Dana Holgorsen News Conference 9-3

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.- West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed the media today at the Milan Puskar Center.

Opening statement

We’re in week two and looking forward to competing in the Big 12. I’ve been asked a lot if I’m excited about playing Oklahoma week two or if I’d rather play them week 12. The truth is I’d rather play them never because they’re pretty good. I don’t know if it really matters to be honest with you. We’re excited about being able to travel to all the different venues in the Big 12. We got a lot out of that last year. We’re looking forward to hitting all five of the road games this year, so it starts in week two.

We’re going to prepare like we would for any other game. We’re going to have a good week at practice and travel on Friday. I’ll do my best with explaining to the guys exactly what to expect. It’s my job to prepare them - to not only tell them what they’re doing on all sides of the ball, but also this is a new experience for about 35 guys who will be traveling with us to Norman. That’s a lot of inexperience, but we won’t let them use it as an excuse. We didn’t let them use it as an excuse last week. We’ll do our best to help them understand how we travel and what to expect in Norman.

Oklahoma is very well coached. Bob Stoops has been there for 15 years. They addressed a lot of things in the offseason. I don’t think they liked how they ended the year last year, just like we didn’t. Defensively, they’re not going to sit on their heels. They’re going to attack. They’re going to apply pressure and play man coverage, which they’re good at. Offensively, they’re not the thrilling team that they have been the last several years. They’re going to run the ball. They’ve got capable backs, quality receivers and big fullbacks. The receivers aren’t getting the ball as much because their main focus is to get (quarterback Trevor) Knight the ball and establish the run. Everything they’re doing on special teams is different than last year. We will try to assess what changes have been made there.

It’s still Oklahoma. The atmosphere is rowdy and it’s loud. The people are right on top of you. They’re a lot like Oklahoma State’s venue. They have a winning tradition. We respect our opponent just like we always do, and we’ll go to Norman and try to win.

On the difference in QBs at WVU and Oklahoma

It’s pretty similar. Look at what we did last year. We were throwing the ball all over the place last year, and this year we’re running the ball a lot. They’ve got a lot of new faces. They’re going through the same things that we are. They’re asking Knight to do a lot (more) different things than we’re asking. I don’t think anyone is going to get a kick out of watching Paul Millard run the triple option or the speed option. There are obvious differences in what we’re asking from them. Not putting too much on the quarterback is important.

On Oklahoma’s offensive line

They’re big and athletic. They’ve got good depth. It looks like the same Oklahoma offensive line that I’ve looked at for 15 years. They put plenty of guys in the NFL. Their guys are 6’5”, 320-pounds. They’re big guys on the inside. Big, athletic and talented - the same it’s been for 15 years.

On Bill Bedenbaugh’s familiarity with Holgorsen’s offense

It goes way deeper than that. I’ve known a lot of these guys for 15 years. We’ve been to clinics together, and we hang out together. They know our offense better than anyone else out there. I don’t know what that’s going to do for them. You have to be careful with that. You have to be careful with your signals, your tendencies and your combinations because they understand it. They know us better than anyone in the country.

On Oklahoma and WVU’s similar offenses

It has been the same. There have been a lot of similarities. When you look at it, you come up with what you want to do offensively. You will see gradual changes in our offense and theirs with outside influences. You can see the changes when I went from Texas Tech to Houston, Houston to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State to West Virginia. The basis of the offensive structure is very similar. The formations are probably the same. I don’t know.

When you look at what their offense was like last week, there were a lot of sets that were the same and a lot of formations that were the same. It’s the same, but it’s also different as well. I don’t know if that’s an advantage or not. If it’s an advantage for them, it’s an advantage for us.

On the playing atmosphere at Oklahoma

I don’t think playing Texas last year gave us any advantage for this game. Each place is unique. I view Oklahoma as a hard place to play just like anywhere else. Hopefully, we have some guys who can just go out there and play and block all that stuff out and play ball. Is it hard to play there? Yeah. Is it hard to play in Texas? Yes. Is it an impressive place? Absolutely. It’s a very impressive place.

On the closeness of fans

It must be an Oklahoma thing. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa are all like that. I mean literally, the chairs are up against the wall and there are people right behind you. Is there a competitive disadvantage to it? No. It’s a distraction. There are many distractions you have to overcome on the road, and that’s one distraction we have to overcome.

On improvements needed after the William & Mary win

For the most part, we were pretty good. Halfway through the second half, we came out and played with more energy. We shut them out the second half, which was obviously important to win. You can say what you want about the first half. The second quarter was bad. Defensively, the first quarter was good and the second quarter was bad. Offensively, the first quarter was bad and the second quarter was atrocious.

You can say we played pretty well on defense with the exception of three plays. Well, three plays made us look really bad in the second quarter. If you want to be a good defense, you’ve got to cover. If you want to say we were good on defense with the exception of three plays, those three plays gave them 17 points, which is way too many.

On injuries

(Redshirt-senior linebacker) Dozie (Ezemma) broke his leg. He broke his leg and his foot. It got twisted up, and it was a bad break. He’s out and more than likely needs surgery. He’s a senior, so that’s a blow. He was a backup who played well, but more importantly he was on special teams and played a very important role.

(Redshirt-senior linebacker) Tyler Anderson came in and played for him, and he did a very good job. (He is) a guy that we weren’t planning on playing, and he went in and took some good snaps on defense. More importantly, he stepped in on special teams and played that role well. Dozie is the only one from the game that we can say is out.

Dozie, (sophomore cornerback) Nana (Kyeremeh), and (junior linebacker) Shaq (Petteway) are out for the season. (Junior wide receiver) Kevin White? I don’t know. We will find out today. He’s day-to-day, and hopefully we can get him back out there.

On Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight

He can run. He’s a talented guy. His completion percentage wasn’t very good, but when I watched the tape, he’s pretty good. He can throw. When you watched a guy in the past and said his completion percentage wasn’t great, he couldn’t throw. He’s a talented quarterback, and he’s going to get better and better. They’re going to rely on him to make plays in the run and passing games. Hopefully he doesn’t get things figured out this week. I would anticipate him figuring things out and being a very good quarterback for Oklahoma.

On redshirt-sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski

He brings toughness. He’s a smart player and was a close second to being our MVP this week. He’s a smart guy, he’s mature and he is physically impressive. He gives pop at the point of attack. Coach (Keith) Patterson was very happy with him. He brings an understanding of the game, which for a linebacker is very important because you have to be able to sort things out. We were very happy with his performance.

On sophomore safety K.J. Dillon

He had an OK day. We have to get more out of him. He played 12 snaps. We will use him in different situations like we did this week. William & Mary only came out in a position to use him five or six times. We didn’t get to use him very much. We will be able to use him at OU, and he will have a lot more opportunity to get in the game and show us what he’s got.

He needs to embrace the special teams role as well. He hasn’t done that up until this point, but he needs to this week. He can be a backup guy, but because he has the ability to make plays, we’re getting ready to make him the nickel guy as well. That’s a key with young safeties.

On the importance of different defensive roles this week

Linebackers are the most important with this OU quarterback. You have to be disciplined when there are 85,000 people yelling at you and you just got knocked down. You have to have the ability to understand what we’re trying to do defensively and execute your assignment.

Without mentioning names, there were a couple of guys last week that didn’t execute their assignment. There were some specific times in the first half when they were able to dump the ball for a first down, or they didn’t rush when they were supposed to rush, which would’ve gotten them to the quarterback before he could make the pass.

You can’t play defense with 10 guys. You’ve got to be able to play defense with 11 guys and make sure you’re executing your assignment when things are rough - that’s what mental toughness is all about.

On Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard

They use him similarly to how we use (redshirt-sophomore wide receiver) Cody Clay. He’s a good football player. You guys know how I feel about him; he’s a good football player. Trey has been there for four years. He’s tough. He can catch high and drive you to the ground. He’s hard to tackle. He’s important with what they’re trying to do. He’s 6’3” and 250-pounds. He’s extremely valuable, and he has been for them for several years. Even last year, when they were spreading the ball around, he was very important.

On how WVU needs to play against Oklahoma

You can’t ever play a perfect game. That’s impossible. We’re going to have to play well. I’ve been there four or five times, and they’re hard to beat at home. They’re hard to beat on the road. They’re a good football team and have been for the 15 years that Stoops has been there.

To ask our guys, especially those who are inexperienced, to play a perfect game - that’s impossible. It’s how you react to the mistakes. It’s how you react to having a holding call and being third-and-15. We’ve got inexperienced guys, but those guys need to grow up. They need to embrace the fact that they are being put in a challenging position, which I find to be opportunistic. To have the opportunity to play in front of thousands of fans and to be on national television and play against a very good opponent gives them all a chance to get better.

Our goal is to win one game a week. That’s all we said last week. We want to improve on all three sides of the ball. When I address the team today, I’m going to describe what they’re getting into and make sure they’re prepared to travel, line up and win the game. We’ll do our best to win the game and improve on all three sides of the ball.

On the play of the offensive line

You could tell there was some inexperience with the interior three. They need to be dominating in that situation. They were at times. We talked to them about consistency, and we talked about growing up and to quit using inexperience as an excuse.

(Redshirt-senior offensive line) Pat Eger came in and gave us some experience with those three guys. That’s why we put him in a variety of spots in the interior three. He will bring that experience.

On the eighth official in the Big 12

I hope the holding calls won’t increase. I’ll be interested to see what it looks like. I don’t think that they will use it as an excuse to call more. I think they will make the calls more efficient.

On the passing game

I’d like to throw the ball a lot more than we did. We’re talking about throwing the ball 30 percent of the time. That’s embarrassing. We’re going to try to correct that - that’s for certain. I don’t care much about stats, but we have to be more balanced. What the heck’s going on here? I’m talking about balance, and everybody says it’s an air raid and we throw the ball 80 or 90 percent of the time. I’m talking about balance because we can’t get the ball in the air 50 percent of the time

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