MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A transcript of WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen's weekly news conference:
Opening Statement We are going into our second off week. It will be a little bit different than the first one. The mentality is going to be a little different. We will focus on recruiting this week. We’ve had four coaches out this week. We will have all of our coaches out this Friday and Saturday. We will try and find some guys that want to be Mountaineers. This Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we will get back to the basics out there. Last off week, we put the ball down and played a lot, because it was so early in the season. At this point, it is more important to focus on the fundamentals of football. When you play as many young kids as we are, the first thing that is going to go is the technique during the heat of battle. We will focus a lot on fundamentals and on basic football. Offensively, that will be tempo, our base plays, blocking and keeping the timing. Defensively, it will be proper alignment, technique, back peddling, breaking on the ball, run fits and making tackles. We will put the ball down and play at the end of practice in order to develop our young guys.
Other than that, it is a good week for these guys. Last week was midterm week. This is a good time for them to see where they are academically. We are pleased with where we are academically. We will continue to hold these guys accountable in the classroom, while they become better football players.
Hopefully, they get away from it for a couple of days then come back energized and regrouped. We want to have a great Sunday of preparation for TCU.
On if this week is similar to a camp mentality It will be similar to a spring practice. We are not going to focus on TCU too much. They are not focusing us – I can assure you of that. There are some things that they do that we can mirror. It is more of a mentality. We have to do a better job of offensively playing our game. Defensively, we have to get better at everything we do. We have to understand the situation. The alignment and technique has to improve. Hopefully, we will get healed up and re-energized for the final five weeks of the season, which will be a grind just like the previous five weeks have been.
On recruiting junior colleges this week Yes, that is the plan. We have been. We will be in Arizona, Kansas, Texas and Mississippi. We will hit all of those this week. We will be out seeing a bunch of games this Friday and Saturday, and we will see a lot of guys.
On what has been the common theme of offense in the previous two games We haven’t played with great tempo. When we play best, we have great tempo. There are things that you need to have settled. A good balance of that is when we are at our best. We were probably a little too settled last week, which is 100 percent my fault. We should have pushed the envelope on some things.
On maturity Aside from the fact that we would like our 20 freshmen to be seniors, we need to, from a mentality standpoint, grow up. We can’t use the excuse of not having enough snaps. We have to grow and play older than we are. We need the older guys to act older. We need the older guys to bring along the younger kids. We need them to be tough when adversity hits. We played a team (Kansas State) that has that mastered. They are the most mature team in college football. They are very old, and they have played a lot of football. They are mentally tough, and their technique is not lost during the heat of the battle. We can learn a lot from playing a team like that. I have a lot of respect for how they run their program. They are everything that we thought they were.
On shifts in the depth chart with younger guys and older guys during the game It is based on what have you done for me lately. You make the decision to play who you think is the better player. You have to figure out is the ceiling higher for a younger kid versus an older kid. It usually is, but that doesn’t always mean it is. If you take a guy like J.D. (Woods) that has played a good bit but hasn’t made a bunch of plays, he got a lot better during camp, but he has faded a bit recently. That is what I mean about a mature football team. He has gotten a lot better, but he needs to act a little bit older in a situation like the other night. After you make the decision, it is all about performance. If a guy is not performing, you make the change. The biggest motivation in college football is playing time, but you don’t want to sit a guy down that you don’t think has a guy behind him that is better than him. You want to play the better player. You want to use playing as a motivation if you can, but our depth is the issue.
On if the new safety rules and spread offenses are taking some of the toughness out of the game It can a little bit. We don’t like to think so. We talk about being physical, effort and playing hard. It doesn’t matter if it is a spread team, because there are one-on-one matchups that you need to be physical during, in order to win. If you bring everything together, people are still leaning on each other. Is it a little less physical than it has been? Probably, but it is, because there is a lot more space between contact. We don’t view it as that. Those matchups can be pretty violent.
On similarities to last year That was a little bit different. Whenever you put two losses like that back-to-back, it is a little different. There are some challenges this year that didn’t exist with last year’s team, and there were some challenges last year that don’t exist with this team. Basically, it boils down to having to bounce back, and that doesn’t happen overnight. We bounced back last season. This is different, because of who we are playing. We just played the No. 3 team in the country. They are a pretty good team. It is going to take a whole year of going through the Big 12 for everyone to understand the Big 12.
We have to make things more manageable. We can’t try to manufacture plays or people. We can’t come up with tricks, because that is not the solution. We have been talking about what we are good at on all three sides of the ball, and how we get back to doing those things. We have narrowed down some things. We are going to focus on trying to get better at things that we are already good at. We will build some confidence because of that. We will rebuild and re-energize, as we prepare for our next game.
On defensive schemes We have tried to cover some areas up. Within our defensive scheme, there are different coverages and blitzes. If it doesn’t work, we can go to another one. It is a multiple defense. When they hit us on a cover two with a seam route, we went to cover three. When they started to hit us on out routes, we went to a press and bail, cover four. We mix things up, but it ultimately comes down to execution. You guys saw where a couple of times the ball was in the air, and we had a guy there. They made the plays. How can we get our guys in any better position than that? We constantly try to tweak it. As an offensive play caller, I go back to this. If you guys are going to rely on us as coaches to make the perfect call every single time, then we are going to fail you. Nobody can make the perfect call every time. We are going to put you in a position to succeed as best as we can. Offensively, we need to do a better job of getting in the right play. Defensively, we need to do a better job of getting in the right plays. We are putting you in a position to be successful. Now the player has to takeover, but as coaches, we have something to do with that too. We have to do our best as coaches, and they have to make the play. We have to do a better job of that as coaches and as players.
On if the players are in proper position, but are not making plays defensively I am not saying that, no. We have to a better job as coaches. We have to put them in better position to be successful. It is a combination. Nobody is pointing fingers anywhere. Nobody is doing that. We all have to understand, as coaches, that we need to put them in a position to be successful and what their technique needs to be. Ultimately, it comes down to getting them out there in practice and having them get better at what we want them to do. There are only a certain number of coverages or plays that we can run. If you try to make up for our deficiencies with more plays, it is going to confuse them.
On Geno Smith taking blame for the loss and facing adversity Geno and I have talked. He doesn’t need to say that. He is one of many positions that play football here. If he thinks that all of this falls on his shoulder, then he is sadly mistaken. He is one of our leaders, and he is a tremendous football player. He cares more than anybody. He is responsible for a lot of points and a lot of wins. This doesn’t fall on his shoulders. This falls on all our shoulders – all of our coaches and all of our players. He is only one piece to everything. For him to be at his best, he needs to understand that the only thing he can do is take the snap and go where we want him to go with the ball. If that is all he worries about, then he is going to be more productive. He needs to relax a bit and not bear that burden. We are going to get him back on track.
On the vertical passing game We have to protect. We know who Texas had coming off the edge, so we were conscious of that and didn’t throw vertical very much. Texas Tech was more press. We didn’t handle the press very well at receiver. Geno was not very accurate down the field. We threw down the field six or eight times. Against Kansas State, the pass rush was very good. They were rotating a lot of guys, and they were athletic. There wasn’t a specific guy we were scared of, but we were aware of them. They did a good job of getting to us, but their corner coverage was off. We should have done a better job of completing the ball underneath. It is a combination of a lot of things. It is not the plays we are calling. We called plays that would have gotten the ball down the field. Whether we broke down up front, or Geno got his eyes away from it, we didn’t do a good job with it.
On physical shortcomings There is something to that. Nobody wants to hear this, but we are doing a decent job against the run. We are not just getting gashed against the run. We are playing physical up front. Shaq (Rowell) is playing physical up front, Jorge (Wright) is holding his gap and Kyle Rose played better. Josh (Francis) and Terence (Garvin) are doing a good job of squeezing the edges. Isaiah Bruce and Jared Barber are doing a good job too. Those bodies aren’t doing a great job with the pass rush. We have bodies that are doing great against the run and being physical, but they have to do a better job of rushing. We are not getting any pressure on the quarterback. We can’t have receivers running double or triple moves on people, and then have the quarterback throwing the ball as far as he can and hitting every one of them.
On if WVU was overrated coming into the season I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion on preseason rankings. They are based on the end of the year last year and how many guys that we have coming back. It doesn’t matter what happened last year. I stood up here before the Marshall game and said that. This is a different team. I said it was going to take multiple games to see what we are made of. We tell our team not to worry about what the paper says, what the rankings say, what the television says or what the internet says. This week we are saying because all of people that said they were great are now saying you are so bad. Why pay attention? Pay attention to what we say in here. Worry about your academics and worry about your health. Do a good job of getting in the weight room and getting bigger and stronger. When you have practice, don’t go through the motions. Go out and get better. If they think about anything other than that, they are not thinking about the right stuff. It is good exposure if you are ranked highly coming into the season, but I knew all of these games were going to be pretty challenging.
On playing young guys at different points in the season Being ready to play. We make those decisions based on practice. We talked a lot during camp about our freshman receivers. We knew there was some talent there. You don’t want to put young guys out there if you have players that are better. As we kept practicing, we saw our young guys getting better and the veterans staying the same. Playing time is the main motivator for the kid.
On Shawne Alston He is going to finish up. We are going to see if he can practice. We are not going to dress him out and say that we hope he can play. He is going to have to practice. We want to get him to practice, so he can play in a game – it has been that way for a month. This week, we are going to practice him and try to incorporate him. If it looks good, then we will play him. If he is out there hobbling around, then we will not play him. I haven’t even thought about the redshirt thing. If he can play and help us win, then he will play.