Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
Regarding last week, I’ll reiterate what I said on Sunday night’s teleconference after studying the film and meeting with the players. You can point the finger at a specific thing that happened during the game, but that’s really not it. That’s not the problem. The problem is that offensively, we did well in spurts but did not have a winning performance. We weren’t doing the specific things that it takes to dominate one side of the ball to the point that we win the game. It’s the same thing defensively. We came to a point in the second half that we had some stops and played well with some energy, but that doesn’t excuse the three drives that happened in the first half and the eight-minute drive that Louisville was able to put up to close the game. We’re still learning how to play as a team, and we’re still learning how to dominate one side of the ball, which hasn’t happened at this point. We’ll keep working on it.
Cincinnati is a team that has found ways to win. They’ve been in a bunch of close games, but the one thing that stands out about them more than anything is the amount of effort that they play with. When you play with that kind of effort, things happen. When you play with that kind of effort defensively, turnovers happen. Their quarterback, Zach Collaros, has a ton of experience and does an excellent job with his leadership role and not turning the ball over. He’s willing his team to be able to get victories. It’s going to be a challenge, as it is every week. It doesn’t really matter who we line up against in the BIG EAST. It’s going to be a challenge every week. Everyone’s got equal talent, everyone has pretty much equal facilities and everybody is doing the same thing. We’ve got to find a way to motivate our guys better than we did last week. We need to have guys step up and do what it takes to get the victory.
On if a team wins due to effort or talent
Effort gives you a chance. There are talented teams across the country that can go out there and play average and still win the game. There are only a few of them – there aren’t many. Very few teams can line up and have just that much more talent and, regardless of what kind of effort they play with, can win the game. There are only a few of them. We’re obviously not one of them. In order to win, we have to play with effort all the time. There were spurts last week where there was effort, but there wasn’t a bunch of it. It wasn’t all the time. Typically, the team that plays with effort all the time in a league that has about the same amount of talent, then the team that’s able to play with effort is probably going to win.
It’s a mentality, and it’s hard. You have to find ways to get your guys to do it. That’s our challenge this week. Our challenge is to get guys to play with effort and energy, and whatever we have to do to cultivate that kind of energy, we have to do it. I’ve said that all year long. Our job as coaches is to get the guys ready to go. It ultimately lands on my shoulders, but there are a bunch of people that are in this thing together.
On if extra emphasis will be placed on the game with league-leading Cincinnati
It’s a lot like it was two weeks ago when we got beat up by Syracuse and we came back and played against Rutgers good enough to win. It’s a lot like that. Our goal is to win the BIG EAST. We’re hanging on to that hope. We need to win this week in order for that to happen. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re trying to stay in the same routine and do the same thing every week. We’re trying to obtain, as a program, to be here a long time and to get to the point that this isn’t about thinking that we can get up one week then not get up the other week.
The league that we’re going to is full of a whole bunch of talented teams that play hard. The team that figures that out, regardless of the way it’s been in the past here or whichever conference you play in, is the team that’s going to win it all.
On if the team should already know that it has to play hard every week
No. I don’t think that’s the case right now. There are a lot of guys that just show up and expect to win based on winning 60 games in six years. There are a bunch of people that think that way and haven’t played a down around here. That’s part of success, and getting guys to understand that, regardless of the way that it’s been in the past, is reality. What we’re facing right now is what reality is in college football. I said this two weeks ago. It happens every week. The latest is Northwestern going into Nebraska and beating them. Who would have put their money on Northwestern? Pat Fitzgerald is a heck of a football coach, but that’s the reality of college football right now. The teams that are able to withstand that are the teams that win championships.
On team chemistry and playing with each other
It’s buying into the system. They have to buy in to what’s being said from a head coach standpoint, to a coordinator standpoint, to a position coach standpoint. It’s not my team – it’s their team. We do our best to organize it in a way that puts them out there in the best position, and then it’s really about how they play. We talk about it all the time that we’re all in this together. Our job is to put them in a position to win. We’ve got to have guys that have invested enough into the program, that have enough to them, that step up and give their absolute best all the time. The leaders pinpoint guys who aren’t buying in, and they slap them around to the point that they get them bought in.
On who the team leaders are
They know who they are. That’s something that we talk about in our room. They know who they are. Is it happening consistently? No, it’s not.
On Stedman Bailey’s play against Louisville
He’s human. Nobody felt worse than he did about the dropped passes. He made two catches that I haven’t seen in a long time. He dropped two that were given to him, but overall, he’s playing pretty well. He needs to make those plays, but it just happens sometimes. Justin Blackmon is the best receiver in college football, and he dropped it on the goal line. Is he human? I didn’t think he was, but he’s shown that everybody is.
On if opponents get up for West Virginia more than other teams
There’s probably some truth to that, for a variety of reasons. Really good teams can handle that. Really good teams with good schemes and tremendous leaders, from coaches on down, are the teams that can handle that and have enough to get up for it and find ways to win. That takes three sides of the ball, and it takes a whole bunch of people that are in for the same reasons. We want nothing else than for everyone to be successful. We’ve been talking about that with the team. Everyone needs to be in this thing together. We may go to Cincinnati with 55 guys that want to play together and are going to want to win the game together.
On coming off a loss and playing with more motivation the following week
It was a humbling game. Everybody can be humbled pretty quick. I think that’s what happened up at Syracuse. We came back, and we had a great week of practice and we were pretty determined as a team. We did not play well enough on either side of the ball to dominate, but we played as a team, especially in that second half, and we played to win. We were determined to win. Coming off another loss, hopefully we get guys that pull together, travel well together, are motivated in the hotel and root for each other to be successful, cheer for each other on the sidelines when things happen and pick people up when bad things happen.
On Cincinnati’s tough defense
They’re physical. Their defensive line is very physical. Their linebackers are physical. They play the run well, the play with effort and they’re pretty good at it. When you face a team like that, from what I’ve seen on tape, is that teams get discouraged with the run and start throwing the ball more. That naturally gets you yards, which is why they’re not as good at defending the pass as they are the run based on how many times they (opposing teams) throw the ball compared to how many times they run the ball.
They’re good against the run, but that doesn’t affect us at all. We’ll go in there with the same game plan that we normally do.
On how Cincinnati stacks up to the rest of the conference
They’re about the same. They’ve got good players in good spots, but so do a lot of other teams. Talent-wise, I think everyone in the BIG EAST is about the same. There are a whole bunch of good coaches in the BIG EAST. Butch Jones is a good football coach. Wherever he’s been, they’ve been successful. Last year, he inherited a winning program and worked very hard and was very diligent in getting things the way he wanted them. They’re reaping the benefits from it this year. It’s a weekly challenge of getting your guys ready to go. We’re not overmatched, and we’re not going to be overmatched in any of the games that we play in this year. It’s a matter of how hard we play and about how well we play together as a team.
On Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros
He’s determined. He’s the guy that makes that thing go for them. He’s been there for a long time, and you can tell that he gets people around him to play better. He has a bunch of energy and has no problem in calling people out or getting in people’s faces. He’s a good player. He has a couple of good wide outs that make plays. Being able to hand the ball to Isaiah Pead is a very attractive option for him. You can tell on tape.
On pressuring Collaros and an offense known for getting rid of the ball quickly
You beat the guy in front of you. You have to cover people. If you cover people, he’ll have a hard time getting it to them on time. We do a good job of getting the ball out on time if people are open. If you don’t match up and play the routes well and make Geno (Smith) throw the ball downfield on third downs, that’s when he (Geno) gets pressured. Our job defensively is to do a good job of stopping the run, keep the quarterback in check and make sure we tackle. We had way too many missed tackles last week, which is a mindset thing. We had way too many missed tackles. If you don’t have too many missed tackles and you attack the ball, play with effort, which is what creates turnovers, and get them in third-down situations where we can get after them, we’ll have a shot at winning.
On Cincinnati’s positive turnover margin
We talk about it every week. We’re facing one of the teams that is a top team in the country in turnover margin. I don’t know how that’s possible, but every week we’re facing a team that’s as good as there is in turnover margin. That’s how they beat Pitt last week. They forced a couple of turnovers in key situations. Rutgers was really good at forcing the ball out. Cincinnati seems to fall into turnovers more because they have 11 guys that play with good effort and run around and expect things to happen. We’re going to do our best to take care of the football. We turned it over two times too many last week. As always, that’s a two-way street. Defensively, we have to play with effort and attack the ball and create turnovers.
On WVU’s 14 turnovers for the year
It’s not an epidemic. For the two we had last week, (Andrew) Buie got stuck and lost the ball. That’s on him. The play was where we wanted it, we got him in open space, and he dropped the ball. Geno’s was a result of him trying a little bit too hard to throw the ball away in a situation where the guy shouldn’t have been in his face that quickly. That was on our right tackle. The right tackle didn’t block down, the guy got there too quick, Geno panicked and it came out when it shouldn’t have come out. Can they both be corrected? Absolutely. They can both be corrected, and that needs to happen.
On his thoughts of the WVU defense facing short fields
I don’t care what the situation is. Your job is to go out there and stop people. For our two turnovers, one was on our side of the field, which we did a good job of stopping. We threw up a wall and stopped them. That was a winning performance on defense. That was a great job. On the times we shanked a punk, they still had to go 55 yards and 65 yards. That’s not a tremendously short field. That’s normal to the point that you’ve got to play defense. If you keep looking for excuses, then you’re not going to get any better. There are plenty of ways to spin everything in football, but I don’t buy into that.
On the punting situation
We’ll figure it out today. We probably would have gone with Corey (Smith). He’s done a nice job of hanging in there. He’s kicking off really well – his kickoffs were really good. He’s continued to practice and get better. I think everyone would be in the same assumption that everybody’s pretty happy with what Matt Molinari did for seven games. The kid did a great job. He came from nowhere and did a great job. He had a bad day, which doesn’t mean I’m going to pull the plug on him, but it means that he’s got to get back to work. We didn’t practice Sunday night. We’ll go today, Wednesday and Thursday and try to figure out who gives us the best position to flip the field.
On Cincinnati’s 50-50 pass/rush offense
It looks like they have a running back who they rely on quite a bit. They’re going to give him the ball quite a bit. If you have a feature back like that, along with a quarterback who can run 10 times a game, they’ll try to weed you out.
On inconsistent special teams play
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our schemes. We’ve studied our schemes pretty closely. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our schemes. We’ve practiced special teams as much as anywhere I’ve been to focus on these things. One of the things that comes up quite a bit is depth, which everyone has depth issues. We may travel this game with 50 people, but what you’ve got is what you’ve got. You can’t make excuses for what you’ve got. You’ve got to play with what you’ve got. We won’t make any excuses for that. You’ve got to play with what you’ve got, and if you don’t like that, then you need to get to work in recruiting and make it a little better.
On WVU’s lost members of recruiting classes
We have 115 practicing right now. We could put a whole bunch of bodies out there, but I don’t think a lot of people would like what they see. Our look squads are full. Our scout team offense and scout team defense are full of a bunch of guys that try really hard and are doing a good job for this team. I think we’re all in agreement that those guys aren’t quite ready to play for whatever reason. Whether it’s talent, size, speed, getting redshirted - there are a whole bunch of issues.
There are about 72 on scholarship right now, and we can have 85. We’re down on that. We’re not down in numbers because we’ve done a nice job of getting guys into our walk-on program. We could be at 130. We want to be at 130. The more walk-ons you have in your program helping the team win, the more you get to pull guys from those units to help you main units. We’ve exhausted every bit of that. We’ve taken some guys off the scout team and plugged them in there on the special teams units in place of our second-team linebackers and third-team linebackers, and second-team safeties and third-team safeties. We’ve done that for a reason. Through the course of time, they all get better.
On traveling only 55 guys to away games
I’m pretty serious about it. I tend to say what’s on my mind, if you haven’t figured that out by now. That makes some people mad, and others get a kick from it. We’re going to take who wants to win. We’re going to take who wants to pull for his teammates and who wants to be all in on this thing, not guys that pout and mope because they’re not playing or any of the rest of it. We’re going to be a united team, and the only way I know how to get that accomplished is to make sure that we’re only taking people that are focused and headed in the right direction.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
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