MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media Tuesday.
The Texas Longhorns are coming to Morgantown this weekend. I know there is going to be a lot of excitement surrounding this game, as there should be with every Big 12 football game. Obviously, we are excited about having a night game after so many during the day. Our guys are going to be pretty excited about the atmosphere that is going to be in Morgantown Saturday night. It is going to be good for the fans, players, Morgantown and all of West Virginia.
Texas is coming in on a roll. We know that they have won the last five. We can talk about their early season struggles if you want, but what I do is look at their last game and go back from there. This shows what kind of improvements they have made and how their team has changed. This allows me to get a bead on what they do on all three sides of the ball. They are playing with a lot of energy. (Texas head coach) Mack Brown has done a great job at rallying the troops and has those guys playing at a very high level. You can see the excitement on tape. They are playing together with a lot of confidence and have won some big games. Texas will be challenge to not only our players but our coaches.
Offensively, they have settled in to who they are. They are a physical team. Probably the most physical team we have played up until this point. Texas has a lot of depth, as they have been preparing for Big 12 football for quite some time. They have settled in at quarterback with (Texas senior quarterback) Case McCoy. They are like nine other teams in the Big 12 who have had quarterback issues like ourselves, whether it is because of injuries or productivity. He (Case McCoy) is getting better with each snap, and they rely on him to run the offense. Texas is good up front. They have three running backs that are all capable of being the starter. (Texas sophomore running back) Johnathan Gray is really a good football player. Receiver wise you can say that they have (Texas junior wide receiver) Jaxon Shipley and (Texas senior wide receiver) Mike Davis, but they have six other guys that are productive as well. I studied their offense a week ago preparing for TCU’s defense. What I saw was them developing the run and then taking shots down field. Every time they took a shot down field, there was a different number catching the ball. They do not have one guy to cover, you have to cover them all. They have lots of depth and skill.
Defensively, they have not changed their scheme too much. They have changed a little bit in the back end as they will play a lot of man coverage. (Texas defensive coordinator) Greg Robinson and I went up against each other when I was at Texas Tech. His defense now resembles what they were doing years ago. They have a lot of experience, with mainly the same guys we went up against last year. They are fast, can cover, big up front, rush the quarterback well. We know what we are getting ourselves into. They are doing some different things that we recognize. The biggest thing that they are doing with the unit is playing harder with great effort. When you have kids that play hard on all three sides of the ball, you are in position to win some games.
Special teams they are sound. (Texas special teams coach) Duane Akina has been there a long time. They are similar to TCU and Kansas State, where they are sound in all areas. We are going to have to be sound in our coverage units, because they have good skill returning kicks. The Penn State transfer (Texas senior kicker) Anthony Fera is good and has only missed one kick all year. All phases of special teams are going to be a challenge for us.
It is going to be fun. I think everyone knows that, and it will be a good time. We know that and our guys will not need extra motivation this week. Like we did last week, we will try to get better and show improvement.
On changes in Texas defense
They have simplified things. Before they would try different things on third down by getting into different fronts. It comes down to getting off blocks, holding your gaps, playing with effort, being physical and making tackles. They have gotten better in all those things.
The scheme has not changed much. You cannot change things a lot, because guys can get confused which leads them to not play very hard. What it looks like is they have reduced what they do. The biggest thing is getting guys out there to just play, which is something they have accomplished.
On changes to West Virginia offense
We are trying to show improvement. There are so many guys who have not played. You need to have some success in order to build your confidence up and be productive. If we do have the right frame of mind, the right attitude and the effort to keep playing, then eventually the continuity will get better.
Things are starting to come together. You can easily go back just as much as you went forward so we need to get back to practice; building unity, continuity, trust and try to show improvement. That is what is important to me, and I think we accomplished that last week.
On West Virginia offensive personality
Our struggles last year were mainly because we could not run the ball very well. Going back and studying the tape last year against Texas, we ran the ball well. Why that did not carry over to the next couple of games I am not sure. The next week we go to Texas Tech, and we could not run the ball which was a problem.
I think this year we are running the ball pretty well. What Texas is trying to do offensively is similar to what we are trying to do offensively. Neither one of us have a quarterback, and the mindset upfront, that we can sit in the pocket for four seconds and go through five different reads. Both of us have the ability to do it if we are not running the ball very well. We are both going to try to establish the run and make plays down field in the pass game.
On improvement in offensive line
We challenged them to be physical upfront. We felt like we could be the more physical team, and we were. Our success running the ball has a lot to do with our offensive line coming off the ball. That is why I made (West Virginia redshirt junior offensive lineman) Mark Glowinski
and (West Virginia redshirt junior offensive lineman) Quinton Spain
players of the week. We were pulling those guys a lot, and they were pretty physical. Defensively, we hit the quarterback 21 times, and they averaged two yards a rush. I think we won the battle upfront on both sides of the ball which is a winning performance.
It is going to have to happen again this week. Last year when we played Texas we won the game upfront. We will not win the game with skill guys, because they are very talented at those positions, as well as upfront. If you win the line you have a chance to win the game.
Obviously, it is something that we are focused on. I was happy that it happened. I think everybody understands that we do not have the skill guys right now to dominate games like you have seen. Hopefully, we do towards the end of the year.
He has been suspended indefinitely, and we will revisit the situation after the season is over.
On West Virginia offensive direction
I would say we have made improvement on all three sides of the ball. If people say we are playing at our highest level defensively I would beg to differ. You are looking at a team where improvement means something to them. They play with unity and want to continue to grow.
We are not going to win the Big 12, and we understand that. We just want to improve and win the next game. If we get closer to making a bowl game we will approach that when the time comes, but we are not at that point right now.
On Texas football lifestyle
When you are dealing with the University of Texas, it is the central figure of the whole state, which is extremely populated. You do not have to go very far to recruit. We do not need to talk about the facilities, resources and advantages that they have. The type of kid they are getting has been playing since 7th grade. They get an hour a day for an entire year to play football in addition to 18 spring practices.
They go from an athletic period for an hour to practice. Their numbers are huge, with thousands of kids in the schools. Their coaches as some of the best so you are getting a lot of development. Does that top them out before they get college? I do not think so. It gives them the access to improve their skill.
They have an actual period where they can do whatever coaches want them to do for an hour. My daughter is in 8th grade and is doing it now. She is practicing basketball from eight to nine then she practices basketball after school. They spend a lot of time.
On teams injuries
(West Virginia senior linebacker) Doug Rigg
’s head is preventing him from playing. I know he is on the shelf for a few weeks which could mean the end of the season. It is unfortunate, because he was playing pretty good. He played a couple of snaps last week and struggled. It is a serious subject so he will sit out.
(West Virginia redshirt freshman quarterback) Ford Childress
is making progress. Everyone else is day – to – day. We will see how they perform in practice to see how many reps they can take. Guys like (West Virginia freshman cornerback) Daryl Worley
, (West Virginia sophomore cornerback) Ricky Rumph
, (West Virginia junior defensive end) Dontrill Hyman
and (West Virginia junior wide receiver) Kevin White
are injured. It is that time of year, and you will have ankles and bruises. So you have to fight through it and spend a lot of time in the training room and weight room to get out there and practice.
On (West Virginia senior linebacker) Doug Rigg
I feel bad for him. He has been productive for us this year. On a positive note, he has had the opportunity to play. He had the opportunity to play Big 12 football his senior year, it did not work out, but he tried.
On (West Virginia redshirt senior running back) Charles Sims impact on teammates
(West Virginia freshman running back) Wendell Smallwood
does everything Charles does. Charles is such a great kid, but he does not talk. He is petrified of a presentation he has to make. His attitude is so good. The way he approaches every day in the weight room, film room and practice field. He plays with as much effort as he possibly can and that is rubbing off on everyone on the team. Even defensive guys point it out. He is a special player and kid, and I am glad he is here.
On difficulty of learning offense for (West Virginia redshirt junior quarterback) Clint Trickett
It is different for quarterbacks. He (Trickett) reacts to the game of football well. It is frustrating for me and him to have miscommunication. There are a lot of issues that are not going to get ironed out until the offseason. This will allow him to watch film and learn from his mistakes. With that said, last week he played his best quarter of football in the 4th quarter after a horrible 3rd quarter. That is because he does not get rattled and reacts to the game of football well. Which is one thing I love about him. He does not always understand what we are talking about, or where we want him to go with the ball, but he reacts well to the game of football and coaching well.
We need to get four quarters of what he did in the 4th last week in order to win on Saturday.
He did good last week going six - for – six. Special teams has been good for us now. I have had to talk about losing efforts from special teams in the past but that was not the case last week. We had good coverage. (West Virginia sophomore punter) Nick O’Toole did not have his best game last week. Overall, we are doing well on kicking and covering punts.
The return game is not going the way we want it to. We did not get the opportunities we wanted last week but it is not hurting us. The PAT field going combined with the winning kick that is pretty good.
On lack of offensive skill players
We do not have the players we want yet. I am very comfortable with the bodies we have, and they are going to develop. In the past, I have always been fortunate enough to have guys that have already developed for a year or two.
We have not had our hands on this group of guys long enough yet to develop them yet. (West Virginia junior wide receiver) Mario Alford
made three huge catches last week. He is going to get better and better every week. (West Virginia freshman wide receiver) Daikiel Shorts
had another great day. (West Virginia junior wide receiver) Kevin White
did not play great, but he was being covered by an All-American. So these guys are developing and will continue to get better.