WVU Gives Alabama A Fight: Holgorsen Discusses Game

West Virginia didn’t have much of a chance against Alabama, according to the Las Vegas oddsmakers. But games are played on the field, and WVU put a scare into the Tide before losing 33-23. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen talked about the game afterwards.

DANA HOLGORSEN: I want to congratulate Coach Saban and Alabama on a good game. Obviously these guys are tough to beat. They’ve proven that over the last six years. The thing with our guys, I was proud of the way we fought. We were ready to play. We felt like we could come in and give them a good game and put ourselves in position to have a chance to win, and when that happens, you’ve got to make critical plays in critical situations, got to make critical calls in critical situations, and you need to have a little bit more success than we had tonight.
Not to take anything away from Alabama, they’re tough to beat, they’re tough to convert 3rd downs on, they’re tough to get off the field on 3rd downs, and obviously did a little better job at that than we did.

Q. How frustrating is it knowing that you were right there for the most part in the fourth quarter and all the missed opportunities, and also the drops that the receivers had today?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Yeah, it’s frustrating. You play against a really good team and you’re in position in the fourth quarter to be able to win the game. I mean, you don’t have those opportunities very often. We were in a very similar situation last year week two when we played Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. We were in that game and had a chance to win and we didn’t.
It’s frustrating. I’m proud of how the guys fought. They’re disappointed in the locker room right now. It’s not?? it doesn’t have anything to do with the drops. There were some bad calls when things got tight; there were some missed blocks when things got tight; there were some missed tackles when things got tight; there were some bad kicks when things got tight. When you’re playing a very good team and things are going to be tight, you’ve got to be able to execute that. You’ve got to be able to execute it as a coaching staff and you’ve got to be able to execute it on all three sides of the ball.

Q. You kind of hit on this already, but 3rd down defense for you guys was a challenge getting off the field. Can you talk about that as what you saw out of the defense as this kind of dragged on for you?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Yeah, you’ve got to give Coach Kiffin some credit. They’ve got playmakers on offense. They’ve got guys that can break tackles; they’ve got guys that can make catches in very, very tight situations. Those guys are pretty good.
It’s the same thing offensively. We had chances to be able to put ourselves in position to stay out there. I thought we did a good job of that in the first half. I don’t think offensively in the second half we did a good job of executing on 3rd downs, and that was a big issue with us last year. The other issue was being able to score touchdowns in the score zone. Well, I don’t have the stats as far as how many times we had to settle for field goals, but I thought we did a good job of moving the ball in the open field, but at some point you’ve got to be able to convert those into touchdowns, and we didn’t do a very good job of that, whether that was play calls or whatever it was, we’ll look at it and we’ll get better because of it.

Q. Clint and the offense seems like night and day from last year. Talk about the progression, what you see moving forward from this game.
DANA HOLGORSEN: Yeah, my comfort level was obviously better than it’s been. It’s nice to be able to signal things once and be able to communicate with him as far as what we’re wanting on the sidelines without having to scream it at him or call time?out or whatever.
I was happy with Clint. I thought he played well, he competed well. He knew where to go with the ball. He got a little bit antsy back there at times and missed some throws, but when you’re looking at what he’s looking at, that’s going to happen. They’re obviously pretty good defensively and do a good job of getting to the quarterback at times.
Overall happy with him, and we’re going to continue to get better offensively. His rapport with the receivers is going to improve. Kevin White had a great game, Mario Alford had some positive things happen, as well. Their relationship and their rapport is going to continue to get better.

Q. How do you feel like you matched up offensive and defensive lines?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Well, good I thought. I thought our O?line kind of held their own. They’re big and kind of tough to run the ball against. They always have. I don’t know what we had rushing, it probably wasn’t enough. What was it, 28 yards? I guess that’s not very good. But they’re tough to do that. But I thought we pass protected okay.
And then defensively, they ended up getting their yards because of how many plays they ran, but I thought our guys fought hard up front.

Q. You mentioned Kevin White briefly, but talk about him, what he was able to do. He spent a lot of time in the off?season talking about wanting to get up and get after the ball. He did a good bit of that today.
DANA HOLGORSEN: He did, yeah. It’s more than using your athletic ability to go up and get the ball. You’ve got to run routes and use technique of getting open, which I thought he did a decent job of that, and just the rapport that needs to exist with him and the quarterback, I think we’re at that stage now where it does exist. I would look for those guys to continue to get better, get on the same page.

Q. You mentioned the 3rd downs, the red zone and all, but what were the things that you saw improvement with?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Well, just overall moving the ball against a really good defense. They’re as good as it gets out there defensively schematically, personnel?wise, coaching bodies, all that stuff. Moved the ball, had opportunities to be able to continue to move the ball. Like I’ve said for 14 games in a row now, I mean, when things get hard on 3rd down, when things get tight in the red zone, that’s what we’ve got to step up and execute at a very high level, and did that probably a little bit better than we did last year against the quality of the opponent but not to the point to where it’s a winning effort. Again, whether that’s play calls or whether that’s finishing blocks or getting open, I mean, it takes a collection of things to be able to do to be successful against a very good defense.

Q. There were times Sims had a lot of time to throw. Is that mostly their big line, or do you need more out of your pass pro?
DANA HOLGORSEN: He was pretty elusive, as well. There was times we got there and we didn’t finish the play, whether that was because we were out of control because he just did a great job of making people miss. I mean, it wasn’t a winning effort when it comes to getting to the quarterback. I thought we played well in spurts defensively. I thought he played well. I thought he did a good job of running their offense and getting the ball to a bunch of guys that are going to be playing ball for a long, long time.
But getting to the quarterback was something that we worked hard on in the off?season, and looked to me like we’ve got to keep doing it.

Q. What do you take away from that game and where do you go moving forward after today?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Well, I told these guys to hold their head up high. We’re not interested in moral victories. We played hard and we put ourselves in position to win, which was obviously our goal, but we didn’t achieve our goal when it comes to finishing the game and getting a victory. That’s why you play the game. I felt like we had a chance to do that but we didn’t. So how do we respond? We don’t want pats on the back. We want to be able to go to work tomorrow night and look at the film and be able to get better from it.
I told them this, too, very similar situation to last year at Oklahoma, and from there we didn’t improve very much. What I saw was we’ve got to motivate a team in there to be able to get back to work to improve from what we put out there today.

Q. Was there a turning point in this game or were there a couple that jump out in your mind?
DANA HOLGORSEN: There was back and forth. More so in the first half I thought we did a good job of answering on a couple of their scores early in the first half. Second half we didn’t do a very good job of capitalizing on some of the momentum that we created, whether it was offensively, Worley got a great big play and we three?and?outed. That’s not a winning effort. Again, I’ll take the blame for bad play calling when it comes to that.
But in the first half I thought we did a good job of playing together. Second half I don’t think as a team we seized the momentum when something good happened. I don’t think people stepped up when something bad happened. I thought we played better as a team in the first half, not as good as a team in the second half.

Q. You mentioned Sunday was going to be a tough coaching situation coming in. Did they make it easier on you today, or is it still a difficult situation to go?
DANA HOLGORSEN: It’ll be challenging. I mean, these guys are pretty disappointed. But in the same breath, against the No.2 team in the country that hasn’t lost very many games, we were in position to be able to win in the fourth quarter, so hopefully they hold their heads high. They understand that we were close, we’re just not there yet, but let’s work a little bit harder tomorrow and next week. I don’t know if it made it harder or not, we’ll find out tomorrow. But I know I’m motivated and I know our coaching staff is motivated, and I really think our kids are motivated to be able to get better from this.

Q. Did they give you an explanation for the unsportsmanlike penalty?
DANA HOLGORSEN: No, they did not. I didn’t see it, so I don’t know.

Q. You mentioned your run game there. You seemed surprised looking down and seeing 28 yards total. Obviously you knew coming in you guys talked a lot about it being tough to run the ball against them, but were you surprised at how tough it was today?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Yeah, well, it was?? I was pleased with it early. I don’t know if I abandoned it probably a little bit too much or they probably made some adjustments. I thought Shell ran hard and got loose a little bit early and didn’t have as much success with that in the second half. Kind of got behind a little bit, as well, so we tried to throw the ball around a little bit probably too much.
I will reevaluate that as I do every game from what the play calling aspect was, and they’re tough to run the ball against. We knew that, so we weren’t going to just sit there and run it into the teeth of their defense if it wasn’t very successful. So we’ll reevaluate it and see.

Tony Stewart Makes Statement Regarding Racing, Kevin Ward

Tony Stewart appeared at a news conference today to discuss his return to racing after the death of Kevin Ward three weeks ago. Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart?Haas Racing, also took part, answering questions in the process. Here is a transcript of the press conference.

Tony Stewart: This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally. This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine.

I want Kevin’s father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, and his sisters Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I’m thinking about them and praying for them. The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. Everyone’s saddened with this tragedy.

I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it’s been overwhelming.

I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.

I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers, however I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway. We’re here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect. There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions. Thank you.

Q. Brett, NASCAR issued a statement yesterday that Tony had received all necessary clearances to race. What was the process of going through clearances? What approvals did he need?
BRETT FROOD: Well, as you all know, when a driver’s out of the car, there is that process. I’m not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we’ve been in close contact with them throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now.

Q. The investigation as we understand is still open. Was there any thought to not having Tony race until it was closed? Why now?
BRETT FROOD: Well, I think for Tony, it’s all about this healing process. That’s part of why he’s in the car.
Besides his mom, his dad, his sister, his niece and nephew, his family is here, it’s at this racetrack. It’s part of the healing process of being with his family that he’s been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this. I think that’s one side of it.
The other side of it is he’s a racer. We have 270 employees. I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation.

Q. Brett, respecting the process, the investigation, knowing there’s things you can’t comment on, are you able to say whether you know whether Tony has a clear picture in his own mind of what happened that second or two that night?
BRETT FROOD: I am not going to comment on the incident itself. It was a tragic accident. Right now the focus is to be on Tony and the car this weekend and how he’s going to get through this.

Q. The fact that Tony is racing this weekend, should we read anything into that about what you know about the investigation and where it’s at in the process?
BRETT FROOD: No. I mean, we’ve really been respecting the process, as Tony said, and the investigation. Him being in the racecar right now is about him getting through what has been a very emotional two weeks, what his next step is in coping with this.
There’s been a great deal of empathy and sympathy for that family and what they’re going through. For Tony, it’s just been extremely emotional. This is what is going to help him.

Q. Can you talk about where Tony is at emotionally right now to step into the car? Was it 100% his choice not to race the last couple of weeks, without the involvement of the sanctioning body that we will hear from next?
BRETT FROOD: I’ll address the latter first.
Yes, the decision to be in the car is 100% Tony’s.

Q. Please define his emotional stage at this point. A very fragile Tony Stewart at this point.
BRETT FROOD: You just saw Tony. It’s been a difficult two weeks. But Tony is ready to be in the racecar. He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t.

Q. Brett, you’ve worked for Tony for a long time. You’ve seen him in ways we have not. How would you characterize his preparation for this and what you think he’ll experience as he gets back in the car?
BRETT FROOD: I think it’s going to be very overwhelming being in that garage today. He’s going to feel an awful lot of support. As I just mentioned, this is his family. It’s the crew members, it’s the officials, it’s the drivers. It’s his family that he’s been with since 1999. This is going to be part of that process for him. I believe it’s going to be an overwhelming process, this weekend.
That being said, Tony Stewart is a racecar driver. He’s been a racecar driver for the past 35 years. When he puts that helmet on in practice, I’m quite convinced he’ll be ready to race the car, he’ll be able to separate the two.

Q. Brett, this obviously is a tremendous tragedy. Obviously in the sport of racing, these guys learn to deal with that part of the sport. Why do you think this has hit Tony so hard?
BRETT FROOD: Because he was involved in an accident and a young man died. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. I can’t imagine what the kid’s parents are going through.
It’s something, as Tony said, that he hopes no one in this room or certainly anywhere will ever have to go through. He was involved in a tragic accident.

Q. I noticed Tony mentioned Kevin Ward’s family members by name. Has he reached out to them personally at all?
BRETT FROOD: Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services. Besides that he’s been very respectful of them and their time to grieve.
I do know that it will be very important, it’s important for Tony, to spend time with the family. I do believe that will happen in the appropriate time.

Q. Obviously it’s an emotional time. Internally how do you deal with it as an organization, the prep work? Let’s face it, it’s not an ordinary weekend that all of you are dealing with.
BRETT FROOD: We’ve got 270 employees back in Kannapolis working hard. Tony has three other team members. These are folks that are at Stewart?Haas because they believe in the leadership, they believe in the ownership, believe in the folks that we have surrounding them, and we believe in them.
So for them, I think their focus has been undeterred over the last several weeks. They’re obviously really excited to have Tony back in the car, that leader, the guy they believe in. So I think the focus will be there this weekend from those guys. We should be good.