Holgorsen News Conference: Towson
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen met with members of the media, today, in the Milan Puskar Center Team Room.
Moving on to our next opponent, Towson, we have some information on them. We probably have more than you do. We just got some of it today. First and foremost, I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to be able to play a home game, especially a night game, in Morgantown. Our guys are excited to run out under the lights. We’ve seen some of the new stuff that’s been done at the stadium, and I think the fans will be excited.
One quick reference to our fan support last week, I thought it was great. Coming out during pregame and going onto the field for the first time, our players were pretty fired up to see all of the people who made the trip down to Atlanta. It made a big difference. I thought it was great. Saturday night, we are expecting a good crowd with a lot of excitement and energy. I think we are almost out of our student tickets; they’ve been requesting them. I’m pretty fired up to go out there and play the game.
The biggest thing that stands out about Towson is how they did last year. They beat UConn, then they dropped a couple close games in the middle of the season, but then they made a pretty good run towards the playoffs. They won some huge games in the playoffs in tough places to play. At Eastern Illinois, their quarterback was a good player. Watching that tape, I could tell they won a big game there. They went out to Eastern Washington, which is almost an impossible place to win. They went and lost to North Dakota State, who we know is pretty good. They’ve won five years in a row against a 1A opponent, the most recent being Iowa State, who is a pretty good opponent. They play in a good conference. It’s going to be a challenge for us to step up and play these guys. They’re used to winning, and they’re pretty good.
Their offense lost their back from last year, Terrance West, and he had 2,500 yards last year. That’s good for us. They missed him last Saturday. However, they have an experience quarterback who has been in the program for three years, Connor Frazier, who does a great job running the system. They’ve had the same system for some time, about six or seven years. Rob Ambrose has built the program. He was at UConn prior to that as an offensive coordinator, so he’s familiar with West Virginia. He was a player at Towson. It means a lot to him to get the program going, and it’s obviously going in the right direction.
They replaced all five of their offensive linemen and also their tight ends from last year. They are returning some skilled running backs, who are a little undersized, but quick. They have a good overall team speed. They’ll be multiple with what they do offensively.
Defensively, they have six returning starters. The thing that stands out about them is their front. Their front is enormous. Their best guy is number 56 (Ryan Delaire). The guy can come off the edge. He had two or three sacks last week and 15 or 16 last year. He was their best player last year. He does a great job. They’re pretty basic, and they base out of a 4-3 front. They’re not incredibly multiple with their schemes. They just try to keep the ball in front of them and tackle well. They did a good job of that last year.
The return guy, Derrick Joseph, they list him as being 5’8” and 145 pounds. That guy is quick. He does a good job in kick returns. Much like it was last week, it will be a challenge to keep those guys under control.
We’re fired up about getting started this week.
On things needing change from last week
The biggest thing from last week that we were happy with on all three sides of the ball was our excitement level to play the game. It was off the charts. Our energy throughout the course of the game was at an all-time high. The effort that our guys played with was exactly what we wanted. I told them Sunday that they set the standard of how they are going to play all year. If they can keep up the effort, energy and that excitement, then we will have a good year. There are a lot of things that we need to correct after game one, as everyone does. The one thing that stood out was how we played, not necessarily the result of the game. If we can play like that all year, then we will win a lot of games.
On comparing the Alabama game to the Oklahoma game last year
I don’t think this game on Saturday was a sloppy game. We had one turnover. We didn’t execute on third downs, and they did. That was the difference. Last year against Oklahoma, that was a sloppy game. We had issues with excitement, effort and energy that game. It was spotty. I didn’t see that on Saturday night.
On how challenging an FCS team can be
James Madison beat Virginia Tech. Delaware knows Navy beat them. Villanova beat Temple and should have beat Syracuse. That was a double overtime game. The list goes on and on. William and Mary almost beat Maryland last year. There are lots of examples, and I’ve gotten them written down. I’ll make sure our team is aware of it. It happens every year. It probably happened last week. I know there were some close games. North Dakota state is obviously one everybody talks about. Other than that, there are probably two or three one-point wins here and there. You have to respect your opponent.
On the quarterback blitz
It’s the speed of the game. We didn’t turn our guys loose on blitzes to knock our quarterbacks out during practice. That’s just something that you can’t duplicate. We will get that cleaned up. Alabama’s quarterback was elusive. He did a good job. We’re going to play quarterbacks that are elusive and athletic.
I thought (defensive coordinator Tony) Gibson called a good game. I really did. Pass rush issues still exist, but I view them as better schematically with getting guys there free. You have to pull the trigger. We had some guys who just missed.
Offensively, we had some dropped balls on third downs. Those are critical situations. There were two or three times when I should have called better plays. There were two or three third downs when coach Gibson would have liked to call something different. We’re not going to point fingers at one person or another, but those things stand out.
I was happy. They threw the ball to number nine a good bit. Daryl was covering him. I thought he held his own. He got beat a couple times and missed a few tackles, but he is young, and he will continue to get better the longer he’s around.
Karl was around the ball a lot. We made the decision to move him down a lot more, so he’s going to be around the ball a lot more. They went to his side a good bit. I was happy with what he did.
(Redshirt junior linebacker) Nick Kwiatkoski and (redshirt senior linebacker Wes) Tonkery were around the ball a bunch. We need some of the other guys to get around it, too. We had some guys who were stuck on blocks.
On the rush defense
I thought it was defense. What we weren’t happy with was what Alabama did in the passing game. They did a good job of taking care of the ball. We needed to get there quicker, which we didn’t. Our rushing defense gave up some yards, but their backs were pretty good. I thought we handled it pretty well. There were a couple of times that wore us down. That’s what they did to everybody. Oklahoma got loose on us late last year, but I didn’t see that this time. Their scheme is good and their backs are great, so they could do that.
On third downs
It’s a critical situation, and good teams are good in critical situations. If you look at championship teams, they’re good in critical situations. I talked about critical situations a lot. Third downs, fourth downs, score zones and the end of the game are all things I’ve touched on. They’ve got to get better in those situations. Good players are good in those situations. We did well in the first half. We made those critical plays and did well on third downs. Guys have to rise up and make plays. Good players are good in key situations. They had a bunch of guys who were good in those. I think we’re getting closer. I thought (redshirt senior quarterback) Clint (Trickett) was great on third downs. I thought our offensive line was good too. We ran it right up the middle for a couple short third down runs and got the first down. You’ve just got to make the play.
On time of possession
What’s more alarming than that is the amount of plays that they had compared to the amount of plays that we had. The amount of plays that we had were good for the amount of possessions we had, with the exception of the fourth quarter. We went three-and-out twice, and they were both in the fourth quarter. That quarter, offensively, was bad. The first three quarters, when we had the ball, we had sustained drives. We didn’t finish very well, but we had sustained drives. Our plan was to go fast. We felt like we had to. That was on purpose. I thought we executed it well. We didn’t finish very well. We all would have liked to have a couple touchdowns in the score zone. Their time of possession is what they do to everybody. They’re going to go slow, grind you out and hurt you on third downs. If we don’t like the number of plays that they played, then when it’s third down we need to stop them. Then we get the number of plays, and they don’t. Time of possession isn’t alarming to me. Inefficiency on third down is alarming to me. The overall number of plays is alarming to me. That’s just what they do.
On the offensive line against Alabama
I thought all five linemen played well. I thought we played well in the first half. We came out and played nasty. We had like seven knockdowns, and we were taking some of their guys and driving them into the ground. Second half, our guys got challenged a little bit. We did not have that production in the second half. A lot has been said about our run game, and the lack of run game. Something has to be said about their guys getting off blocks and making plays, and they did a better job of that in the second half than they did in the first half. Mark (Glowsinski) and Quinton (Spain) both played well. Tyler Orlosky was solid, other than the one snap where he got spooked. With the tackles, I thought they held up, which was one of the concerns we had going into the game. They played well. They set the bar where they will need to play like, and we're looking forward to seeing if they do it again next week.
On the mental state of the team after the loss against Alabama
They came out determined - is what they came out. They were disappointed. Coaches were disappointed, players were disappointed. I wanted it for the fan base really bad. They're disappointed. The whole moral victory thing is - if we wanted a moral victory and pats on the back, then we accomplished our goal. If we want to win championship, which is what we talk about, then the determination needs to translate into a victory the next time you line up. What I sense - and we'll find out Saturday - but what I sense is that this group that is disappointed but have put it behind them and are determined to move forward and work hard this week to put ourselves in position to win.
On the run game against Alabama
They're just hard to run against. We had about 50 yards in the first half. We pulled it, and threw the screen passes, which technically is a run play. A couple of those plays down field were run plays - we just pulled it and threw it down that way. It wasn't a winning performance, but it's hard to line up an average five, six yards a play against those guys. They're big. They've got great depth. - they played 12 defensive linemen. They've got great depth, and they get off blocks. We could have probably called a few more run plays, but I was happy with what it was. It opened up some of the pass-game numbers.
On correcting dropped passes
You've got to work at it. It hasn't been an issue. I haven't made a big deal about it. It has not been an issue. It's the same way how we need to make better calls in certain situations. We focus on it, we work at it, and we have confidence that things are going to work out. We go out there, and we expect them to happen. Alabama expects good things to happen. They've won a lot of games. How many games have they've lost in five years? So they expect good things to happen. Our job as coaches is to get our players to expect good things to happen, give them confidence and put people out there who we know can make the play.
On the number of players who saw action on Saturday
Our overall number was 56 or 57 - that's a healthy number. You consider that you're traveling 70 guys. Well, five linemen are backups so they may not play. Some of the guys are redshirting. I think that's very healthy number. I think 55 is kind of what you're aiming for.
On freshman linebacker Xavier Preston seeing action
He took one snap. He had one heck of a tackle. It was just in the end zone, so they counted it as a touchdown. It looked like he had good pop, he butted the guy up. He will continue to get more reps. He's going to be a good player.
On freshman safety Dravon Henry's first game
Good. He was a step slow at stuff. What I'm looking at is number 26 for Alabama (Safety Landon Collins) who is an All-American, third-year starter. Watching him, he's quicker reaction wise. He's got a little bit more pop. Dravon had a good game. He played well. He was a little bit out of position at times. He was a step slow at times. He didn't have as much pop. But the good news is what I look at from Alabama's number 26 is probably what we're going to see out of our number six here the near future.
On sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley
Number nine for Alabama (wide receiver Amari Cooper) might be the first overall pick in the draft. He was a really good player. He got his. He caught the ball, and he got open. Daryl held his own. Daryl held his own, and Daryl is going to be a great player for us.
On the defensive line against Alabama
We need more pressure from our defensive line. We need more d-line. He (Alabama quarterback Blake Sims) was more elusive than I thought he was. He did a good job of getting away from stuff. What's more concerning to me is getting some of some of more skilled linebackers and safeties to where they can get there. They didn't finish the play. That's alarming to me, because we are going to face guys that are elusive.
On if Alabama played more zone defensively than what was expected
No. It was about what we thought. They've been doing the same thing defensively for about five, six, seven years. We were prepared for what they did. Good teams on defense don't have to do a whole bunch of stuff. They just beat you with technique.
On sophomore running back Rushel Shell's ability to catch passes out of the backfield
If you really paid attention to what we do, regardless if we're one back or two back, those guys might be in protection, but they may be in route running as well. That's why (sophomore running back) Wendell's (Smallwood) role is so big. He can get involved in the passing game with whatever we want him to do. Rushel is not there yet, but that's why he's playing as much as he is because he is able to run with authority, as we know he can. He's able to pass protect because he's physical. And, the surprising thing is that he can get out into the flats, catch a ball, make a guy miss, run a guy over and give you an explosive play. I think we're all excited about seeing that.
On junior linebacker Isaiah Bruce
He did a good job on special teams. We thought that Golson, Kwiatkoski and Tonkery had phenomenal camps. They played a bunch of snaps, and they played pretty good. We've talked to Isaiah. If he wants to see the field more, then he needs to show us that he's ready to step up and see the field. That goes with all backups. Right now, you know who the backups are. It's their job to compete and show us that they can play more.
On injuries suffered against Alabama
None. We came out really healthy. There is nobody that's in a green jersey who was not prior in a green jersey.
On sophomore wide receiver Daikiel Shorts
Squirt (Jordan Thompson) had a good game. The one catch was off the charts. He made a couple really good plays. He made some great catches and had a chance to make some huge catches. We evaluated Daikiel, as well. Daikiel was the next guy in.
He played good, and he's fine.
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