One of the Mountaineers’ senior leaders, defensive lineman Julian Miller, said after the game that he thought the blowout loss may have even been needed; a sort of wake-up call for several players as to what level of effort is required to win in the Big East Conference.
On Monday morning’s Big East coaches’ teleconference, Holgorsen was asked if he agreed with Miller’s sentiment.
“Well, we tried to prevent that on the front end,” he responded. “For two weeks, all we told them was Syracuse is a very well-coached football team that is going to think it can win. And they played harder, played with more effort, had more energy and more excitement than our guys.
“All we told them for two weeks was that very thing. Sometimes you don’t get through to them. If that happens and it does wake us up to the point where we will do exactly what we’re told from a coaching and playing standpoint, then I’m all for it.”
AS THE CONFERENCES TURN:
In what has become essentially a weekly occurrence, Holgorsen was asked about the impact of conference realignment on his program in terms of recruiting.
“It’s too early to tell right now,” the head coach said. “We’re actively pursuing kids, which ... this is kind of a down, dead period right now in the cycle, a dead period in recruiting. You do a lot of stuff in the summer, and we had a lot of success, a lot of commitments. We were excited with where we were at. Then, you’ve got to get out there and call them every week, but you’ve got to go see them in December and January.
“So we feel good with where we’re at with it right now. We feel like West Virginia is a place where a lot of kids want to go to school, and we feel like we’re in pretty good shape at this point.”
Pressed further as to whether WVU would hope to see the Big East make further additions or be part of some other move towards stability in its conference situation by the time those December and January visits roll around, Holgorsen was non-committal.
“We’re not worried about where we’re at in recruiting right now,” he said. “We’re going to continue to make phone calls each week and sell kids on what we have to offer. The biggest recruiting tool you’ve got is what you do on Saturday, so we need to do a better job of coaching our guys up and getting them ready to play on Saturday.”
And when he faced a more direct question about the possibility of a move to the Big 12 Conference -- as multiple reports in recent days have indicated West Virginia may be the front-runner to replace Missouri in that league, if MU heads to the Southeastern Conference -- Holgorsen had nothing to add.
“I have no interaction with anybody who has anything to do with conference realignment,” he said. “We worry about coaching our guys.”
A SIMILAR TEST:
The aggressive defensive scheme employed by Syracuse in its win over the Mountaineers is the same sort of tactic Holgorsen said he expects Rutgers to utilize when WVU travels to Piscataway this weekend.
“We know what they’re going to do. They’re going to pressure us,” he said. “And we’ve just got to be able to handle it better. A week of practice can probably get us to the point where we’ll handle it a little better.”
In the loss to the Orange, “it” was a series of blitzes from every different direction aimed at quarterback Geno Smith. The pressure served to disrupt the offense’s timing, something West Virginia’s head coach has said repeatedly is a key to his scheme’s success.
But even though SU blitzed with a regularity Holgorsen had not seen previously in his coaching career, he said he thought WVU did a decent job of picking up the extra rushers. What was discouraging was the way his team’s offensive line struggled when Syracuse wasn’t bringing numbers.
“Syracuse blitzed, shoot, 75 percent of the time, which is more than I’ve ever been a part of,” Holgorsen said. “We didn’t handle it for a variety of reasons.
“The quarterbacks and receivers didn’t do the best of jobs -- the quarterback seeing stuff and the receivers sight-adjusting things. I think we were targeted pretty good up front. There weren’t free people coming unless they were just out-manning us. But even with that said, when they were bringing five, our guys didn’t hold up in pass protection, which was discouraging.”