to prepare our guys for whatever we’re seeing on film.
On Norfolk State’s defense
I saw them put up a pretty good wall on six of the eight drives. Two of the drives were legitimate drives where they’d move down the field eight or 10 plays. The other six drives were non-existent. They were all three-and-outs. They may have gotten one first down and then were forced to punt.
They tackle well. They’re in the right spots and it looked to me like they were flying around out there. They look pretty good to me.
On watching both the offense and defense during the game
I spent less time with our offensive guys. Shannon (Dawson) and Jake (Spavital) were upstairs and talking to them and helping them out. I had a few choice words at times, but I’ve got several assistant coaches that I trust will get that accomplished. I was in the special teams huddle a lot. I think I only got on Jeff (Casteel)’s line one time. I was on the defensive side at times mostly for encouragement.
On the conference teams having to report their injuries every week
We talked about it at the conference meeting. The coaches all got together and we decided it was more work than anything. You’re going to spend 10-15 minutes a week typing up this report to the point where pretty much everyone is either writing someone is out because of surgery or everybody knows they’re out already.
If the game had continued, the evaluation would probably be the same. You want to keep the guys in to the point you can make decisions on who you want to play and then you play them. Hopefully, we can play a lot of people. You want to be able to do that. It’s more important to get your starters together and give the guys a bunch of continuity than to figure out what the backups are going to do.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
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