Dana Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media Tuesday. The Mountaineers play at Kansas Saturday, Nov. 16 at noon, ET, on FSN.
We are moving on to Kansas. First I have one quick note on the game (against Texas) after studying all three sides of the ball. I was very proud of how our guys fought and the effort they played with. It was the best that is has been all year, even going back to the last couple of years. Our guys fought hard and that was the most disappointed locker room I’ve ever been a part of. We can’t let it beat us twice, so we took it easy on them Sunday night with treatment.
We will be back to work today. We are pretty beat up, its game 11, I think everyone is beat up at this point. We will be smart this week. We have a lot of guys who are approaching a lot of snaps. Especially on the o-line, a couple running backs and some defensive guys, some of them have played a ton of snaps. We need to prepare to beat Kansas, it’s going to be a challenging game for us. They have been playing a lot better. Especially defensively, they’ve been playing a lot better. Their last three games they have played, they’ve held their opponents to around 300 yards. Considering two of those to be against Texas and Oklahoma State.
They’ve played six really good teams in a row and have played competitive. We’ve got our hands full. We need to move forward. We still are playing for something. It’s at the point, where I’m talking about bowl games. We need to win the next two to go to a bowl game. We have around 12 seniors, they deserve that. The disappointment in our locker room on Saturday was tremendous because our guys care. They’re in-tune to what we’re doing around here, they recognize who we are, and where we need to be going from here. I anticipate getting the same work ethic and effort out of the guys this week that we’ve had the past couple weeks. We travel to Lawrence and we will play a team that is improving.
Offensively, they’ve (Kansas) been spotty, another situation where they have been playing two quarterbacks. What they do with the two is different. They have the (Jake Heaps) kid, who’s a pocket guy and comes in to throw it around. He’s got a couple of weapons. The two who we are concerned about last year, (James Sims) who’s a running back and (Tony Pierson) who’s a receiver. Then when they put (Montell Cozart) in it turns into more of a running quarterback game. They are going to utilize him to try and move the ball forward. We need to recognize what their plan is going to be. They switch up what their plans on are on a week-to-week basis so we need to discover early in the game what their plan of attack is going to be and make some adjustments on the sidelines to defend that. Defensively, they are playing well. They’re playing with tremendous effort, and their defense is keeping them in games. They are really good against the run. They’re going to play similar to Texas last week. They are going to try to outnumber us in the box. Their corners and safeties are going to try and man you up. Teams have been having trouble getting behind them in those situations. We have to figure out a way to run the ball. When we have the chances to make the plays down the field with three receivers we need to do a better job of that than we did last week.
Special teams, they’ve got a great punter, he’s averaging about 45 yards a kick, and several of those have gone 70 yards. They’ve got several guys in the backfield returning kicks, so we need to be conscious about that. Overall, it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
We lost Jared Barber for the year. It’s disappointing, I think he had another 14 tackles in the game on Saturday. He was playing at an extremely high level, the effort was great, his attitude is tremendous. He’s been one of the team leaders for us on defense. He’s out with an ACL. He’ll have surgery in the next week, we’ll lose him for the next six months. KJ Dillon just got released from the hospital. He has severe dehydration, which his body had an adverse reaction to. He was in ICU for a couple days, he’s just getting out of the hospital now but he’s on the shelf for the rest of the season. Doug Rigg is still going to be out, his head is still not close to where it needs to be. Clint Trickett’s shoulder is fine, his head is in a much better spot on Sunday and Monday. We will anticipate him being in practice today and will see how he reacts to it. It’s going to be non-contact with the quarterback. But we are going to see how he reacts to tests that they give him after today’s and tomorrow’s practice. There’s 20 other people on the list that are day-to-day, we will see them in practice and see how they do.
On how the depth of injuries has affected play
There’s a lot of guys who have played meaningful snaps, whether in this year or in previous years, that are out. We aren’t going to use that as an excuse though. We need guys like Marvin Gross, Jeremy Tyler, Darrien Howard, and Daryl Worley to play more snaps. You have to get guys like Ricky Rumph and Brandon Napoleon ready, who haven’t played much, because they had a little knick here and there. They aren’t hurt, they just need to go out there and play through it, which is harder for younger guys. Worley did it, and we were happy with it, those other guys need to do it too. Depth is a problem to where the number of snaps is piling up. Karl Joseph, Darwin Cook, Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell are playing their tails off, but their snaps are adding up. We just have to be smart with how we approach this week. We can’t go out there and run 40 plays against each other Tuesday and Wednesday like we have been. We have to be smarter with our approach. Thankfully, these guys have a lot of experience and have a lot of practice snaps. We just need to get them through the game and keep them healthy, as well as getting the younger guys to grow up. It’s their time to be healthy and play ball.
On the rotation at linebacker with Jared Barber out
Nick Kwiatkoski has played at an extremely high level. We are thankful that he has. Tyler Anderson is going to get snaps inside. We’ve moved him all-around. He’s been playing fantastic on special teams. Jewone Snow had his best game on special teams, he’ll get reps. Sean Walters is another young guy that needs to step up. They don’t have the experience to have been playing at the level that Barber and Rigg have. They need to take advantage of this opportunity and play ball.
On if there is anyone else whose redshirt they would burn this year
No, it’s backup guys like Tyler Anderson, Jewone Snow, Eric Kinsey, Darrien Howard, Noble Nwachukwu needs to step up. We have bodies. Are they seasoned vets? No, but you have to line them up and they need to go play.
On his decision on who is playing center
Not yet. We got good quality snaps out of both of them. Tyler Orlosky has played very well when he’s gone in, but Pat Eger is what makes us tick upfront. Our guard play with Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski is so good that we don’t need Pat to take snaps at guard. He’s more comfortable at center. We will get out there, practice for a few days and see how it goes. We are going to need both of them to play center for a variety of reasons and a variety of games.
On how close they are to being a winning team
I think we are close. I think we’ve been close all year. We are playing quality teams. We are getting better. We are playing a lot of young guys. I’m hoping it happens this year. We talked about it Sunday night and our goal is to go win this one, take a week off to get refreshed, go win the next one, take a few weeks off to get refreshed and then go win a bowl game. If we do that it’ll be similar to what happened last year.
On what it takes to close out games
The margin of error is very slim. When you play good football teams, you have to perform at a very high level every week, otherwise you’ll get beat. It’s no different this week going to Kansas. We’ve been there, I can give you a bunch of reasons why. The only one I’ll give you is to put the blame on me. I’ll try and do something different to put ourselves over the hump. I’ve been saying all year long, we’re close. If I had the answer, I would’ve put in place a long time ago. The one thing that I’m thankful for though is that the players are attentive. They’re playing hard. I think people can see that and appreciate that guys are getting out there and playing hard and it means something to them. I’ve never been part of a locker room that was as disappointed, which means they care, and they’re trying. I can sleep at night, because of it. It doesn’t make that loss any easier, but I can sleep at night because of it. The coaches are trying, and the players are trying. We remain united, we have a plan, and we are trying to build something bigger than lining up a team to beat Texas. We are going to stay on course, line up, hopefully get the same energy and effort this week to get the win.
On repping Logan Moore at quarterback
You can barely rep two quarterbacks, let alone three. He takes individual reps and scout team reps. He would’ve been the guy to go in there in an emergency. We expect Clint to come back. Ford’s closer to 90 percent now, so he will start repping this week. Whether that’s good enough for them to be meaningful, I’ll have to see, but he’s getting closer, and we will be alright.
On if younger guys on offense are “getting it”
Mario Alford had his best game all season. That made me smile, maybe for the first time all year, when he took a routine play and made a big play out of it. He’s getting comfortable out there. Daikiel Shorts has taken a whole lot of steps as a true freshman to get better. He’s going to need an offseason to continue to mature and get bigger, faster, and stronger to where I think he can be dominant receiver in this league.
On if the team may take the next two games for granted
I wouldn’t think so. We’ve been in a bad place this year as well. They’re no different than any other team in the Big 12. If you look at the games they’ve played, they have been playing with a ton of effort. You can see how close Iowa State was to beating Texas, or how close Kansas was to beating Texas last year. It sounds so silly to say but at 4-6, if we think we have any chance of just showing up and beating anyone in college football, then you have another thing coming, especially against two teams in the Big 12 that are looking for a win.
On Kansas’ offensive struggles
Nothing surprises me when it comes to offensive struggles this year. They are well coached. They come up with a different plan every week. I’ve studied them about four or five times pretty closely because the teams we’ve already played have played Kansas. They have different plan of attack every time they line up. They’re looking for an identity on offense like many Big 12 teams are when you play two different quarterbacks who do different things for you. They have a few different guys like Sims and Pierson that scare you. The quarterback has some athletic ability. We are going to have to identify what their plan of attack is, talk about it on the sidelines, and change our defensive attack or communicate what they are trying to get done.
On being caught off guard by a different offense
It’s still football, you need 11 people, seven of them on the line of scrimmage. I don’t really know how many different things they can come up with. They’ll probably try to reinvent the wheel, but whatever they come up with has already been done.
On Kansas and WVU’s use of JUCO transfers
The only other team that attacked junior college transfers more than us was probably Kansas. Looking on their two-deep, they play a lot of bodies on defense. You see all those guys they recruited a variety of times. As far as we are concerned, we did it for a reason, and it’s worked out well for us. The issue is like when you get guys like Dontrell, Brandon and Mario, a lot of those guys didn’t join us until August. You can throw Charles Sims and Clint in there. It’s a big thing to get guys like Kevin White and Dreamius Smith already playing at a high level for us in January, you can coach them and get them ahead. But you still need those game reps to get them playing at a high level. There’s another seven or eight guys this year that didn’t come up until August. It’s tough, but we did it for a reason.
On moving Mario Alford to outside receiver
I kick myself for not doing it earlier. When we recruited him we thought that he was like a Tavon Austin kind of guy. He played a lot of running back and they moved him around. But looking back at it. Tavon was a junior when I got here and he was there in the spring. I’m not comparing him to Tavon, which would be ridiculous. We had Tavon all spring and his junior year wasn’t that great. He only had I think two receiving touchdowns until the Orange Bowl. He got more comfortable and better with the system. It’s harder to play inside than outside. We finally got smart and moved him to outside. He got real comfortable and has been getting better every week. What he did on Saturday was good to see, but he’s been heading in that direction ever since we moved him there.
On the largest benefit of going to a bowl game
It’s a reward for the seniors. That’s the number one thing. You can say it’s for development, you can say it’s for recruiting, to go win one and get a trophy in the case. That’s all good, and it’s a good experience for everyone. But a reward for the seniors is the most important. We have 12 seniors who have been fantastic. You’re talking about guys who have been through a lot of transition from coaching staff and conferences. Guys like Will, Pat, Darwin and Curtis Feigt. Charles has been phenomenal in his one year. Nick Kindler is playing well. Ivan McCartney has been through a lot. You have guys who want to keep playing. Being able to get them to a bowl game is big and the developmental process is important. How you do in a bowl game is the basis for if you get eight or ten practices is important.
On if going to a bowl game is expected as part of the program
It is, I’ve been to 13 consecutively. That’s definitely what the expectation is. We are going to do everything in our power to get there. We are going to put forth effort, try hard, coach hard and hopefully put it all together and play hard to win the next two games. It’s certainly the expectation here, and it should be.
On WVU President Jim Clements’ departure for Clemson
I was watching film yesterday when I got the news. It’s disappointing news to hear for WVU. Jim’s a great ally, a great friend. He’s done a tremendous job for WVU. We thank him for all of his support and hard work, and we wish him the best at Clemson.
On the defense’s level of play
For 12 series against Texas, they played as good as they possibly have been. Offensively, we put them in as bad of situations as you could with our ball security issues and problems at quarterback. With that said, they played phenomenal. They gave up 13 points in two and a half quarters. If you want to be a great defense, that has to continue. You can’t have four straight series where they complete third-and-long plays, run right past you and score. That’s not me pointing the finger at them at all. They bailed us out for two and a half quarters. We had a chance offensively to seal the game at the end. There’s fault to go around. If you want to be a great offense, you get them off the field when we have a 10-point lead or three-point lead. You want to be a great offense, but it never gets to that point. We could’ve sealed the game at the end, we could’ve scored in overtime, there’s plenty for the offense to work on as well.
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