Dana Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media Tuesday. The Mountaineers play at TCU Saturday at 3:30 PM on ESPNU.
Looking at the TCU Horned Frogs, in preparation for this week’s game, the first thing I think about with TCU, with this being my fifth opportunity to go against coach Gary Patterson, is defense with his football teams. They are in a similar situation as West Virginia with this being their second year in the conference. Right now we are both 3-5. It’s going to be challenging. Last year I think we both went 7-5. The Big 12 is challenging as we are figuring out. When you think about TCU, it’s all about defense, they are really good on defense. They have a lot of returning starters. All five guys from the secondary last year are returning starters. They have as good of a secondary as there is in college football. I was very impressed with them last year and this year I’m even more impressed with them. This year I think they have nine returning starters on defense. They’re very well-coached on defense and that staff has been together for a while. They’ve been doing the same thing at TCU for about the last 13 years. There’s tremendous continuity within the coaching staff. They’re good against the run, great against the pass. They play the ball in the air very well. They have tremendous depth and play a lot of people, and it will be a challenge for our offense. As everybody is well aware, we haven’t been playing winning football on offense. We need to continue to improve. The team is excited to continue to improve and prepare for each week. It’s going to be a challenge. We have to be able to move the ball. We have to be able to get it into the end zone. Offensively, TCU is searching a bit for offense. They have great skill. They have three good running backs. They have great wide receivers. They obviously are going to play two different quarterbacks. I think everyone in the conference is dealing with the same kinds of things. With Kansas State, their offensive approach was a little different based on which quarterback was in. That’s not necessarily the case here with TCU. Whichever quarterback is in there, they typically do the same things, which will make it easier for us to prepare. With that said, it’s about making plays. We need to continue to make plays and put our guys into critical situations to make plays. The one thing about last week was that we played well defensively, but on about seven third-downs we played poorly. In those critical situations we have to make plays and make things happen. On special teams, they’re solid. Coach Patterson stresses that. Any time you have a strong defensive team, you’re going to be good on special teams. I do think we broke even in the kicking game last week with the exception of one of the PATs getting blocked and we weren’t able to execute the fake the way we wanted to. We broke even in the kicking game, which we knew was going to be a challenge. You can tell that TCU works on their special teams. Their kickoff coverage is solid and their returners are even better. They have good return guys, which comes with the skill that they have on offense. You can tell they pay attention to it so it’s going to be a big week for us there. It’s going to be huge week for us offensively to attack their defense. Defensively we need to continue to get better.
With the injury report, everybody in the country deals with these things this time of year. We had 13 guys that were out against Kansas State. Ford Childress is still out. He’s a couple weeks away. It’s healing so he’s started a progression back into throwing. We are going to ease him into it and see how his body does on a day-to-day basis. Dustin Garrison will be out. He’s still out with a hamstring issue, which have been bothering him for quite some time. With our long-term guys, Wes Tonkery is out for the year. He needs to get shoulder surgery. In addition to the guys who are out with Christian Brown, Nana Kyeremeh. Shaq Petteway, Tyler Tezeno, those guys are done for the year. Pat Eger left in the first quarter, which hurt us. He’s a guy we lean on. Tyler Orlosy did do a good job with coming in and playing. I was proud about how he came in and played and got three quarters of work out from him. We need Pat in there though. (Pat) coming out of the game in the first quarter is difficult, but I am proud with how Tyler came in and played. Pat will be day-to-day, I doubt he goes today, likely he will go tomorrow. Doug Rigg, with his second concussion of the year, we will have to monitor how he is doing day-to-day. Daryl Worley has a shin issue. He was progressing into an every-down corner and was not able to go. He will be day-to-day and we expect to get him back soon. Dontrill Hyman will be day-to-day. He did not play Saturday, and he’s got an ankle injury that he suffered in the (Texas) Tech game. Hopefully we get him back. Ricky Rumph has a foot issue. He’s missed a couple weeks, he’s day-to-day and we hope to get him back as well.
On players burning redshirts and others qualifying for redshirts
We are going to keep monitoring Dustin Garrison, because his injury would qualify him. He hasn’t practiced or played I think since the Maryland game, so he would qualify. Being able to put bodies out there for the next four weeks will be important. Again it depends on how he progresses. With Darrien Howard, we pulled his redshirt. He’s been getting better. He was a late starter in camp. He got here midway through camp. It was a weekly conversation for the coaching staff over the past month of whether or not to play him. Dontrill was out. We needed to move Kyle Rose exclusively to end, which he played well at, with Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke. But it left us a nose short. We feel it was a good decision to play (Howard). He played about 15 snaps and hopefully he plays more.
On TCU’s pass rush leading the Big 12 in sacks
They do a great job of rushing the passer. Their secondary matches routes and covers as well as I’ve ever seen it. The quarterback has to sit back there with nowhere to throw and the rush gets there. John Koontz played against us last year and gave us fits. The guys on the inside are good with Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson. Those guys do a tremendous job of holding their gaps in the run game, but also understanding when it’s a run, pass or screen and coming up the field. They have capable people doing it and they get to the quarterback well. That pass coverage in the back is something special as well.
On the defense’s struggles on third down being related to injuries
I can see that, but what are you going to do about it? You have to put the next guy up in. You want your best guys out there and injuries affect everything. I imagine TCU wants their best pass rushing defensive end in there for them too. We are not going to use injuries as an excuse of why we are not successful. We never have and we never will. We were in position to make plays and we have to make plays. We have to trust what everybody does and we have to execute the proper coverage and call. Regardless of the guys in there, they need to know what to do, they need to do it to their best ability, and it’s our job to coach them up to do so.
On the status of linebacker Marvin Gross
He had a hamstring issue the week leading up to Texas Tech. He pulled it on Wednesday or Thursday. He was hampered against Texas Tech. The Kansas State game was not his type of game. He needs to mature and develop. He’s a guy a wish we could’ve redshirted. Darrien Howard is a guy I wish we could’ve redshirted. We are redshirting 17 guys now which is good for the future, but you wish you could redshirt them all and you just can’t.
On calling audibles at the line on offense and defense
Where I see that the most is with teams that hurry up to the line and act like they are going to snap the ball, but they hold back. At that moment you can get into some defensive audibles. We don’t do that as much on offense. We get the personnel in there, call the right play, if we don’t like it, then it’s up to the quarterback to change it to something else. That’s where we have some issues because of the inexperience at quarterback. Defensively, we didn’t have to do that against Kansas State, they were using 40 seconds to snap the ball. TCU will push the hurry up like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State did.
On Gary Patterson trying to audible on defense to get a better call
You don’t really see that with all the tempo you play against. It gets difficult to be able to do that. We both have play sheets and he selects a play based on personnel and other factors. You are not going to win a football game by calling perfect plays. You can do your best, but I will challenge anybody to say they called anything close to a perfect game. You have to call plays to the best of your ability and based on what you think they are going to do on all three sides of the ball. Executing the play is what makes it work. You have to execute the plays that are called. We have to do a better job of executing the calls consistently.
On the TCU offense changing with Casey Pachall in rather than Trevone Boykin
I don’t really know how much more of a veteran he is. Boykin played the whole game against us last year. He’s played more in the past year and a half than Pachall has. Over a four-year span, Pachall has probably taken more snaps. They are both experienced guys who have taken plenty of reps. They are both capable of going in there and executing the offense.
On the offensive line play
The consistency that we have is not winning football. We have been improving up front. Quinton Spain played his best game last week. Pat Eger was really good before he went down. Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Marquise Lucas are young and they are going to keep improving. In my opinion, (Curtis) Feigt and (Nick) Kindler need to get better. I think they took a step back last week and they know that. They need to get better this week. You can have average receivers if you have a great offensive line. I feel differently about the quarterback position. I think you need good quarterback play regardless if you have a good or bad offensive line. The good quarterbacks can bail out a bad offensive line at times. I don’t know if a good offensive line can balance out a bad quarterback. They’re still inconsistent, still learning to play together and still improving. I am pleased with their attitude and their will to get better.
On TCU’s defensive scheme
I’ve seen it quite a bit. There’s a lot of similarities between what they do and what Kansas State did. We will know what they’re doing. Their gig is to beat you defensively, they’re going to match routes really well. Their pad level on the defensive line is outstanding. They get low and push the pocket. I could come up with all kinds of schemes that work against this defense, it’s the execution that is difficult. They’re going to cover people, and we are going to have to make plays with them being covered.
That isn’t going to happen this year. I’ve come to terms with that. He’s going to do his absolute best to understand and go out to execute it. That’s 100% for the offseason. He needs to look at cut-ups from an entire year without the pressure of trying to prepare for an opponent. He needs to sit in a room and study it, then go outside and work on that for a couple months. He’s going to need that downtime and offseason time in order to grasp what we are asking of him, which isn’t surprising. Clint missing close throws is a combination of things. Missing some things last week was due to him not trusting the offensive line too much. His eyes weren’t always on the right place and he missed some reads. The communication is good. We fixed those issues with reps and practice. Continuity with the receivers will improve with time. It’s a whole list of things that need to be worked on. No one really has time or patience for it but it’s just reality.
On the starting QB this weekend
I would think that (Clint Trickett is starting). We will evaluate it today and tomorrow. I put Paul Millard in there because I felt that we need a bit of a spark. We got down two scores and had 12 points in the fourth quarter, so I put him in there to try and execute. He understands what we are trying to do a little bit better. I felt like it was worth a try. He got in there and we moved the ball a little bit. We will evaluate these guys in practice and see how they do.
On what he’s seen from the receivers
I thought we played our worst game at receiver two weeks ago. I thought we played okay last week. It wasn’t a winning performance and it’s not progressing like I wanted it to progress. I think everybody would agree that last week offensively was not a winning performance. You can take shots but you have to win downfield. You’re going to have covered people and make the proper plays and make the proper throws to catch the ball and get up the field.
On using bowl eligibility as motivation
Because that number is sneaking up on us it’ll probably be used as motivation. I feel like we have a lot to play for. I think the players feel like they have a lot to play for. What we do matters and we have an obligation to put our best foot forward, get out there, practice hard and put our best foot forward on Saturday. I think our guys have done that. We haven’t finished well the past two weeks but they’ve been competitive. The game last week was a lot more competitive than what the final score indicated. It’s not a moral victory to say we were in the game in the fourth quarter the past two weeks, that’s not my point. We are battling, but it’s not a winning effort.
On removing the first eight games on the defensive goals board
We are starting over. We have four games left so it’s a new season. That’s what our message was Sunday, We have to keep fighting and keep battling, stay united, keep practicing and keep improving.
On Ford Childress playing before the end of the season
It’s possible. In my opinion he didn’t do anything to lose the starting job. He’s going to have the opportunity to come back and we will have to evaluate him in practice. It has to be worth putting it out there on the football field. He’s not there this week. He will keep improving. We have three games, then an off week, then five weeks from now we will be playing our last regular season game, so we will see how it progresses. It might be next week but I don’t know.
On the mental toughness of a backup QB to be called into the game
You definitely need it. It’s what backups are. Whether you like the decision or not, you have to understand what your role is. We talk about that a lot as a team, what your role is, whether you’re a starter, a backup or a scout team player. You need to understand and accept what your role is so you can do everything that you can to help the team.
On the football facilities
Not to get into a lengthy discussion, but for me it affects recruiting. The more glitz and glamor you can do affects recruiting. We happen to be part of a conference that understands glitz and glamor and being an arms race. We have to be cognizant of that. What I deal with on a day-to-day basis is what our players deal with, which is meeting, lifting, eating and practicing. If you take that, you can figure out where I’m going with that.
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