Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen's Nov. 14 news conference.
Coming off the tough loss against Louisville, we needed to get back to work and get out there and play and come together as a team. I think that’s probably the one thing that made the biggest difference in being able to win the game and not being able to win the game. It was everybody coming together and making sure that we supported each other on all three sides of the ball and supported our teammates to the point that we can put ourselves in a position to win the game. Cincinnati is a good football team. They were fired up, and they were ready to go. There’s a reason they were 7-1. They’re well-coached, have some good, quality players, and they have been the ones that have found ways to win all year. They’ve been in a lot of close games, and they’ve figured out ways to win.
The game was tight. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. For us to figure out a way to win was something that I was really proud of the guys. We needed the win. This will be an offweek, relatively similar to the previous one we were in. Hopefully, the outcome will not be the same. I heard that a lot this week. The guys need to be students and need to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to catch up on schoolwork. This time of the year is getting close to the end, so they don’t want to wait until mid-December to get themselves caught up to where they’re doing what they need to be doing in the classroom. We’ll focus on academics this week, we’ll play a lot of the young guys this week, we’ll try to get as healthy as we possibly can, and we’ll go recruiting. The challenges of recruiting is something that we could talk about for hours and hours. We’ll get in some good recruiting and then get back here, give them a day off here and there and get to work on Saturday for the Pitt game.
On if any luck was involved with the outcome of the Cincinnati game
Sure, why not. There hasn’t been a game that I’ve been involved with that we haven’t made mistakes. Some of the mistakes were glaring and some of the mistakes that we make are hidden to where people don’t really see them. When bad stuff happens, don’t quit. I’ve seen guys quit. We’ve had a tendency at times when things went wrong that we had specific people or units quit. The fact that’s finally sinking in with them to keep playing, keep playing, keep playing to be able to win at the end is a sign of a good team. Not that we’re there yet. We’re not. It will take some time, before we get it exactly the way that we want it. We did get one step better.
On how his start at West Virginia has compared to other places he’s coached
Offensively, slower. This is more like how it was at Texas Tech in 2000 than it was when I went to Houston or Oklahoma State. The philosophy offensively at Houston and Oklahoma State were similar. There were guys that were used to doing things similar to how we run them. The personnel was in place to where we could handle that. We’re not there offensively. It goes back to Texas Tech when we were changing a lot of philosophies and changing the way things were done offensively.
The biggest thing is finding out a way to win. I don’t care where we’re at offensively. It’s about what we’ve got to do to win. We’re not happy with the three losses, but it’s better than four. We’ll keep trying to get better and keep trying to figure out how to put our guys in position to win, which is ultimately the only thing that matters. Things will get easier and easier the longer we’re here.
On if he’s had to slow down the offense a little bit like Pitt coach Todd Graham has done
I’ve changed a lot about how we call plays and how fast we call them. There are times that we try to change it up and try to catch people off guard. I know that Pitt coach Todd Graham has the same philosophy as far as what he’s done for the last three years and what he’s trying to put in. He’s dealing with the same thing that I am as far as changing up what it used to be.
I wasn’t aware that he does that. I haven’t watched film yet, but I know what his philosophy is and what his schemes are. We’ll learn more about how they do it in the next few weeks.
I’ve changed quite a bit in what the play-calling is and how fast it gets done and the amount of plays that we’re running. All that stuff is a little different than what I’ve been used to.
On if he’s surprised about Stedman Bailey’s production
It hasn’t surprised me. His consistency was one of the things that I questioned coming into the year. You could tell that he had the ability to make plays and be a good player. Last year, he was very spotty in that. In camp, he was pretty consistent, but until you do it throughout the course of the season you can’t really tell, so I’ve been happy with his consistency. We’ll get him a year better, and he’ll be even more consistent and more dynamic next year.
On if he’s trimmed down his play selection at all
Yes, I’ve slimmed it down a little bit to the things that we can handle. The amount of plays that we go into a game with is relatively the same. At the rate of how fast we’re calling it, how challenging the things are, it comes down to being able to block people up front and being able to make accurate reads or running the ball with numbers.
Probably the most discouraging thing that I dealt with last Saturday was we had numbers to run the ball, and we couldn’t do it, which changes a whole lot of things that I do offensively.
On how the tempo of the offense has been affected
It comes down to moving the ball. If you’re moving the ball at a good rate, then you can move a little faster. If not, then you’d better be careful with it. At times, we’re trying to keep our defense off the field a little bit. That’s something that’s always going to be on your mind. It’s always been if you’re feeling good about what you’re calling, if you’re moving the ball, if you’re getting first downs, then it’s easier to do it. But if you’re not feeling good about it, then it makes it hard to push the envelope on it. That hasn’t changed in the last 10 years, and it’s worked out for us.
On the challenge of two weeks’ preparation, overworking the guys before the big Pitt game
That can definitely happen. I think we have a pretty good plan, and we’ve used it the last 10 years and have been relatively successful. If we do it the way we did four weeks ago before the Syracuse game, and we got blown out, you tend to rethink some things. We talked about it to know what can we do differently or what needs to be changed.
From a scheduling standpoint, we couldn’t come up with anything. We’ll do it the same way, we’ll just approach what we have to do to get our guys ready to play a little differently. I assume that will take care of itself due to the fact that it’s the Backyard Brawl, it’s a 7 p.m. game and it’s in Morgantown. You would think that would take care of it as opposed to playing a road game like Syracuse. Obviously, we weren’t ready to play that game, and I take full responsibility for that. We’ll do things relatively the same, and hopefully we’ll be ready to go. You’d think they would be. I would be.
On team scheduling during the day for night games
It shouldn’t be an issue. We’ve had more noon games than night games, but the opponent has to do the same thing. They show up at the stadium at the same time. We could sit and dissect that all that we want, but everybody has been playing football for a long time and everybody’s had scheduling issues for a long time. They research ways of doing things better , but ultimately it comes down to scheming things up and having guys make plays and putting the team in a position to make plays.
On the team’s injuries
There isn’t anything new. We’ve had about four concussions the last couple of weeks, which I’m not going to talk about specifics, but they can be bad or not-so-bad, but who knows what the difference is. I certainly don’t know. You say one guy’s got a bad head injury and another’s got a minor head injury, but the guy with a bad head injury may end up coming back quicker than the guy with the moderate head injury. I don’t pay attention to all that stuff. It just takes time. Due to the fact that we have a week off, we’ll give those guys time to clear their head and get ready to go.
We should be at full strength. Guys are burnt out. That happens; everybody’s worn out. It should give us some time to heal and be ready.
On his weekend plans and watching other scoreboards
No. Don’t pay attention to that. You worry about what you can control. We can get better academically, we can practice some young kids, and we can give guys time to heal up. I may be a fan and watch a couple games, but I’m not going to be dissecting it or cheering loudly or any of that. You only worry about what you can control. We can only control playing our next game and the next, and we’re happy. The only way that that will work out is if we win the next two games. If we win the next two games, and we’re in position, then that’s great. If we don’t win, then it’s not going to matter.
On where Geno Smith needs to improve
All areas he needs to get better at. We’re looking toward the offseason and honing in on what he really needs to get better at. That’s more offseason stuff. The immediate thing is ball security. He’s still a little careless with the ball. He’s making really good decisions throwing the ball, but from the ball-in-the-hand aspect and getting out of the pocket and trying to keep things alive, he’s still not doing a very good job. He put the ball on the ground two times last week. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he did put the ball on the ground a couple of times. If there’s one thing we could say, ‘Don’t do it again,’ obviously it’s that.
We didn’t play too well offensively, but we did win the turnover battle. Defensively, we created a couple of turnovers, which was the difference in the game.
On special teams play
The kickoff team was tremendous. That’s the thing about special teams: if it doesn’t look good, everybody complains about it, but if it looks like it’s supposed to look, everybody ignores it. We referring to when things didn’t look good on the kickoff team, everybody wanted to talk about it. Now that it looks good, nobody wants to talk about it. Give those guys credit. The effort was good, and we played well. We had guys step up. Willie Millhouse stepped up, Donovan Miles stepped up, and Brodrick Jenkins stepped up and made plays. That’s one of the things that I’ve been trying to get through to them all year. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the scout team or a second-teamer, third-teamer, whether you’re a receiver or a running back, safety, linebacker or whatever you are, you have to give effort. Some of those second-teamers didn’t do anything to help the team, so we had other guys step up, which was critical.
On the effect of recruiting when the conference change occurs
It’s tough now because it’s just talk. Whether it’s next year or the next year or the next year, what do you tell them? It’s the same stuff. The challenges of being in the Big 12, we already know what they are from a recruiting standpoint, from a facilities standpoint, and all the rest of it, that’s going to take time to make a difference. If you ask five years from now, I’ll probably have a much better answer for you.
On if the areas of recruiting will be affected
I don’t think so. Not too much. We’ve already expanded into Texas, which from a geographical standpoint, you still have to take care of your backyard, the neighboring states, and what exists here in West Virginia. We need to make sure we take care of this area. Florida’s been really good to us, so we’ll continue to go down there, but we’re still playing seven of our 12 games here. Those seven games don’t change, and whoever you play non-conference will probably be fairly close. You don’t want to go find people specifically for those games. You take care of what you have here, which is what’s made West Virginia a great program, by targeting the neighboring states and Florida. Then we’ll branch into Texas, which we already have.
On possibility of WVU finishing first or last in conference
I haven’t experienced that before. We’ve talked about it all year, and we talked about it at the BIG EAST media meetings too. You pick one through eight, you could probably flip it, and it’s come out that way for the past 10 years. The reason everyone has wanted to talk about it is because that’s what reality has been for the last 10 years. The more things change, the more they probably stay the same.
On if too much was expected from the team before the year began
I don’t know. Somebody else can answer that. We have our own expectations, and it’s about improvement. We’re piecing it together the best that we can, and we’re trying to put ourselves in a position to be successful every series and every game. We’ll continue to try to get better at what we’re trying to do.
It’s not about what the yardage is or what the outside-looking-in for yards and records, but it’s about being efficient and staying out on the field for third downs. We were horrible on third downs, because again we were in third-and-long situations 50 percent of the time. There’s a reason Cincinnati leads the nation in negative yards per game. They get eight or nine negative plays per game on defense. That’s tremendous. They did it to us. We had numbers to run the ball, and we would lose four yards. What do you say about that? You have to give them some credit for that. They got a bunch of negative plays on us, they sacked us five times without blitzing, and they stepped up. We punted relatively well, which means we flipped the field, we didn’t turn the ball over, and that was enough to win.
On the play of the offensive line
None of them played good enough to win. We’ll leave it at that, but they need to get better.
On Pitt’s strong defensive line
It means we need to get better. We sat in here and dealt with what Syracuse did against us by sending in more guys than we couldn’t block, but the opposite happened against Cincinnati. They didn’t bring any pressure, and it still was challenging. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to block better, we’ve got to finish blocks better, and we’ve got to find guys to come in here that are better than the ones we’ve got. Have we called them out? Yes, we’re challenging them. We love them, we want them to get better, we’re going to work hard with them and get them healed up. We’re going to put them in a position to be successful, but at some point they’ve got to figure out a way to get it done.
On the improved play of Julian Miller
He’s responded. We’re not very deep on the defensive line, but those guys have responded and played well. Julian now has three fumble recoveries on the year.
On extensive penalties against Cincinnati
I don’t know what our biggest penalty total was before Saturday, but it wasn’t 15. I think they even declined a few. We’ve dissected each one of them. Some of it’s playing on the edge a little bit. We want them to play on the edge and encourage them to play on the edge. I think that’s been a difference for us being able to win or not. We cut loose, we played on the edge a little bit to increase our energy and excitement level, but you’ve got to be able to control that. A few of the times that we got flagged was a result of that.
The holding calls are just bad technique. There’s not a difference between having bad technique and getting beat – it’s the same thing. It’s technique. If you’re getting whipped, then your only chance is to play with 100 percent proper technique. We were getting whipped, and we lost our technique.
The delay of game penalties are a lack of communication. I take responsibility for that. It’s just communication on the sidelines. I thought we had done a pretty good job with that this year. You have to have an understanding of who’s coaching what and who’s making decisions. That’s where the lack of communication comes from. Coach Dunlap is upstairs, and we’ve got to rely on people on the field to get it communicated. You also have to rely on coach Roberts, who’s talking to him, and at the same time talking to me, trying to figure out what the decision is. Sometimes we try to make a decision, get them out there, and we’re too late. That’s 100 percent on me. We’ll make sure that we get that tightened up. There have been a couple of times that we’ve done it on purpose. You don’t want to rush out there and make a bad decision. You don’t want to rush it to the point that you don’t execute it properly. Some of it’s making decisions, some of it’s communication, some of it’s our headset not being on at the right time, or the button not being pushed properly. There are all kinds of dynamics. I’m not searching for excuses, and I’m actually kind of upset with myself for talking about them. Ultimately, it’s on me, and we’ll get it fixed.
On Geno talking to the referees
I found out about 30 minutes ago. I’ll have a talk with him about that. He doesn’t need to be mentioning anything. His job isn’t to talk with the referees. I’ve told him that 10 times during a game. Ignore them, don’t talk to them, that’s not his job. His job is to listen and not do it. My job is to communicate with the referees, which I really think that the BIG EAST Conference, from a referee standpoint, does as good of a job as anywhere I’ve been, as far as a communication standpoint. They come to the sideline, and they communicate. They do a great job of communicating. Whether we agree with the calls or not, it’s not our place. He’s not going to say sorry or pick up the flag. There’s nothing you can do about it. You move on and overcome it. Our job as coaches is to get guys to play with better technique and get the guys to play within themselves.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU, WVU football
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