MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A transcript of WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen's weekly news conference:
On his relationship with Mike Gundy We competed against each other for eight years, almost 10 years now. I had the opportunity to go work for him, which was a step up from Houston. This isn’t anything that I haven’t been quoted on saying in the past, but I left Houston to go to Oklahoma State because it was a different level. It was a different league, and I knew he had a lot of things in place that were appealing to me from a facilities standpoint, a recruiting standpoint and a program standpoint. I went there and had a good year; I knew there were good people in place.
He does a wonderful job from a structural standpoint and from an organizational standpoint, as far as how you run a program and as far as what your day-to-day operations are like. I took a lot of things from him, and from an offensive standpoint he took a lot of things from me that we were doing over the course of the previous years that fit into what he was trying to do at Oklahoma State.
On whether he planned on being at Oklahoma State for one year I felt that in order to get a job like the one I’m fortunate enough to have now, that it would take being a coordinator at a higher level. I took that opportunity; my conversations with him and Mike Holder, their AD who is a good friend and a great administrator, (were that) I wasn’t going to go there for a year and leave for the same job. It was going to take a job like this for me to leave the situation that I was in.
On how much the Oklahoma State offense has evolved since he left It hasn’t changed much at all. Just looking at it on tape there are some specific things that they do better than what we do. It’s the same offense. If you look at it the very closely, it’s called the same and a lot of the routes are the same. There’s always going to be tweaks here, tweaks there, an added formation, a different run play, a different pass play or a different set.
When they had J.W. (Walsh) in there for the four or five games that he played, he did a tremendous job. They had a little bit more of a quarterback run game because that fits his style more than (Wes) Lunt or (Clint) Chelf. It goes back to the scheming aspect of things - you’re not going to out-scheme many people. The next week when we play OU, we’re going to be looking at an offense that is very similar to ours as well. That just exists in this league.
On whether there will be more good-on-good than scout team this week We will, not exclusively, because there are always going to be slight differences and we can’t just sit here and pound on each other for a whole week. We’ll be back on a normal schedule this week. Last week was different because of the situation, but we’ll be back on a normal schedule this week. We will go good-on-good some, because it makes sense and because we’re able to.
On changing signals this week We do it every week anyway. I’ve watched a couple of their (Oklahoma State’s) TV copies here, and I can call out about 90 percent of their plays, so I’d assume that’s something that is on their mind as well as it is on our mind. We have to be careful what we do from both an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint.
On what the offensive line is focusing on There’s always going to be one-on-one matchups, and I wasn’t thrilled with how we protected last week. It wasn’t four or five guys breaking down all of the time - it was a guy here or a guy there. If they rush three, there is still going to be one guy with a one-on-one matchup. If you rush four, there are going to be three guys with one-on-one matchups. You have to learn the matchups. That isn’t any different than playing man-to-man coverage defensively. If you’re in man-to-man coverage situation you have to want that one-on-one matchup.
On where the idea of moving Joe DeForest to the box came from I just felt like we needed a change. I thought it would help Joe to be in a sterile environment. There are a lot of bullets flying on the sidelines, and there is a lot of stuff going on. It is not uncommon for an offensive or defensive coordinator to call it from the box. It’s because it is quiet and he can see better. With Joe being more of a back end guy than a front end guy, he can see that back end a little bit better.
I was really happy with how Coach (Keith) Patterson brought energy on the sidelines. He doesn’t have as much to think about, so he brought a tremendous amount of energy to the sideline. He did a great job of rallying the troops, and I thought that was positive, too.
On how the players are rebounding It’s a tough loss. It was tough in that locker room after the game, and it was tough to come up here. We got together at 3:00 on Sunday and told them we have three more hours to be upset. I don’t know how else you deal with it. We watched the tape and then let them go Sunday. They showed up here today, and it seems like they’re ready to go.
The biggest thing defensively is building on what we have accomplished. We’ve gotten better defensively. From an operations standpoint, we got better; we were off the field about 80 percent of the time on third down. We created a couple of turnovers, we held them to two yards a rush and there were a lot of positive things that happened defensively. We have to keep improving on that, keep building on that, doing a better job of communicating the calls and lining up to where were not misaligned.
On special teams, we’ve made tremendous strides on cover units. We got a couple of blocks that were able to spring us for good returns. We have to fix our snap, we have to fix our kick and we have to fix our wings on the PAT team. After every game there are things you have to fix, you’re just trying to not fix very glaring mistakes, which there were a few on special teams.
Offensively, we need to get back to where we were a month ago. We’re a group that is not very happy right now. The last three weeks have been pretty tough with what we’ve faced. The next four weeks are going to be pretty tough. It’s a pretty determined group out there.
On what the offensive problems are and how to improve them We have to play together; it’s the same problem defensively. From a call standpoint, we’re playing with nine or 10 a lot and we’re playing with nine of 10 from an effort standpoint now. If you have eight or nine that are playing with tremendous effort and one or two who aren’t, then you’re playing with eight or nine. We have to play better together, and blocking is a huge thing. Trust in the system and trust in people being in the right spots is a big thing. How do we explain nine dropped balls? We haven’t had nine dropped balls all year - that’s just execution. We have to execute, and it’s harder to execute when you play tougher defenses. You have to elevate your game, and that’s coaching; we have to get it out of them. When things get harder, we have to play better.
On how much the run game needs to improve if teams are dropping men in coverage Just because they’re dropping eight doesn’t mean they have less guys in the box. That’s the misconception at times. There are deep safeties, which means we have to run the ball and we average two yards a rush; that’s not good. It’s more about us than it is TCU. TCU is pretty good at run defense; they always have been. They’re top five in rush defense. We didn’t do a great job of finishing blocks. When we play tougher teams and it gets hard, we need to find a way to get it done and we didn’t. That wasn’t good, but the other side of it is if they’re only rushing three then we should have more time to throw the ball. They can still have the same amount of people in the box and rush six as they do rush three. If they’re rushing three, we should have more time to pass the ball, if they rush six then there is more space and we should be able to get the ball in play.
On why Big 12 home teams are having so much trouble this year in conference games It’s crazy. To know that the home team has lost more is parity. There are a lot of good teams in the Big 12. We enjoy playing on the road. We enjoy the travel and being with each other and experiencing new things. We had a tremendous time at Texas and a tremendous time in Maryland; we didn’t have a very good time at (Texas) Tech, but we enjoyed it. You have to be able to handle the crowds. Are we going to be rattled because it’s going to be a loud crowd at Oklahoma State? It’s the same atmosphere that exists here. People are not going to be intimated by that kind of an atmosphere because that atmosphere exists in 10 venues in the Big 12.
On how it works when two teams are so familiar with one another It comes down to the effort being there. They play with tremendous effort, so we have to play with tremendous effort. We then have to execute which means finishing blocks, running routes, running full speed, going through your reads offensively, checking the proper run based on what coverage you get, throwing and catching, making the catch and getting up field.
Defensively, it means being in the right spot and having a chance to make the tackle. If you have a chance to pull the trigger as a quarterback, then you better pull the trigger. If you have a chance defensively to strip the ball, strip the ball. If you have a chance to make a play in the air, you need to make the play. I don’t want to put it all on the players; you can’t put it all on the players. Our job is to get them in the proper mindset to play determined, motivated and with tremendous effort and to get the right people out there and try to put them in the right situation. At that point, hopefully we’ve coached our guys to be able to pull the trigger and make a play.
On whether you accomplish that through practice or sitting down in a meeting You have to work on it. We’re going to know what they do; they’re going to know what we do. Are we going to know exactly the correct call they’re going to do based on a tip or based on us stealing their signals? That may happen every now and then, but ultimately it is line up, read keys and play ball. You have to coach your guys to do that. We’ve made strides on that defensively in coaching our guys to line up better, communicate better, be in position and be in the proper mentality to pull the trigger.
On containing the Oklahoma State running game Joseph Randle is a fantastic football player. He’s one of my favorite kids I’ve ever coached. I had him for one year as a true freshman, and it means a lot to him. He lives it. He’s quick-twitch, he’s powerful, he’s very skilled, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, you can throw him screens and you can line him up as a receiver and throw him the ball downfield. He’s a good player. You take him out and put Jeremy Smith in, who is downhill, physical, fast and can take it 80 yards (quickly). Oklahoma State has always had good running backs, and it’ll be a challenge. We have to be sounds in our gaps, be physical and get off blocks. It doesn’t stop there; Joe Wickline is a good offensive line coach and has been for two decades. They have guys up front that continuously get better and have good depth.
On his evaluation of Shawne Alston and what he brought Presence was good. Mentality was good. Health was not good. He’s a different guy now than he was the first couple of games. He was more healthy than he was the two weeks prior to that, which is why he suited up. He will continue to rehab and continue to work through it and practice more. It didn’t look the same, and that’s why we didn’t play him much.
On the progression of the special teams It’s about the same people; they are just getting better at it. We’re talking about a lot of young guys. Nick Kwiatkoski and Garrett Hope are great on kickoff. (Shaq) Petteway was good on kickoff. Austin Copeland is another true freshman that played for the first time and is getting better; he played on all four special teams. You have to have a lot of people that can play those special teams and get better at it. I thought Coach (Steve) Dunlap did a great job of that last week. I thought we covered punts better than we have since I’ve been here. They were the No. 1 special teams team in the Big 12, and we got one out on them. It’s the sour taste in our mouth from the snap and the kick that nobody is happy about.