“We’ve got a tough one this week, that’s for sure. [West Virginia] is ranked No. 8 in the country, going down to Morgantown which is not a real good place to play from the standpoint of the noise and everything else. But we’re looking forward to the challenge of going up against the air-raid offense. Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin and Joe Madsen the center, who is a really good player. They’re averaging over 600 yards a game, 55 points game, talented players, so our defense is going to have their work cut out for them.
“Defensively, they’re led really there by their linebackers Terrence Garvin and Isaiah Bruce. Again a scheme where you have very athletic people playing a ‘50’ scheme. Offensively we’re going to have to make sure we utilize every possession and make every possession count, especially with what our defense is going to be facing this week. We look forward to it and we know that it will be a very hostile environment, but another challenge for our young team.”
On what makes West Virginia so special:
“They don’t use the tight end in their offense so they really kind of spread you out. Then what they do is they utilize Tavon Austin as a running back, putting him in motion and getting him the ball on handoffs, getting the ball on swing passes and underneath. The thing that’s really impressive, and having had the opportunity to watch Geno play from the time he was a young guy, you just see the growth and maturity that he’s had in the years that he’s been there. He’s gotten a lot better each year; he’s bigger and stronger now, shows good poise in the pocket, knows when to come out of the pocket and knows when to sit in there. So I think it’s the experience of the quarterback and it’s the talent surrounding him and then they do have an experienced offensive line.”
On wide receiver Kevin Dorsey only having three catches this season:
“A lot of times it’s what the defense is doing that dictates where the ball goes. I think that Kevin is going to have plenty of opportunities in the remaining games. We just need to make sure that we make the correct reads and that he runs the precise routes. Kevin sees the big picture and again, we have plays where he is supposed to get the ball but they do a good job of covering. Sometimes we may not execute as well as we should. Kevin and I both know that he’s going to have some big days for us before the year is over.”
On West Virginia QB Geno Smith and what he has learned from last year:
“He’s got a great arm and he knows where to go with the ball. He’s putting the ball right were its needs to be. I think his accuracy has improved since last year and I see a guy who has done more in the weight room and has gotten a bit thicker. You can watch the film and see the level of confidence that he plays with. If we can shake that confidence a little bit early in the game and disrupt it, then that would be to our advantage.”
On the seniors drawing upon last year’s game:
“You always take a look at history and try to use it to your advantage. During the week, coaches will show certain things from last year. We know that we came close and came up a little bit short. But that’s something that we need to draw on. We need to minimize the mistakes. It has got to be a team thing. The offense has to take advantage of every possession, the defense has to be sound, and in the kicking game, we have to make sure we do the things we are supposed to.”
On having four options at running back:
“I wish we had this kind of depth at every position. We’ll see how everything plays out in practice during the week. We have a process in mind going into the game on how we want to use those guys but we’ll see how it plays out during the week.”
On the similarities between Stefon Diggs and WVU’s Tavon Austin:
“Well you see similarities when you watch the film. They are both kick-off returners and punt returners; they both play the slot position on offense. They might use Austin more from a running game standpoint than we do with Diggs. They are both great athletes and great competitors with the ability to change the game quickly and make big plays.”
On having four running backs listed as starters:
“I think that we have situations where all four can end up playing. And again, we will see how it all plays out but I have a lot of confidence in each and every one of those guys. The thing is, it’s not what somebody didn’t do, it’s just the situation. I think all four of them will play in the game if things work the way we want them to.”
On playing at West Virginia:
“The one thing that we have to do is really prepare our guys for the noise and the hostility that those fans have for their Mountaineers. I would hope that, I know the last time I was playing at West Virginia – my hat goes off to them in terms of we went there after the situation with Jasper Howard, and they couldn’t have been more classier and outstanding fans that particular day. They have such tremendous passion for their team, we just have to try and prepare our guys for that and understand they have to stay focused and block all that stuff out. [We] just need to remember that the only thing that is really important it what is going on in between those white lines.”
On if he sees the West Virginia-Maryland game as a rivalry:
“I see it as a rivalry. It’s a game that you’re playing pretty much every year. The states are bordering each other; we compete against them quite a bit in recruiting. It’s a game that has been played a number of times but we have to do our part to get back on the winning side.”
On facing West Virginia’s unorthodox defense and offense:
“I don’t think it is really an unorthodox defense. We’ve seen a lot of different defenses in the past three weeks so this one might be a bit more standard than others. The biggest thing we have to do as a team is get better fundamentally and from a technique standpoint. We haven’t come up short in effort or the want-to or any of that. We have made progress in the past three games but we still have a lot of work to do fundamentally. People can put up offenses and put up defenses but if you can go out and execute the fundamentals of the position and the defense and utilize the techniques, then you’re going to be successful against any scheme. We also have to get better at recognizing the situation that we are in and get better responding to that situation. For me, the biggest challenge for us is to get better fundamentally and improve our technique so we can go out and execute. We also have to understand those situations we are in and play to those situations.”
On Perry Hills’ clock management and seeing the field better:
“I was pleased with the way the guys bounced back on Sunday. I thought that we probably had our best Sunday practice this year. We watched the film and made corrections in practice. Once we go through the film on that Sunday, that previous game is over – you have to have a short memory. I know that Perry has put that behind him. I know that some of the mistakes you saw from last week you won’t see this week. You might see some new ones – you hope you don’t, but I’m confident in him. He’s extremely conscientious and he is going to get better. He’s got to feel comfortable when he goes out there and plays.”
On getting the ball to the wide receivers:
“There are only so many touches in the game. A lot will depend on what defenses will do – coverage that they play and how they match up during certain sets will dictate where the ball will go in the passing game. I think that we will be able to spread the ball around a little bit. A lot depends on how people play us.”
On how advanced Stefon Diggs is as an 18-year old:
“That’s a tough question to answer. I anticipated him being productive and doing some of the things I’ve seen him do, but maybe didn’t realize how much further along I thought he was. He still has a lot to work on in terms of fundamentals, technique and some other things in terms of route-running and all that. But I think the thing I didn’t realize is how far along he is in terms of understanding and his knowledge of the game.
“If you take a look at the play on Saturday, the touchdown that he got, I mean how many guys are going to realize that it’s one-on-one coverage, the ball is thrown not to me, but over to a guy next to me, and all I’m going to do is play to the whistle and run to the ball because the ball might be tipped, and then I catch it. There’s a lot of guys that wouldn’t have that instinct that have been playing for a long time. That’s something that I don’t know you might even see in the NFL from guys that have been playing. The athleticism, the dynamic plays, I kind of expected he could do those things. But I didn’t expect the experience, the knowledge of some of the things he can see that he’s doing. Because again, I think it’s rare to have a guy do some of the things we’ve seen him do out there.
“This is why I’m so excited about this team and these players; and you want to get upset sometimes, but you can’t because you just have to be patient. Against Temple you saw Wes [Brown] put the ball on the ground. And then you saw him come back against Connecticut and what he did. You’re standing on the sideline and you see him coming through the hole, bodies are coming, and he covers it up with two hands. You know, he learned.
“Stefon drops a punt because he takes his eye off it. And then against Connecticut, he’s standing there and there’s three guys right in front of him. He just focuses in on catching the ball, and then he catches it and he has the wherewithal to say ‘Ok I know didn’t fair catch it,’ and he instinctively reacts after he catches it and spins and makes a big return.
“Perry [Hills] makes some of the mistakes he makes, and then one of the things we’ve been telling him is if it breaks down take off and run, well he did that and scored a touchdown. So as much as it can be painful to see some of these things, it’s just the experience these guys have to get. But it also makes it fun because they have the ability to make plays, and when you have guys that have the ability to make those plays I think it helps everybody else that’s around you.”
On his confidence of the defense:
“I’m confident in our defense and I’m very confident in our defense when everybody goes out and does their job. We’re going to get tested this week. There’s no doubt about that. We’re going to be tested quite a bit. But again I like our focus and our mentality that we are bringing. We need to step it up even more this week now. We’ve got to step it up to give ourselves an opportunity to win. There are things we need to correct and be sound and more solid with some of the little things that we are doing defensively. I think that can make us even better. We’ve got our hands full this week, there’s no question. It will be fun to watch our guys go out and compete against this high-powered offense which we have a tremendous amount of respect for.”
On his experience against West Virginia as a player and a coach:
“When I was at Syracuse playing, we played West Virginia, so it’s a team that I’ve been competing against as a player and as a coach for many, many years. I’ve always just had a tremendous amount of respect for West Virginia. I can still remember going to old Mountaineer Field when it was right in the middle of campus when I was a quarterback at Syracuse. We’d go and they pelted us with oranges and we walked on the field pre-game and they had dogs out their catching Frisbees and tobacco-spitting contests. You know when you go play West Virginia you better strap it up because it’s going to be a physical, 60-minute game. Especially when you go there, you know that their fans are going to be against you. I’ve always enjoyed playing against West Virginia teams from when Don Nehlen was a coach and Rich (Rodriguez) and now Dana (Holgorsen). I think it’s always good to be able to play good teams and West Virginia is a very good team.”
On the recruiting battle with West Virginia:
“There are so many players in this area and this region and state, we’re not going to get them all. There’s some that we might not recruit based on different variables in the recruiting process. Knowing that they are a bordering state and they come in here and recruit, it’s important for us to go and work to beat them and get wins against them from a recruiting standpoint that kids we do go head-to-head with we have a little more ammunition than them. I think it’s always fun to compete against West Virginia because you know you’re going to get their best effort. It’s going to be a physical, 60 minutes of slug-it-out, get-after-you and who’s standing at the end.”
On the offense’s role in slowing West Virginia down:
“We’ve done a decent job of doing that with the time of possession in the first three games. Even though we are in a no-huddle, it’s not the hurry-up type of offense like West Virginia’s. The best defense we can play is having our defense on the sideline. It’s important for us to be able to possess the ball and, not only possess the ball, but make sure you score. If we are possessing the ball and not coming up with points, that’s not going to give us the formula for victory we’re looking for. We need to possess the ball, we need to score points, and we need to try to keep our defense off the field. When the defense is on the field, we need to play very sound, very solid and take care of responsibilities and not let them have those big plays against us.”