MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A transcript of WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen's weekly news conference:
Opening Statement We are ready to get back to work here today. We are finishing up the regular season. We have to keep pressing forward. Some of the guys have been in lifting and watching tape already, and they seem pretty excited to get back to work. That is a good thing due to all the things that have happened over the course of the season. One thing I can say about our guys is that they have been very eager to play. They have had many opportunities to not be like that. We are looking forward to having one last home game. For 22 of our guys, this will be the last home game that they will play for West Virginia. They are excited about it, and I am excited about preparing them for it. This game, much like the Pitt game last year, will be their last time here, but we want to enjoy a good bowl experience with them. That is truly their senior day. We will go through the process and lean on them to finish the year strong. There is a big difference in 7-5 and 6-6 in our minds. We will work our tail off to get as prepared as we can.
I made reference to it yesterday - these guys do a lot of different things. We don’t, and a lot of teams in our conference don’t. We only get 20 hours a week with them. It is our philosophy to keep things consistent throughout the week. Do we tweak things? Yes. At this time of the year, who you are is who you are. With Kansas, they do a variety of things on special teams and on offense. We have 11 games to look at, and we have to figure out what their approach is going to be. If we fail to recognize that, then we will have to do a great job of that in game.
They have become more of a running team. They are going to lean on their two good running backs – James Sims and Tony Pierson. They are a top-20 team in the country when it comes to rushing offense. They switched their quarterback midseason to the redshirt freshman, Michael Cummings. He is a talented kid that will continue to get better and better. They will run the zone read with him, establish the run and try to put the ball in play when they need to. They will bring in Dayne Crist to throw the ball down the field at times. Our job defensively is identifying their sets and the different looks we will get. Ultimately, defensive football is getting in your gaps, defeating blocks and making tackles. We have done that in the run game a good bit, with the exception of tackling Iowa State’s quarterback. We think we match up with them pretty well.
Our offense is going to do what we do. We will get the ball into a couple of our players’ hands as much as we can. (Defensive coordinator) Dave Campo is a pretty good football coach. They present some problems with what they do. Nothing statistically jumps off the screen that they do from a special teams standpoint. They do like to change their schemes up a good bit. We are going to figure out what to practice against and make some in-game adjustments. It is business as usual, and we are looking forward to the game.
On Kansas’ run game You have the material, and you do like you do every week. You look at what they do in certain situations, and what they do against specific defenses. You just try to figure it out. When it gets down to it, it’s still just football. We are going to look and see what their tendencies are. We want to defeat some blocks and make tackles.
On if he expects Kansas to throw the ball more It is a good question. They tried that earlier in the year and weren’t that successful with it. That is why they settled in to being a zone read team. They have two really good backs. Their starter, Sims, is going to be a 1,000-yard guy after he didn’t play in the first two or three games. They are going to give it him quite a bit because he is one of their better plays. The Pierson kid looks like Tavon (Austin) because he plays a lot of different positions. They get him the ball in a variety of ways. If they split him out and throw it to him, we are going to have to cover him. If they do throw more, we can obviously use the work. We want to continue to put our kids in positions where they can make plays, get their technique better, get their assignments better and tackle better. We want to continue to age these guys at a faster than normal rate.
On WVU’s run game progression over the last couple of weeks It is just personnel more than anything. We probably wouldn’t have won that game last week if we wouldn’t have done the right thing when it comes to Shawne (Alston). If we would have rushed him back, he wouldn’t have been able to carry the ball 18 times for 130 yards. Our approach with Shawne was the best thing. He is hard to tackle. Getting the ball moving forward late in the game was the best thing. We are going to continue to experiment with a couple of things with Tavon. It has been positive. We are moving the ball better than the previous three or four games. It has been efficient.
On Shawne Alston He is probably extremely tired and probably won’t be able to play (laughs).
On if the pressure is eased now that the team is bowl eligible Yes, probably, but if we just relax and feel good about it, then we will probably get beat this week – that is the nature of college football. The one thing I told the guys in the locker room after the game is that they don’t need to feel that they accomplished anything else other than a win. We got them away from it a couple of days. We have been at this for pretty much every day for three or four months. They need to come back here ready and eager to go. We haven’t met with them since the game was over on Saturday. We are not going to talk about Iowa State. That game is over, and we are not going to talk about it. The first thing that comes out of my mouth will be about Kansas. If our guys have learned anything this year, it is you better be ready to play. All of the opponents in the Big 12 can win on any given day. Kansas is no different. They are a couple points away from having three Big 12 wins this season. We have to play hard.
On the dangers of a team that is struggling and winless in the Big 12 That is the nature of the conference we are in. Last year, we played three or four teams in this situation. Now, we don’t get to play any. Our last eight games have been against ranked teams that will play in a bowl game. Every team that we have played this year has been motivated to play. Last year, it was different. I don’t think we have lined up and played an unmotivated football team this year. The fact that we are going to line up and play a motivated team for the 12th time this season is the way they should be.
On injuries (Ishmael) Banks is out. There is nothing surgically. Hopefully, we are able to get him back for the bowl game. Someone is going to have to step up at corner and play football. We will line some people up and get some guys ready to cover people.
We will see how that preparation goes. Curtis (Feigt) is going to practice. We will see how he does today.
(Brodrick) Jenkins will be practicing today.
On if Tavon will play at running back It didn’t look like he had to relearn much. The box was much more challenging last week against Iowa State. You guys could see that there wasn’t a ton of space. He never really got out in the open. He was still able to get five or six yards a pop, though. There are still some things that it takes practice time and reps to play the position. We don’t have the time left in his career to teach him those things. Could he do it? Absolutely. I don’t think there are things that the kid couldn’t do. We are going to continue to try and put the ball in his hands. It is a little bit more than just go right or left. There is not a whole lot more that we can do beside taking a whole offseason to teach him.
On if there is a coaching lesson in not making this move earlier We have been trying to find ways to get him the ball. Tavon has caught over 200 passes in two years. Have we failed getting him the ball? No. It is a little easier getting him the ball when he is standing right next to you, as opposed to slot or wideout. We have accomplished getting him the ball in a variety of ways. This was experimental, but he has handled it pretty well. Would it have benefitted us to do this six games ago? Probably. You can’t come up with a whole bunch of experimental things when you are in game planning mode.
On his input in a player’s pursuit of leaving college early to play in NFL I haven’t talked to anybody at this point. What we did last year with several guys is fill the proper paperwork with the NFL in regards to a player’s projected draft position. That is in regards to what they think your draft status may be. There are several juniors on our team that we did that for, just like last year – that is pretty common. When it comes back, that is when you sit down and have the talk with them.
On Kansas’ defense They are pretty basic and sound. They are well-coached. They play a lot of zone, so we have to find those holes. They play hard. They are technically sound. They do a good job of getting off of blocks. They are better than Iowa State in the red zone. They have been giving up a lot of yards, but then they tighten up in the red zone. That is a sign of good coaching. They bow up and play good defense in the red zone. We did a good job of getting points in the red zone last week, and we will have to do more of the same this week. Kansas does a lot of similar things to Iowa State. It is a bend, but don’t break defense. Field goals were important last week, so if we need to settle for the points, we will.
On Karl Joseph playing older and smarter He is still missing some tackles, but you want him to be somewhat reckless. There have been one or two hits in each game that have been game-changing hits. By playing like that, he is going to miss a tackle or two. He has been our most consistent kid in terms of production and effort. With that said, he is still young and will continue to get better. He is what you are looking for defensively. He has produced at a very young age.