West Virginia University takes to the field this Friday for the 104th edition of the Backyard Brawl. There are many storylines that will go into the game, but before we get to that, head coach Dana Holgorsen met with the media and talked about his first brawl, his team, and Pitt. Let’s go…
On the bye week
We got started on Pitt and got a bit of a base. We practiced the young guys harder. They got 20-25 snaps to get after each other.
They took advantage of the opportunity. We went out and recruited Wednesday and Thursday. We brought the players back Saturday and had a good practice yesterday.
On younger guys practicing
The older guys get excited when the younger guys get reps. Those are the guys they go against on the scout team. They give us great
looks. Everyone was cheering for them. The defense got the best of the offense in the last couple drives.
We are going to coach pretty hard this week. We are going to work tirelessly and watch a lot of film to put the proper game plan in
and keep the kids accountable. We are going get the message across and get our players ready to play. There are only a couple teams in the country that can play bad and still win – that list is still getting smaller and smaller. We are going to expect good things to happen. It is harder to get your guys ready against an unfamiliar opponent than it is in a rivalry game.
On going against Todd Graham
He has had a tremendous amount of success wherever he has been and he has won. He has worn different hats during his career. He has
been a defensive coordinator and an offensive coordinator. It is not the same system. He will say the same thing about my system and me. It is different than when I was at Houston or Oklahoma State. You can’t just keep things the same from place to place based off personnel and who your players are. You have to fit your players. It is not exactly the same scheme. Throughout the course of the week, we can watch 10 games of film to get tendencies, but they may change throughout the course of the game.
On injuries between plays
We both do the same stuff offensively. We are both having a little harder time than our previous stops. It goes back to what the
kids are used to. It goes back to how Pitt and WVU’s players were trained. We both want to play an up-tempo style, but we aren’t doing it as
On running backs at Pitt
You do not replace Ray Graham. He is one of the better backs in the country. He is fantastic. It has elevated Tino’s (Sunseri)
game since Ray has been out. Tino has been the leader of the offense. He is a coach’s kid and has elevated his game. You just don’t replace Ray Graham.
On rivalry with Graham
It is completely irrelevant with this game. It is blown out of proportion. There are rivalries every week. With me being in a new
conference, there isn’t as many every week. I was going up against guys I have known for a decade. I have known Todd for three years. It is way overblown. It is about the kids, not the coaches. There are a lot of good coaches out there. It is about the place you are at. It is about playing with a bunch of effort and giving it all you have got.
On Oklahoma State’s loss this weekend
I was rooting for Oklahoma State to win. I watched Houston and hoped they would win, too. Those are guys that I coached with and
spent a lot of time with. It is too bad that it happened to Oklahoma State. They are not out of it though. Everyone else lost. If you try to predict what happens over the next two week, you will be wrong.
On former WVU coaches now on Pitt’s staff
It could help, but they may try to over think it, too. You only have 25 seconds in between play. We are just going to line up and
play football. There are a lot of crossover and game played during the course of the week. If it gave you an advantage, schools would buy coaches to gain an advantage.
On what Pitt does best
It seems like we play a team every week that is good in one or two areas. Rutgers and Cincinnati were two of the top teams at getting
turnovers. That was a huge key for us beating Cincinnati – winning the turnover battle. Pitt is high in the country in getting sacks, and they bring guys from everywhere. They are not as big of blitz tendency like Syracuse and Cincinnati, but they also try to create negative plays in the run game. South Florida is No. 1 in the country, and we will be facing them next week. Negative plays will put you in bad third-down situations.
On what will be different this week
You have to block people. I have said for a while that coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh has done a good job of targeting things right. We
have to do a better job of holding up our blocks. When they do bring blitzes, that is when Geno (Smith) has to adjust and get the ball out of his hands.
On the offensive and defensive lines
We are pretty even with them. They have had some injuries on their offensive line. On defensive line, they have guys that get
after it. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller have been playing well. Bruce has been getting after it. Julian has been playing hurt, but it means a lot to him. Guys are playing better than they were six weeks ago.
On senior night
This is the last time they will play here. Any time there is transition, senior are affected more than anyone. I have tremendous
amounts of respect for Najee (Goode), Keith (Tandy), Julian, Don Barclay and Tyler Rader. There is a big list of them. We owe them a victory. It isn’t about those 16 guys though. Everyone has to do their best to go out and get a victory.
On defense winning championships
It looks like it is true. There are some pretty good defenses in the BIG EAST. The records have been pretty much the same over the
years. It has been a pretty competitive league. There are about four or five defensive teams that are pretty good. You have to create turnovers and negative plays. Pitt does a good job of that. When we beat Cincinnati last week, we did a good job of that. There is a lot of truth to it. As much as I would like to say we could play against anyone offensively, we are not there yet. I don’t mind saying that, and I am not ashamed of it. There is a little bit of a transition.
On his past perception of BIG EAST
I didn’t think about it. You worry about where you are at and what you are doing. It is a competitive conference. It is starting to be that way everywhere. Everyone is starting to beat everyone.
On recruiting, specifically Western Pennsylvania
It is one of the areas we identified. We want to focus on it. There are specific areas we don’t focus on, but we want to focus there.
On the future of the Backyard Brawl
We should play because of what it means to the community and the state and Pittsburgh. You want to play a lot of you
non-conference games because the Big 12 is a broader conference. You have to travel a good distance away. The biggest draw from a recruiting standpoint is that we are going to play here seven times year. Kids pick their school because they want to play there, not where they play away games. We want to make WVU as good as possible from a facilities, coaching, social and educational standpoint.
You want to pick non-conference games that are here, but ones that are also close to here.
On past Backyard Brawls
I have heard about a few. It is more about what happened last week and what we had to do to beat Cincinnati. The longer I am
here, the better feel I will have for it. You get conversations of that game and people remind me of what happened in 1980 or 1992. You have to worry about getting your guys ready to play and not what happened in the past. That is more fan based and media based.
On Tino Sunseri’s strengths
When you watch him on television, he is fiery and has a lot of energy. It means a lot to him. He loves to play the game. He is always
in a good mood. He is a good player and keeps getting better. The more he plays in the system, the better he will get.
On using two quarterbacks
I have never done it. I don’t think it works too well because you always have one guy looking over his shoulder. You have to be ready
to play. You have to be confident and expect good things to happen. When they don’t, you have to be ready to play the next play.
On similarities between offenses
There are similarities, but I haven’t studied their offense much. It is up-tempo, and we are both going to try to run the ball. The
nature of their offense and where they have been in the past may mean that they will try to run the ball more. We both like to use screens and use tempo. We will both try to establish the run and use play action off of it. They don’t come from the same place. Where they originate from are completely different.