Holgorsen: Attack Week Of Game Prep Appropriate Way
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s often said the biggest challenge is battling oneself.
That’s certainly true for West Virginia this week. The Mountaineers play host to Delaware State on Saturday, the Hornets not only residing at the FCS level, but having established residence toward the very bottom of the barrel there. Delaware State enters with only a one-point win to end the 2015 season separating it from a 29-game losing streak, and the better part of the last five years have been spent in a continual uphill battle for the program.
That’s the psychological test in from of West Virginia, as it sandwiches games against East Carolina, Delaware State and Kansas around a highly anticipated opener and a difficult road challenge versus TCU in the second week of Big 12 play. It’s caused Holgorsen to revert to the adage that preparation is more about the Mountaineers themselves than the opponent.
“Like last week at this time, I think our football team is at a place where the most important thing is to get to Saturday at Noon and play football,” he said. “Especially early in the year, the focus is always on us. It was last week and I thought we did a great job preparing. Our guys were excited about playing and I don’t think this week will be any different.”
West Virginia was forced to take off Sunday and Monday from practice, per NCAA rules. Because of the short week following the Sunday night game against Virginia Tech, WVU was allowed to practice straight through from Monday to Friday and then play East Carolina on Saturday. But that left no days off for that week, meaning the team had to go back-to-back, taking Sunday as the day off last week and Monday as the day off this week to satisfy NCAA rest requirements.
“I think everybody is pretty anxious to get started again,” Holgorsen said. “We will take (Tuesday) and go over all the video. We played a lot of guys, 62. There’s a lot we can learn. We still have a lot of improvements to work on and focus on. It’s a great week to do that. Be excited about attacking the week the appropriate way. The sooner it gets here the better.”
The glaring issue from initial film study was that WVU spent far too much time flailing on both sides of the ball. The Mountaineers again played hard against East Carolina, perhaps too hard because the fundamentals and technique of play were poor at times.
“We were on the ground way too much,” Holgorsen said. “You can’t be a good player if you are on the ground. We had O linemen on the ground left and right. Guys out of control, guys cutting when they aren’t supposed to cut. Falling down. It’s impossible to block and tackle while you’re on the ground.
“Will (Grier) played good, backs did a good job of hitting the hole, we ran decent routes. But I felt like our second team guys went out there and missed out on opportunities to improve. Receivers dropped balls, O lineman on the ground. Defensively guys left their feet, launching as opposed to tackling how we want them to tackle. Safeties missed way too many tackles. D line on the ground. Can’t fill gaps or make tackles on the ground. Special teams lot of consistency issues.”
So there’s work to do, and Delaware State is just the foe to sort early inconsistencies. WVU also made a handful of depth chart changes, including shuffles along the offensive line and at corner. Take a look below for details.
- Josh Sills got the start along the line against East Carolina in place of Grant Lingafelter, who left the Virginia Tech game in the second quarter with a leg injury. Sills manned the right guard slot, sliding Kyle Bosch to left guard. But the freshman, as expected, played like a freshman. “He’s big, he’s tough, he’s going to be a great player,” Holgorsen said. “He’s similar to where Colton “McKivitz) was last year as a redshirt freshman. I can’gt begin to explain how many things he has to work on. Needs to stay on his feet and do what we are asking him to do.”
- West Virginia continued its attempt at establishing depth along both lines, but it remains a work in progress. Besides Lingafelter, WVU is without Jacob Buccigrossi, who continues to recover from an ACL tear suffered during spring. “Gotta get those guys back,” Holgorsen said. “Kelby Wickline got in there and played a good bit at tackle, (juco transfer) Isaiah Hardy took some snaps. He has no idea which way he is going. I wasn’t real thrilled turning a couple defensive lineman loose.”
- True freshman Kenny Robinson, who started the season as a safety, has slid to corner. Coordinator Tony Gibson used the 6-2 Robinson in stretches against East Carolina, and that’s expected to become a permanent move as WVU enters Big 12 play in a week. “Gibby wanted to do that initially,” Holgorsen said. “But we thought we needed more safety help. We needed to get him in there to see what we had. When we recruited him we thought he might be a corner. Same with Derrek Pitts. Long, athletic guys who can run. He isn’t going to beat any of the safeties out, so he’s been lined up at corner for a week. Kenny wants to compete right now.”
- Special teams blocking has also improved, and the addition of freshman receiver Marcus Simms to the return team seemed to give WVU a spark it hopes will continue to carry over. “It was better. Marcus and Tevin (Bush) made two really big catches on punt return,” Holgorsen said. “We have’t had that much space in a long time. We need to build on that.”