Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU coach Dana Holgorsen’s weekly news conference.
After watching the tape, we got over Maryland as fast as we could. That’s how we approach every game; just get in and get it over with. There’s a lot of good and positive things with that. We played with more energy than we had in the previous couple of games. We talked about having a little bit of a lull in the second half. I attribute that to playing against a good football team. Rarely are you going to win on all sides of the ball for four quarters, especially when you’re playing a good opponent. They seized the momentum in the third and fourth quarters.
I was proud with all three sides of the ball. The last time we had the ball, we took six to seven minutes and got points. We didn’t get the touchdown like we wanted, but we got points. (Tyler) Bitancurt knocked down his third field goal of the day. Defensively, we got a big stop, which won the game for us.
From a team perspective, we overcame some adversity, which I thought was really good. That’s how you grow as a football team. We were able to overcome some things and win the game on the road, which was huge. We started focusing on LSU on Sunday night, which is the same routine for every opponent we play. It was all about LSU yesterday from a coaching standpoint, putting together the game plan. We finished the plan this morning, now it’s all about practice and getting the kids to do what we’re trying to get them to do.
On similarities between both offenses and defenses
None whatsoever. Special teams, there are a few just because of the nature of special teams, but our offense is 100 percent different from their offense and our defense is 100 percent different from their defense. We’re a different football team. All around, we’re a different football team. It makes it more difficult for both teams.
On the difficulty of containing their offense
It’s not the trickiest thing in the world to figure out what they’re doing. Will they catch us on some things? Probably. It’s not the trickiest thing to figure out what they’re doing, it’s a group that’s made up of very, very talented individuals from not just the state of Louisiana, but Texas and all over. They get them from everywhere.
Coach (Les) Miles has established the program on all sides. In seven or so years, they’ve won a couple of national championships. In the last decade, they’ve recruited well, the facilities are good as we saw when we traveled there last year. John (Chavis) is a very respected defensive coordinator and knows what he’s doing. They get their guys to play with a whole lot of effort and it looks to me like they’re pretty excited to play. That’s a challenge.
On getting the opponent to play at WVU’s tempo
Have success. You can’t go out and get a three-and-out in 15 seconds or you’ll destroy your team. We don’t have a goal of snapping the ball a specific amount of times; it’s about rhythm as much as anything. If you start having success, it’s easier to get into a rhythm. It doesn’t matter what offense you play. It doesn’t matter what your tempo is. If you have success, it’s easier to call plays.
Watching them against Oregon, nobody goes faster than Oregon. We don’t go faster than Oregon. Oregon goes faster than anyone in the country. They (LSU) handled their tempo just fine. One thing that is concerning watching their defense is that they don’t play just 11 people – they have tremendous depth on both sides of the ball. They can put their twos in there, and it looks just as good as their ones.
On LSU’s offense
They’ve switched coordinators. Les Miles has been an offensive guy for a long, long time. He’s an offensive line coach. He’s where their physical style of play comes from. He’s done a good job with that. When he was at Oklahoma State back when I was at Texas Tech, they were one of the more physical teams that we faced. He brings a physical nature to the offense. The coordinator they had last year was who we saw last week (Gary Crowton). It’s not the same. Coach Crowton had an influence on what they were doing last year.
They brought in Steve Kragthorpe, who’s very well respected in this profession and does a heck of a job coaching offense. It’s a little different. It’s our job as coaches to try to figure out what they’re doing. It’s power offense football. I’ve been in the same neck of the woods as him for the last decade. I’m aware of what he brings to the table. It’s a physical nature. They’re going to put in a fullback and a tight end and they’re going to get after you. If you put too many people in there, then they’re going to one-on-one you on the outsides with their talented receivers.
On comparing LSU to past difficult opponents Holgorsen has faced
As good as any of them. I was on Row 1, 50-yard line at the Cotton Bowl last year watching them play Texas A&M. When I was at Oklahoma State, we were pretty good and had a pretty good battle with Texas A&M, and I knew what kind of players they had. They (LSU) physically whipped Texas A&M in that game. They’ve been good for quite some time.
You don’t win three national championships in a decade and be average, and that doesn’t just turn south very quickly. They’ve done a good job with sustaining their program. They’ve been in two big games this year, which they’ve handled each opponent fairly easily. To say it’s not going to be a challenge would be crazy.
On the depth of LSU’s defensive line
We’ve played six offensive linemen in three games. We don’t have the luxury of depth right now. Those guys will have to suck it up, and they have to play. That’s nothing new to anywhere I’ve been. If we’ve got five to six linemen to work with, then that’s what we’re going to go with.
Defensive line is a little different. We play more defensive linemen here than we play offensive linemen. They (LSU) can put a good number in because they have some depth.
On facing LSU’s offense
They’re not vanilla. You can’t focus on tendencies because you don’t know every play they’re going to run. Those tendencies are going to change. They’re good at what they do. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man situation or a zone situation, man pressure or zone pressure, they’ve got the ability to handle all that stuff, and they’ve got the ability to do all that stuff well.
When facing their defense, you’ve got to take advantage of the little space that you have. They’re good, talented and rarely out of position. We’re going to have to throw to receivers that are covered and run into people that are filling gaps. We’re going to have to sustain blocks for a little bit longer. If they’re playing zone, and we’ve got a guy open, then that hole is going to close relatively quick. The speed of the game is going to have to increase a bit more than it did last week. The tight space that we’ll have offensively, we’ll have to take advantage of it.
On the progress of our offense
We took a step forward last week. Very much so. That’s always good to see as coaches. As coaches, we told them to finish blocks and to continue to be in the right spot for two weeks, and we saw it happen in the third game. We improved technique-wise, and we got a little more effort out of them to the point that we sprung a guy a couple of times.
That’s just improvement. It doesn’t mean we have everything figured out, but it means that we improved. Our goal is to improve for another week. We played up to our competition a little bit as opposed to playing down like the week before.
On using fullback Shawne Alston
We use him in a variety of ways. It has nothing to do with ability, but he’s slow-footed. He doesn’t hit the hole like we want him to, which is why he’s not a starter. If there’s nothing there, he’s not just going to move three people to get the first down. That’s not what big backs do. What he brings is experience and maturity. It doesn’t faze him as much due to the fact that he’s been there before. That’s what he brings to the table.
On conference realignments
I’m quite positive that our guys haven’t paid any attention to what you all have said. I’m 100 percent positive that I don’t pay any attention to what you all write. I know what’s out there. It’s impossible to avoid it. People are talking about it, whether it’s newspaper, internet, TV, etc. It’s impossible to avoid.
You can only worry about things that you can control. You can control going to class, you can control going to treatments, you can control going to study hall, practice, preparation, film, giving good effort, lifting weights and everything else. That’s all these kids need to worry about. As coaches, we only need to worry about what the kids are doing and what our preparation is to play.
On continuing to play against Pitt
I don’t have any control over that. That’s an administrative duty, which Oliver Luck is as good as there is out there. I trust him with the direction of the athletic program.
On team injuries
We’ll talk about injuries when guys are out. We’ll see who’s out there. If they’re out there, we’ll coach them. If not, then we’ll weigh them day-to-day until they’re out and we’ll make decisions. We’ll tell you when guys are out.
On the impressive play of LSU QB Jarrett Lee
I’ve known him and his parents for a long time. It goes back to west Texas. He’s from Brownwood, so is Graham Harrell, Case Keenum, the Shipley’s and all the names you’ve heard of from the west Texas situation they have going on. Kirby Freeman is another guy. The list goes on and on. It’s a little pocket of talent there in west Texas that a lot these coaches’ kids come from. He’s the same mold as those guys.
Things didn’t work out as well as he would have liked early in his career, but based on what kind of kid he is and based on his upbringing, he hung in there and it’s good to see him get a chance. He’s taken advantage of that situation.
I’ve watched their three games. He’s putting the ball where they want him to put the ball. He’s playing well. He’s got the luxury of having a lot of good people around him, as well. We want him to have a really bad game against us, but from me knowing his family, it’s good to see him out there.
On what Russell Shepard brings to LSU receiving corps
I watched him when he was a sophomore in high school and it was an impressive 5A Texas highlight film. He’s got ability. They’ve got a lot of guys with ability. The good news is that there’s only one ball, so that ball can only go to one of them. Our job is to figure out which one it’s going to and stop it.
On treating LSU like any other opponent
They all count as one win. If you put that much into one, then it takes away from the others. You can be 4-0, lose the next one and be 4-1, or win this one and lose the next one, the record comes out the same. Teams that win championships have to have the ability to understand that and have the ability to be able to prepare each week the same way and put yourself in a position to understand what your opponent is doing and what it’s going to take to win the game.
Parity is upon us and we’ve got a lot of teams on our schedule that are capable of beating us. Our job is to prepare the same way each week and try to get the win regardless of who it is.
On having College GameDay in town
It’s good. I’ve been there before - the excitement level is good. The amount of eyes looking at our facilities and our stadium and the city of Morgantown and the state of West Virginia will be a positive thing. The amount of eyes looking at our program, not only the football team, but the athletic program, the city, and the rest of it, is good and I’m fired up about it. I’m glad it’s here and all that stuff is positive.
At the end of the day, it’s about putting our best product on the field. We can’t sit here and have a team meeting and be all giddy about it. We have to figure out what our job is, go out and have a good day of practice and focus on the job at hand. We have to get ready to play the game. I’m excited that our fans get to experience it. It will be good for families to experience and to have the game on primetime ABC is all positive. Our job is to get ready for the game.
On what is most impressive about LSU’s defense
They are wherever the ball is. They get there really fast, and they’re pretty impressive once they get there. You can study their personnel all you want to, but they’re all capable of making plays. The way they get to the ball and the nature in which they get there is pretty impressive.
On an 8 p.m. start time and prepared fans
I think it can make a difference. Last week I thought was a pretty good atmosphere. Before the game, I looked around a bit, but then we got to the game, and I didn’t look around anymore. We’re trying to get our players to do the same thing. You have to focus on what’s happening right here. You could tell there was a bunch of people there, and it was a good atmosphere.
In the first game against Marshall, you could see it. The ManTrip was good; there was a lot of excitement and a lot of people. Everybody enjoyed that. It was a sellout and there was a lot of people there. We’re looking for that for four quarters, and if it’s necessary to create some energy from those around us, I think it will be possible to do. It’s a good event and will be good for everyone involved.
On the atmosphere of a sold-out Milan-Puskar Stadium
As the first night game, everyone is fired up about it. I’ve been in a lot of night games that have been sold out with 60,000-110,000 people in it. There are a lot of good atmospheres out there. The only thing we can worry about is making our place a good atmosphere. Everyone should show up and be loud and enjoy it. It needs to be a constant, too. Do you think LSU is used to that? Their place is filled for every game. Regardless of who they play, that’s the way it is. That’s what we’re striving for here. It’s not a one-time or one-game thing. The mark of a good program and a competitive program is filling the stadium every time you line up. It needs to happen all the time.
On WVU’s four-minute offense and sustaining late-game leads
I’ve talked at a lot of clinics about this. As an offensive coach seeing an opposing offense change what they do after they have a lead, I’ve seen them go in, change what they do, run a couple of plays just to keep the clock going, and then punt, then we get the ball, go down the field and score, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that.
What I understand is that you have to be good at something. Whatever you did to get that lead, you probably have to keep doing that just to create positive plays to keep yourself on the field. If you go out and punt, then you give them an opportunity to win.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
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