Dana Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media today.
Coming off the bye week, it has been a good situation for us over the last two days. We gave the team this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. Assistant coaches were able to get out on the road and recruit, and I am really happy with how that is going. The reception has been very good. Our theory and motivation on this was to get the team away from everything Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
We had a great day yesterday. Typically we give them Monday off, but with no school because of fall break it played into our hands in getting ready to play Texas Tech. We had a good day of practice yesterday as well as meetings and a lift this morning. They have done what I have asked them to do once again, which is come back in the right frame of mind and be energetic and excited about the task at hand, which is once again tough.
We didn’t play very well in the last Big 12 game that we played. Good news is we get a chance to redeem ourselves against another top-20 opponent that is undefeated. This is the fourth time we have played an undefeated and ranked team in the Big 12. The challenge is large, but I can assure you we are up for the challenge and will put our best foot forward, not only in preparation but also on game day on Saturday. I would expect a very festive atmosphere in Morgantown on Saturday. I do not know why that would not be the case. I would assume everyone is excited about getting to the game at noon. This is the fourth time we will have gone through the routine of a Friday and Saturday when we play at noon, so we will be prepared for that.
I do think our team will be prepared for what Texas Tech brings to the table. Offensively, it is something that we know very well. Obviously, (I have a) history with (Texas Tech head coach) Kliff (Kingsbury), and I know what he has done offensively and how he operates. We are both cut from the same cloth. So, we are going to know what they do offensively. Obviously, the challenge is to stop it. They play very up-tempo and very high energy. They are playing with guys who are used to playing in that type of an offense. When he (Kingsbury) got there, he inherited a receiver, running back and offensive line group that has played in that type of a system. He (Kingsbury) brings something different to the table from an energy standpoint. The technique and point of view that allows him to get things across to guys allows them to play with tremendous confidence and energy.
Defensively, I thought they were decent last year; they slipped as the year went on. They have new coaches and scheme, defensively. They are executing at a very high level. I do not think it is ironic that what they do defensively resembles what we do because I think it is tough to coach against. With the spread offenses, it is tough to coach against the 3-4 defense, which is why we do it here. The fronts will be the same, but there will be different concepts in the coverage. They have about eight returning starters on defense - a lot of the guys we played against last year. They’re just in a little bit different of a scheme. We will be familiar with them; they will be familiar with us. It should be a great battle in Morgantown, and we are really looking forward to the challenge.
On using the bye week to self-evaluate
Everybody does that to an extent. We looked at it like everybody does to see if we developed any tendencies. Offensively, we have been subpar at everything so there really aren’t any tendencies. The only tendency is that we really are not great at anything. We looked at it very closely, and we have identified as coaches what we do well and what we do not do well. We are not shifting guys around as we have. We do understand what our personality is offensively, and now we just have to get good at it and gain some confidence.
We have to make some plays and continue to try to get better at the small things we ask the team to do. As soon as that happens, and we pick up steam, we will look a little bit better to the human eye, which means points. We have done a decent job at making plays and moving the ball, but we have not done a good job at scoring points. Obviously that’s a problem, and it is my job to get us there - I have said that since media days long before the season started. We have a lot of inexperience and a lot of guys that have never played football. That is not an excuse to not be productive, and it is my job to get us there.
On what the defense worked on during the bye week
They overcame that (the loss to Baylor) - kids are resilient. It was a poor performance defensively and offensively. It was a little bit of a buzz saw because Baylor played very well. You cannot sit there and dwell on it forever - you have to put that one to rest and get back out there and keep working. That is what we did, and we expect to have a lot better of a defensive performance at Saturday.
On Texas Tech junior tight end Jace Amaro
He is big, fast and strong, and he blocks well and catches well. He is pretty good. He should come out after his junior year. What happened last year is that we injured him so he had to come out, and he was on the shelf the rest of the year. This year he has been hard to contain. We saw it up close and personal last year. He is a guy that can do a lot of different things. He creates a tremendous amount of mismatches not just for us but everybody they have played since then. I do not know how to stop him; you try to double cover him but that opens up room for some other good skill guys as well. He poses a lot of problems, and they have done a good job at utilizing him to get first downs and open up things for some other people.
On the best part of the bye week
I told them to come back in the right frame of mind. (I said) here are three days, go be human beings, get away from it (football). I encouraged them to watch Texas Tech Saturday. I would assume a high percentage of them did. (I told them to) enjoy some time off with family and come back ready to work. We had a great day yesterday and have had a great morning so far. I would think that being able to regroup and reenergize is more (important) than anything.
On the offense
It is no secret that we are going try to establish the run and be more physical up front than we have in the past. We have done a pretty good job in my opinion of getting the play started in the run game but have not done a great job at getting the play started in the pass game. They have to go hand-in-hand - in order to be a good offensive football team, you have to be able to do both. We have had a more difficult time in the pass game for a lot of different reasons. That is not an excuse to not being successful; we have to focus on that, and we have focused on it. We have inexperienced guys all around. When it comes to running routes, catching balls and timing with the quarterbacks because the quarterback are inexperienced or because we are playing three of them, whatever it is we have to get better at it and get the play started and be able to take advantage of plays down the field when teams crowd the box and try to take the run away from us.
On changes to the playbook with changes at quarterback
It changes a little bit. There are certain things that each guy does well, and that’s going to come up. We have to get to a point where it does not matter who the guy is, we have to be able to execute. We have had enough snaps with each of them to know what they do not do well, to where everybody else around them has to identify that (weakness) and execute the play that has been called. What we are going through at quarterback a lot of teams are going through it as well. It has happened at Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Everyone is dealing with the same thing, and it is not an excuse to not be successful. We have three quarterbacks that we put out there and play. Regardless of which one we do it with, we have to be able to execute plays based on what is called. That is what the job of everyone else around the quarterback is. Would I prefer it to be different, sure, but so would everyone else in the Big 12. If you look at the top teams in the country, they all have very solid quarterback play with one quarterback. That is the way it was in the Big 12 last year. Everybody had a solid, seasoned and experienced quarterback. Offenses were generating a lot more yards and points last year. It’s the way it is, and everyone has to deal with it.
On recovery for the injured quarterbacks
Good. The week off did (redshirt junior) Clint Trickett well. (Junior) Paul Millard has done what we have asked of him each and every week and has been healthy and done a good job. (Redshirt-freshman) Ford Childress got more work this week than last week, and that probably took a toll on him; he has to do a little bit better.
On the increase in the running game
I deal with it. What am I going to do about it? It is challenging, and we saw it coming so we have geared what we have done to try to overcome it a little bit. We have that in certain situations, but not enough in the three games in which we lost against three pretty good teams. I have had this talk with the offensive coaches and players to not lose sight of who we are. The biggest thing is trying to get better at something each and every day. We cannot get discouraged. We need to work hard at it and keep our confidence high. Eventually, it will get better and easier. It is so hard for a new quarterback to throw to new receivers. It really is, and we have so much inexperience at each position that it does not look good at times. It will get better. It has, and it will continue to get better over the next six weeks.
On converting third downs
Our offensive philosophy is regardless of if it is third-and-short or third-and-long, we need to be able to convert. That is defenses doing different things on their downs, which poses problems on offense. Texas Tech does a good job on third down. They are getting off the field 72 percent of the time, which is pretty good. So defenses change what they do, and offenses need to be able to adjust to that.
We are still trying to figure out how to do things well instead of getting to a point offensively where your trying to focus on what the defense is doing and how to attack it successfully. With an average offense and a lot of inexperience at key positions, it is tough to get first downs on second-and-five, let alone third-and-five. It is all part of the process and gaining experience and knowledge on what we are asking the team to do. We tell the team to be aware of situations and tell them what to expect. We prepare them for those situations and to know what to expect on specific third downs. When you’re having problems on first-and-10, it is a lot harder on third-and-10. You have to get good at routine plays and execution on what the play is and try to put the ball in play and get positive yards. The more success you have doing that, you would be surprised that many routine plays turn into bigger plays. You make a guy miss here or there and get first downs on second-and-five instead of having to deal with third-and-four.
On transition of (redshirt-junior offensive lineman) Mark Glowinski
He is doing well. He is a physical guy. He has come light years in one year. He did not have a great high school career and was a late bloomer. He has not been playing offensive line since he was 10. Really with him and the junior college guys, although it is tough because you recruit junior colleges for a reason, if they can come in and redshirt it does them a lot of good, especially on offensive line. We were able to do that with (redshirt-freshman linebacker) Martez Stone, so I anticipate he is going to be a pretty productive player for us next year after. If you can afford to do it, it really pays off for you. The problem is having the luxury to be able to do it. How many of our other junior college guys redshirted? Not many of them.
On the health of (junior linebacker) Jared Barber and (redshirt-sophomore linebacker) Nick Kwiatkoski
Nick is back. He missed two games and did not practice last week but was back yesterday. We will get him back in the mix because he was our most productive linebacker after three games. He will make us better defensively. Jared is a guy that is solid and, much like (senior linebacker) Doug Rigg, they are program guys that are going to try hard and be in the right position. Nick is a guy that makes more dynamic plays. If he is healthy, he will be a starter.
On the overall team’s health
Everyone else is good to go. (Senior wide receiver) Ivan McCartney has had a head thing for three weeks, and I am not sure if he will be cleared to play or not. I do not get into the whole concussion thing. (Sophomore cornerback) Ricky Rumph went out of a game against Baylor and he will be a stretch to play. Finally (redshirt-junior) Wes Tonkery is out for about six weeks; he is the only other long-term guy. He broke his thumb and will be out for about six weeks and will be back toward the end of the year. Other than that, the long-term guys are all doing well. Everyone else is day-to-day.
(Sophomore defensive lineman) Christian Brown is out for the year. He had a weight room injury two to three weeks ago. He is able to use this as his redshirt year. He did not redshirt as a true freshman. He played in the first couple of games, but the way the NCAA works with the rule he will be able to redshirt.
On the importance of the bye week on quarterbacks’ timing
We went out and practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday with a light practice on Thursday (last week). Not as much practice time as we would have had in a regular game week. Plus, we were trying to rep a lot of the younger and scout team guys so we had some longer practices with those guys. If you get out there and practice like you’re about to play a game, it defeats the purpose of trying to heal up. You’re trying to get out there and practice 40 hours with the guys, but at what point does that defeat the purpose of being able to use the bye week as a re-energy thing. It is going to take more than a week to get all of these guys on the same page. No one is running out of patience more than I am. I understand peoples’ frustration. We are going to keep going along, keep practicing and hopefully it gets to them pretty quick.
On special teams during bye week
We got out there and worked each unit each day. How much can you really work on it and get accomplished what you want to get accomplished with it? We did not work those very much at all.
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