West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen took to the podium Tuesday afternoon following their first loss of the season to Iowa State over the weekend. He said he wasn’t going to talk about the upcoming game versus Baylor, but what happened on Saturday.
How did everything go wrong with the depth and talent the Mountaineers have on the field?
“I chalk it up to this great game of college football. It didn’t just happen to us last week. It happens every week. Iowa States done a good job of doing it over the last couple of years. We’ve done it here. We did it to them last year. We did it to Baylor a couple of years ago when they were top five. It happens in college football. You got to take your butt whooping when you get it and use it at motivation to recalibrate and work harder, make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s where we’re at right now.” Described Dana.
Holgorsen said there was one positive from the loss. “I felt like we were ready to play. Our energy was good. The locker before the game was great. Our prep was normal. Guys attitude at the hotel was on point, they were engaged.” Dana went on to say that the energy and focus was carried over throughout the game.
After going over the game the past couple of days, Dana contributed the loss to fundamentals. “We simply couldn’t sustain blocks. We couldn’t get off coverage. Defensively, we were stuck on blocks and we missed a lot of tackles. That’s a good old fashion butt kicking when it comes to blocking and tackling and that’s the head coaches responsibility.”
Will Grier had his worst game as a Mountaineer. He was sacked seven times and only threw for 100 yards.
“We watched the 42 plays and he did not play great. There was a lot of times there wasn’t anything he could do.” Said Dana. We kind of got behind. We had to start throwing the ball. They would rush three or four and he would get flushed out of the pocket quicker than I would like. They had dropped seven or eight in coverage a lot. So, there wasn’t guys to throw to initially. That’s how we beat them last year is; he was flushed out of the pocket and he sat there and kept his eyes down field and made a couple of plays downfield that allowed us to be able to win the game. The defenders got to him a lot quicker than they did last year. Which made him have to make decisions quick and there’s nobody to throw the ball to. I would like for him to throw the ball away and prevent 13-yard sacks.”
Dana still has a lot of confidence in his quarterback. He knows he can make the plays needed to be successful. “He missed a couple of reads. Your one of the top quarterbacks in the country there’s throws that I think you can make, even when guys are covered. So, he’s gotta trust his ability and continue to trigger those throws and not worry about some bad things that can potentially happen. He will improve, but I need O-lineman to improve. I need our run game to improve and I need receivers to get off coverage and get open. That will improve as well.”
Grier forced some throws the week prior to Iowa State and it resulted in three interceptions against Kansas. It might have carried over to Saturday and didn’t want to force throws.
“He can’t play like that. I think the situation was more problematic than what was going on in his head.” Explained Dana. Our receivers could not get open. Why? I don’t know. They could get open the previous five games. I give Iowa State credit. They played absolutely lights out. They played really, really, good, especially defensively.”
It’s easy to question the play calling after a loss. Hindsight is always 20/20, but Holgorsen emphasized that it wasn’t the plays that were called.
“The play calling was exactly what I was a part of throughout the course of the week in developing the game plan. It doesn’t have anything to do with the plays that were called. It was the same plays that were called when we were having 600 and something yards against some decent defenses. There’s a lot of other things you can point your finger at. I’m not buying into scheme.”
The time off this week will help the Mountaineers heal up. Defensive back Derrek Pitts tweaked his knee, but Dana says he expects him to be back. “Its not long term. He’s going to have to rehab it.”
Holgorsen also noted that no one came out of the game with long term injuries.
Dana summed up the teams mood right now as “determination”.