MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Select members of the West Virginia University football team met with the media on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, at the Milan Puskar Center Team Room.
Assistant coach (offensive coordinator) Shannon Dawson
On the offense’s execution
I thought overall there were a lot more positives than negatives. We’re by far where we want to be, especially in critical situations. For the most part, I thought our execution was pretty good, and the ball was going where it needed to go. Obviously, there were times when kids failed to execute properly – whether that was the quarterback, an offensive linemen, or a receiver. We’re not going to be 100 percent in every game, but I thought we executed pretty well and gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game. Obviously, we need to score more points, and we need to score touchdowns. Against a good team, we can’t get down there and settle for field goal after field goal like we did this past weekend. We were happy with the way we put ourselves in those positions, but we were very upset with the way we executed in those critical downs.
On lack of execution in the red zone
I think it was probably a mixture of both coaching and players, and that’s probably true in every game. There were a couple of times where we put them in perfect situations, and there were a couple of times where we could have done a better job with understanding the situation and what Alabama’s defense was going to do. We knew we were going to have to win some one-on-one matchups outside. We were doing the things we were talking about doing, we just failed to execute at certain points. We just have to do a better job at throwing and catching. When they load the box like that we have to make some plays. For the most part we did, but we have to do a better job in situations where things get tight and things get critical.
On wide receiver drops
Sometimes kids drop the ball. There were very tight windows. Sometimes it’s on you, but sometimes the safety is breathing down your neck. There are a lot of factors out there. The one thing I will say is I believe whole-heartedly that they are going to catch them most of the time. To have that many drops is an outlier in my opinion. Those kids aren’t going to have that many drops. The biggest thing we can do is not sit there and stress about it. It’s over. Whenever you make a bad pass or make a bad decision, or do anything negative, the best thing you can do is get over it and move on. We’re not going to sit there and point fingers and stress about what we did wrong as coaches and players. We’re going to learn from it and move on
Assistant coach (defensive coordinator) Tony Gibson
On the best thing he saw from the defense against Alabama
Effort. We played extremely hard. We didn’t play smart all the time. We made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of times where if we would have finished a play, we would have been off the field. I think they learned a lot from it watching film on Sunday. I told them playing hard is great, but we have to play smarter.
On getting pressure on the quarterback
If you go back and watch the film we dialed in six different blitzes, and we had one guy come free, and we couldn’t make the play, so we were 0-for-6. We had a guy come in clean, not even blocked, so it’s disappointing, but we’re going to learn from it. I think sometimes you get so amped up in that environment, and that type of game and that type of atmosphere. I don’t know if the kids were a little nervous or they were scared to make a mistake or what it was, but we played hard. It was good film to watch and learn from. Hopefully there will be a vast improvement.
On Towson’s offense
They have a very athletic quarterback. He can hurt you with his feet. The tailback’s good. He’s a little guy, about 5-7, 210 pounds, but he runs extremely hard. Their fullbacks and tight end are back. Up front, everyone is new. They have one kid who has two starts. The quarterback is what makes them go. That kid played in the semifinals a year ago and brought them back. He has experience in big games.
On the Alabama game
I graded it myself, like I did for all of the games last season. We did a lot of good things, a lot of things that we weren’t able to do last year. We were able to push the tempo and do it efficiently. We have to do better in critical situations in the red zone and on third down. Those two got us. Other than that, we were pretty good, but those are called critical downs for a reason.
On game planning for critical downs
We do third-down days and red zone days just like everyone else. Obviously, each individual person knows that those were the things that hurt us, so maybe each person’s attention to it was a little higher. It was a first game, and those things are going to happen. And for a first game, it wasn’t too bad at all, but not good enough to get a win.
On the atmosphere of the season opener in Morgantown
It’s definitely going to help everyone, being the first home game and a night game. People are pretty excited about the team. It’s going to be a good feeling. Night games are special here for a reason, and hopefully this Saturday will be another example of that.
On his touchdown return against Alabama
My family was there. I was surprised when I broke loose, and beat the sideline. I couldn’t believe it. It was a great moment.
On his confidence level
This year I am more confident. This is my last year, and I am going to give it all I have. I am going to try and make a huge play every time the ball is in my hands.
On what to expect against Towson this upcoming week
We can not look down on anyone, just because they are a Division I FCS school. We just have to play our ball, and come out and do well.
On shifting the focus after an exciting Alabama game
We treat every game the same. We don’t look at anybody like we are going to blow them out of the water. We still prepare just like we prepare for everybody else. We treat every game the same.
On the excitement of the home opener this upcoming week
It’s going to be crazy. It is the first home game, opening home game at that.
On his performance during the Alabama game
I felt as if I played well, but there are definitely a lot of areas to improve on. I need to improve on blocking, and I need to move out faster on my releases. I need to be more conditioned as well.
On Towson’s defense
Their linebackers play well. They play the run very well, and play a lot of cover three. It’s going to be an interesting game, and we will see who will come out on top.
On his excitement to play a home game in Morgantown
This is a crazy place, with crazy fans. It’s definitely a game I am looking forward too, especially at night time.
On the running back rotation throughout the Alabama game last weekend
I thought they handled it well. Whoever has the hot hand should be in the game, and that’s the way it should be. At the end of the day, whatever the coaches say goes.
On his journey from high school to Morgantown
It has been interesting. I learned a lot from the whole gang here. I made a lot of friends, and I am happy where I am at and proud to be a Mountaineer.
On the Alabama Game
Obviously, we were expecting them to be pretty good, and they were like we thought they were going to be. We didn’t come out with the W, but I thought we were pretty physical. We have to give them credit.
On the Towson game
We take each game like we’re going to play the No. 1 team in the country, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re going to prepare the same way we would for any game. They happen to be our next opponent, we game planned for them today. They do some pretty good things. Their quarterback is a pretty good player, so we’re going to be excited to play this week.
On his performance against Alabama
I think I played decent. The first half he (Alabama’s center) and I were kind of feeling each other out, but towards the second half, I think that I handled him pretty well and did what I wanted to do against him, but it wasn’t enough to get the W I guess.
On the lack of pressure
We have to blitz a little better. Guys have to stay in their lanes, and we have to keep contain. If we can do that, we can get in there and get those sacks that we were lacking last game.
On his performance during the Alabama game
Some of my positives throughout the game were playing downhill and receiving recognition. My downfall was the conditioning aspect, and playing the whole game. I fell off towards the end. I could have done better on my jumps, but other than that it is hard to say.
On comparison of the Alabama run game throughout the season
Alabama’s running game was great. It’s hard to say. We haven’t moved passed Towson, and we are focusing on them right now. We could see someone like Alabama, but it’s hard to say right now.
On comparing last year to this year while watching the Alabama game film
There were some differences. Effort was the biggest improvement that I saw. First game mistakes were made, and we just want to improve on that.
On the Towson game this weekend
They have some players that can hurt us in the run game. As a defense, we have to know where the quarterback, running backs and receivers are at all times. They can hurt us on the ground and in the air. They have weapons, and they are fairly quick.
On replicating the teams excitement from this past weekend going into the Towson game
We just have to think of it as another game, and going against any other opponent like Alabama. We just need to go into this game and prepare the same as you would for Alabama.
On his match-up against Amari Cooper
It was a great match-up. I enjoyed it. He was a great guy, opponent and had great sportsmanship. He was everything he’s built up to be. It was a great experience for me being younger and being able to take on a player like that.
On his expectations moving forward
If anything, it boosted my expectations because of it. If I was able to go against a guy like that (Amari Cooper) every play then there is no reason why I shouldn’t take on any other player.
On what assistant coach Brian Mitchell said after watching the Alabama film
One thing that I have not been content with since the spring was my patience. I was overly anxious to go up against Alabama. I was overly ready in my head. It came back to bite me on some plays, but for the most part it was pretty even. There were plays where I pressed him (Amari Cooper), and I ended up being on top of him instead of being on his back hip. He ended up under cutting me, and he received the first down for the catch.
On if Amari Cooper was the best he seen thus far
Yes, he is the best I have seen thus far. Everyone has been asking me that. It was just the little things that he did right, whether it was from running or finishing a route. He kept me on my heels, and he did what he was supposed to do.
On his interception in the Alabama game
That was just me going through my reads, and that was something that we have been working on all week. I was expecting it to come, and I read it pre-snap. Once he shut his route down, I was ready to jump onto the other one.