Dana Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen previews Saturday's Oklahoma State game during his weekly Tuesday afternoon media gathering at Milan Puskar Stadium:
We have Big 12 football this week. The sun came up Sunday, and we went back to work. There are plenty of things to work on; we are all smart enough to understand that. We went out and had a good practice, and these kids are resilient. They are a lot more resilient than the coaching staff. We were pretty hard on ourselves, and that was the general message. As I told (the media) after the game on Saturday, there is plenty of blame to go around on all three sides of the ball. The best way to fix that is to look in the mirror and figure out what you can fix. That’s exactly what I have done; there are plenty of things that I can do better. I plan on doing that this week with a good Oklahoma State team coming in. We know a lot about them. Obviously, I was there a few years ago, we played them last year. Our guys are very familiar with them. It’s one of the teams that they understand more than the rest of them. They are very similar to us on offense.
They have an athletic quarterback. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of football games, he’s a coach’s kid, he’s savvy, he throws the ball well, he runs well, he makes it work. They’ve always been good up front. Joe Wickline coaches those guys up, and he’s done that for nine years straight. They are always going to try and run the ball. They are very well rounded. They are going to play with a tremendous amount of tempo. They try to snap it about every 20 seconds, which will be different compared to what we have seen. They play with a lot of effort defensively. They’ve been running the same system there for a while. Glenn Spencer is a great football coach. He took over for Bill Young last year. He does a great job and gets them to play with a lot of effort. The scheme is not that tough. They are going to play four down. They are going to play a couple different coverages. They are mixing in some man coverage as well. They are not going to blitz a bunch, but they coach really hard on effort and technique. On special teams, we have to be leery of both of their returners, both Josh Stewart and Justin Gilbert are guys who have scored, and scored quite a bit in the return game. It’ll be a tough challenge all-around with a Top 10 team coming in undefeated. We are sitting here at 2-2, with both of our losses coming against teams who are undefeated, on the road, and who I think are really good football teams. This week is no different. That’s why we are excited to be in the Big 12 is to be in these kinds of situations. To play teams who have a national standing and rankings, we have to step up and get a little better this week. If we do that then we will have a chance to win.
On his recruitment of J.W. Walsh while he was at Oklahoma State
He’s a winner. He falls in the long line of Texas high-school coaches’ kids. His dad is the head coach at Denton-Guyer and has won a lot of football games there, he’s won before J.W. was their quarterback, and he’s won since J.W. has left. Texas high school football is good, being a coaches’ kid, watching him win games with the intangibles he has, you can see that on the sidelines and in practice. You can take those guys and make their skills better, and obviously they have.
On if he’s changed his approach to practice this week
It’s worked for 15 years, so we are not going to change how we practice. We are going to change some things though. The one thing we are not going to change though is how we practice, which works. I feel like we are on track with practice though, and we are going to get better. It does not look good now. I’m sick to my stomach with what happened offensively Saturday, but this week we are trying to get better. Guys need to relax, I saw a few times on Saturday where a few things happened, some guys got all wide-eyed and thought “Oh crap”, and that can’t happen. That’s 100 percent coaching though, we can’t have guys who afraid to make a mistake. That does not exist on defense, but it is happening a little bit on offense.
On the trend of top teams not always having top offenses (ex: Alabama is ranked 84th)
I think there are a lot of teams doing the same things. It becomes so up-tempo. Two weeks ago when we were playing Oklahoma, I thought I was looking in the mirror with a lot of the stuff they were doing. This week with Oklahoma State, it feels like we are looking in the mirror. When I studied Maryland’s offense, it looked like a lot of the same stuff. Maybe some guys out there are coaching it better than I am. I think a lot of defenses are used to playing against the same offense. You also have to throw in some parity in college football. There’s a lot of good teams out there, and a lot of good coaches.
On things that he himself can change this week
I have to change my mentality, if they are going to change their mentality. I’m going to expect good things to happen, I’m going to be excited about going to practice. I’m going to go out and not be worried about calling the perfect play. If you sit there and worry about calling a different play, they you are going to call a bad one. That mentality needs to go away. We need to relax, and we need to expect good things to happen, because right now offensively that is not going to happen. We practice staying motivated, but we were not the most excited team to play Saturday. Were we prepared to play? Not as well as Maryland. All that stuff falls on me. I need to get us better prepared and more excited about playing. We went over to Maryland and played a team who was excited to play. They played with more excitement, and with more passion than our guys did. When that happens, that’s on me.
On getting the players to execute their jobs during a play
This goes back to January. After the sick feeling in my stomach that I had after Syracuse, we came here and went to work. They have done everything I have asked of them for eight months. They had an opportunity on Saturday to quit, but they didn’t. They made a couple plays on defense and special teams, and we didn’t. A ball hits Ronald Carswell, and three of their guys jump on top of it. Later, we punted, and it hit their guy, and we were two steps away from getting it. They caught a break, we didn’t catch a break. You have to make your own breaks. They intercept a ball, which was a heck of a play by the outside linebacker, who snatched it out of the air and took it 30 yards for a touchdown. Jared Barber misses one by an inch and probably could have returned it for a touchdown. Why does that happen to them and not us? We didn’t catch any breaks and you have to make those happen. We were down 30-0, and the kids could have quit, but they didn’t. I’m comfortable saying that whatever we are missing, we are that close to being a good football team, and I have to find it.
On the issues of fumbles
We have to field a punt, first and foremost, and if you look at our running backs, it’s spread out between them. We aren’t giving it to one guy, and he has a fumbling issue. It can be fixed pretty easily, and I think it will be this week.
On only having seven points this season off of turnovers
We are going to work on that today. We are having an issue scoring, period. It’s not like whenever we get a turnover, we have this killer instinct to go out and execute the offense. It’s the same offense that goes out there. They have to go out and make plays. We are very improved on defense though. Will Clarke has played the best he’s ever played on Saturday. Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph had more hits on their receivers than those guys cared to elaborate on. We are getting turnovers, but we are not setting up scores. We are not setting up scores for two reasons, one because the offense can’t score, and two because we are getting them in the wrong spots at the wrong times. Defensively if we want to go from good to great, we have to make some critical plays in critical situations to help our offense set up scores.
On if it’s a role reversal from last year in terms of offense/defense production
We knew it was going to be a role reversal. Last year, I sat here and defended the defense a lot. We win as a team, play as a team, and unfortunately, we lose as a team. Last year, we went through a rough stretch of couple games, where the offense did not hold up their end of the bargain, but I never sold out the defense. If we want to win, the defense has to set up scores or make plays, that’s just the situation we are in until the offense comes along, which eventually, it will. My challenge is to make it happen sooner, and make it happen this week.
On the offensive play
We have to put them in better situations. There’s a lot of blame to go around. Maybe we are not practicing enough the situations that they are being put in. I’m just asking those guys to get a little better. If our quarterbacks play better, if our line and players block better, then we will get better on offense.
On the difficulty of motivation after poor offensive play
It’s a challenge. I’ve watched that film about eight times. Believe it or not, there are some things on that tape that resemble football. Our guys are trying. We have talented running backs, and we have experience on the offensive line. We have receivers who can run and catch. We have guys who can do it, they are trying. If we can get a little better, then we can get some confidence. Then hopefully, it will steamroll. and we can start scoring points and winning games. You have to believe it’s going to happen, otherwise it will not happen.
On keeping Ronald Carswell at punt returner
We have had three guys back there. I’m comfortable with Ronnie back there, he has the most confidence. There’s no excuse, but their guy dropped two as well on Saturday, the wind was swirling, it was wet. He made a poor decision, but he’s going to get experience and get better at it. I like his confidence and his mental makeup and believe that he will make it happen. No one was more upset than him about that punt. You can’t keep playing musical chairs at positions. You have to believe in some guys to make plays, and I do believe in them, they are trying hard. If I believe in them a little more, than we are going to go out there and get better.
On the injury report
We are in relatively good shape injury-wise. Dustin had a hamstring issue before the game, he was fine on Thursday but did something to it. Nick Kwiatkoski also has a hamstring issue. Hopefully, they will be ready this week. Other than that it is the same as last week.
On how Ford Childress played Saturday
He didn’t have much of an opportunity to go vertical. Maryland did a good job and was much more basic than they were in the previous game. They were able to give their corners more support. Randy Edsall is a great coach, and defensively they have good players. We got down, and they dropped a lot of people into coverage. We weren’t comfortable with getting three or four yards here and there. We had to attempt to throw the ball down the field; the protection also broke down a few times. He needs to have a sense of urgency in the pocket. If he can work around some guys then he can throw the ball down the field.
On the change in tempo for the defense
Oklahoma did some. But Oklahoma State is going to play faster than Oklahoma. Last year, Oklahoma was faster than anyone in the conference. Right now, Oklahoma State is trying to play faster than Oregon, is what I hear. We are going to have to defend it. If you think this week is fast, then next week at Baylor is even faster. We will go against each other in tempo this week, probably more than we already have. I need to get to terms with the tempo and force ourselves to play faster. Regardless of whether it looks good or not, I have to force ourselves to play faster, to get into a rhythm, which will help our defense out.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference football
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