Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU coach Dana Holgorsen’s weekly news conference.
A couple things about the Syracuse game. Moving on, we met Sunday then had a normal school day yesterday. It’s like we said after the game: they played a little bit harder than us. They outcoached us, they outplayed us and it happened on all three sides of the ball. That’s a huge disappointment. We’re back to work here today to try to rectify that. Part of our job as coaches is to do everything that we can to get these guys ready to go and to keep them accountable for what we’re asking them to do. We didn’t get that accomplished last week. Now we need to get it accomplished this week.
Rutgers is the same type of team as Syracuse. They’re well-coached and they play hard. The thing most impressive about their defense is how hard they play and how aggressive they are to attack the ball to get the ball out. They lead the nation in turnovers – they’ve got 25 of them. We’ve got eight, if I’m not mistaken. They do a good job of that. Offensively, they control the clock; they control the ball. Their special teams are extremely solid. It’s going to be a challenge to go up there. It’s going to be much like Syracuse. They’re going to be fired up about playing at home, and they’re going to be fired up about playing the Mountaineers. We’re going to get their best shot. If we want to win a championship this year, then we’ve got to be able to handle that. We didn’t handle it last week, and we need to be able to handle it this week.
On handling a large amount of blitzes
Syracuse is smart about how they do it. They keep a lid on it over the top, which means our job is to put the ball in play. We didn’t do a good job. Some of it is that we were so unsound about seeing it. Geno (Smith) could have done a better job of attacking it with the run game. We didn’t do a good job of that, which we’ll put on our shoulders as offensive coaches. We didn’t sight-adjust routes very much. We didn’t win on fade routes. Although they kept a lid on, we were able to get behind them and go, but we got pushed out of bounds about 90 percent of the time. If we’re not able to attack blitzes with runs or we’re not able to sight-adjust routes or hold up our one-on-one matchups, then it poses some serious problems. We didn’t do a very good job with those.
On how to approach other teams that blitz
It’s nothing new. Teams have been doing it for a long, long time. Blitzing 75 percent of the time is a lot, and I haven’t faced that personally. I’ve been on a lot of teams that handle blitzes better, and you make them pay for it. That’s our goal offensively. We want them to blitz because that means that there’s less space behind them at the line of scrimmage. If we identify it and do a good job of handling it, we could have easily scored more than 49 points. We sat in here as an offense and we went through every play and we said here’s how you attack it. If a few guys would have done that, then we could have easily scored more than 49 points and won the game, but we didn’t do that. We need to be able to handle it better. I’ve been on teams that can handle it. It gets people out of blitzing. If we stop them, then they’ll quit blitzing.
On who is responsible for picking up blitzes
Everybody. One of the biggest problems with what was happening was when they brought pressure, our offensive line just got whipped. That goes back to who was playing harder. It was very evident to me on tape that they were playing much, much harder than we were, which is disturbing. That’s one area of it. Calling plays is another area of it. Geno getting the ball out of his hands is another, receivers adjusting routes is one area of it and receivers making plays downfield is something that we’ve talked about for a long time.
Stedman (Bailey) made the one play, and other than that we were probably one out of 10. Those 10 would have been touchdowns. If you’re only hitting one out of 10, that’s not very good.
On if sight-adjusting from receivers was the main source of the problem
On a few of them. Not all of them, but on a few.
On similarities between Rutgers and Syracuse
They’re going to have a tight end and a fullback, but they’re going to get in three- or four-receiver sets more often. Syracuse didn’t have to do that very much. They get in three- and four-receiver sets sometimes. They still want to control the clock and run the power and grind you. They run the play-action post to No. 6, who’s a really good player. They also run a zone play and try to run a little slant. They try to get the ball in his hands as much as they do some of their running backs.
On Rutgers’ No. 6, Mohamed Sanu, and not using him as a running back
When he catches the ball 16 times a game, I’d keep him out as receiver, too. He’s been very productive at receiver. He’s a good player. We’ve got to cover him. If he’s out wide, we’ll be in situations that it’s one-on-one with the corners. If he’s inside, we’ve got to pass him off, much like we didn’t do with the tight end last week. The guy’s an eligible receiver, so we’ve got to cover him.
He moves around a bunch. He’ll play inside and outside. Our scheme is to have the corners/cover guys outside. If we load up the box, we’ll put them in one-on-one situations. When those guys release, then you’ve got to have stuff in the middle and identify what routes they’re running and go cover them. We didn’t do a good job with that last week.
On team motivation coming off a loss
You’re looking at two teams coming off losses, so it really doesn’t matter this week. They won’t do anything differently, and we’re not going to do anything differently, either, other than get back to work today and coach them hard and keep them accountable for what we’re asking them to do in practice and with the game plan. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. Maybe we’ll yell at them a little bit more or whatever, but there’s not a whole lot more than we can do that we haven’t been doing with them. We need seniors and upperclassmen to step up and take control of this team when things get tough. The routine of the week is going to be the same. The difference is, when we line up and get hit in the mouth, what are we going to do? Last week, we didn’t do anything. This week, we need guys to step up and be the ones that are going to hit people back in the mouth. That’s called football.
On not allowing Geno Smith to be too hard on himself
He takes it pretty tough. He got the guys together after the game. It means something to him, which is what you want to see. The guys that go to the locker room after a loss, hurry up and get dressed, kid around and don’t have the look of a loss on their faces, that’s what you worry about. That’s what kills your football team. We had that happen to a few guys, which we addressed. Geno is a guy that it means an awful lot to. He’s going to bounce back and be the best that he possibly can be. He can only be the best that he can possibly be, and he can’t be anything more than that.
On the depth of our defensive line
Our defensive line coaches aren’t coaching any differently than they did last year, minus a body or two. There are a couple of guys that were here last year that were good players. If we’re not replacing them with as-good or better players, then we need to do a better job of recruiting. We’ve got nine scholarship defensive linemen and 14 scholarship offensive linemen that we need to get better. If they’re not what we’re looking for, then we need to go recruit them.
We need more than we have right now. We’re looking for five to six offensive linemen and six defensive linemen right now, and we’re not graduating that many. We’re going to try to up those numbers a little bit, try to identify who the guys are that can help us win and go recruit the heck out of them.
On the success of Rutgers’ defense
Two things stand out. What stands out more than anything are the turnovers they create. They’ve got 25, so in seven games, you’re looking at 3.5 per game, which is spectacular. There’s a reason they lead the nation. That’s not always being in the right place at the right time, but it’s also attacking the football. They’ve got good team speed on defense, and they attack the ball. They make plays on the ball whether it’s in the dude’s hands or if it’s in the air. They do a good job of attacking the football.
Their red zone defense is pretty good. They’re first in the conference, I think. Their opponents have been there 20 times and have only scored on 12. They do a good job of blocking kicks, and they do a good job of creating turnovers when they’re in the red zone.
On Rutgers’ true freshman quarterback, Gary Nova
He’s getting better - he’s like all true freshman quarterbacks. Guys that are that young struggle at times, but consistently get better. They’ve been going back and forth, and they may still go back and forth, you never know. Once you settle on a guy and give him reps, he’ll get better and better.
On how the team handles adversity
I’ve talked about this with the guys. Every game, there is adversity. Everybody’s got scholarship players, everybody’s got facilities, everybody’s got commitment, everybody’s trying to get better. Parity in the BIG EAST is tremendous. There are a lot of guys that are capable of winning this league. That’s reality. When that happens, you’ve got to be able to handle adversity throughout the course of a game. The ball isn’t always going to bounce your way. You’ve got to be able to overcome that on the sidelines, which I think we’ve done a pretty good job of throughout the course of the season, with the exception of last week. We went into the locker room, we had a turnover right before the half, it was extremely unfortunate, we’ll learn from it. We could have earned points and gone in a touchdown down. Offensively, we marched it right down the field and we were in position right there only down four, and we’re in the game. At that point right there, we gave up, which is discouraging.
On if adversity can be avoided
No. Not in a football game, it can’t. I don’t care who you are. If you take the No. 1 team in the country, LSU, they’re going to face adversity. When LSU was here and we cut it down to one touchdown, what did they do? The very next play, they returned it for a touchdown. We had gotten ourselves back into the game, and they were able to go forward. That’s what good teams do. Adversity is going to hit, and we have to be able to handle it. What we do during the course of the week, we have to overcome it and fix it. That’s what we’re going to be looking for our upperclassmen to be able to do.
On variance of losses
A loss is a loss, period. Especially us offensively, we’re not going to leave anything out there and start firing things. We’re not going to give up and huddle and run the ball and just try to get out of a bad situation. When we scored that last touchdown, offensively, we were thinking ‘Do we need to go for two? What does the chart say?’
We expect to get the ball back and go score again. When we cut it to 42-23, we said, ‘Here’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to get the ball back, score, and go for two, then get the ball back, score, and go for two and then we’re down a field goal.’ That was our thought process. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way. If we need to score 49 points to win, we need to score 49 to win. It’s a team sport, and we need to play better on the other sides of the ball just like we needed to play better offensively.
On needing better punt coverage
Play harder. Run harder. Run faster. Be more aware. The kicks were good. The kicks had been a problem this year, but that wasn’t the problem. The kicks were good; we just need to cover harder. We had a couple of guys get out of their lane. Keith (Tandy) is the safety, and he whiffed. Keith can’t whiff – ever. He did, and he feels bad about it. He came back on the one punt and about murdered the guy.
On the possibility of WVU going to the Big 12
I don’t have any dealings with that. If I had an opinion, I don’t even know who I’d call. If I called Oliver Luck and Dr. Clements, they’d probably laugh at me and say, ‘You need to worry about Rutgers.’ That’s true – 100 percent true. I spent 16 hours yesterday scheduling and game-planning for Rutgers and came in and finished up for about four hours this morning. I’ve been doing media for about two hours. I’d like to know where I’d find the time to do it if I wanted to.
On differences between the BIG EAST and the Big 12
It’s different. If you look at all of the Big 12, you’ve got Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and they’re all spread. Kansas State and Coach Snyder’s still doing things the way he did 40 years ago, and he has obviously been incredibly successful. I’m only two games into the BIG EAST. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s a little different.
I do think that the movement is coming east. If you look at what we’re bringing at West Virginia and Pitt and Louisville and Cincinnati, there’s a shift to where it’s becoming more and more open, so to speak. There’s still a tougher, old-school mentality, but I do think it’s coming this way.
There’s not a huge difference surrounding football between here and there. It’s important to a whole lot of people in a lot of places.
On if anyone from the Big 12 has reached out to him
No. All my connections are coaches. What do you think they’re doing this week?
On potential impact on recruiting
I don’t know. We’ve got a wide recruiting base that we’re going to recruit a lot of kids from. We’ve got a lot of guys from Florida, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania. I don’t think it matters who you play. People want to come here because of what we have here. I don’t think that it will change.
On recruiting the state of New Jersey
I’ve talked to Coach Lockwood about it. He’s recruited there in the past. We’re going to try to get him in there a little bit more. We’re going to get Coach Bedenbaugh in there a little bit more. We didn’t have anybody in there. You run out of manpower at some point. You’ve only got nine guys to go out and recruit, so you run out of manpower. That’s one area that got left out over the past few years for whatever reason.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
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