Head coach Matt Wells was available for his weekly press conference and he started things out by discussing some injury updates. Wells said that Alan Bowman and Maverick McIvor will be x-rayed very soon, but are day-to-day.
Nelson Mbanasor, Evan Rambo, and Desmon Smith are also day-to-day and will be game-time decisions. The worst news is that Armand Shyne is out for the rest of the year with broken ribs. That leaves just two healthy scholarship running backs, SaRodorick Thompson and Ta’Zhawn Henry, and the Jax Welch will run third-string.
Let’s get to it. Wells was asked about what the offense worked on during the bye week:
Q. What did you guys work on most on the offense during bye week?
MATT WELLS: On offense? I think just trying to shore stuff up. A lot of it was us up front shoring communication up. Just reps, being sharper, passing game timing, play action timing, all that kind of stuff with Jett and the wide outs. But more up front in terms of communication and detailing things, just like we worked on in the back end in the secondary. Starts with your alignment, it starts with your technique, how far off you are, are you inside out, are you outside out, the communication, there’s some things like that that were part of the breakdown in the Kansas game.
Wells also talked about how they spent the bye week and needing to get one of those close wins:
Q. How have your guys have responded through the bye week?
MATT WELLS: Good. I think they, I think last week was good. It was a combination of practice and rest. They came in here this morning, even last night, I think refreshed, refocused. There’s a little bit of a renewed energy, I think for this stretch run. You got four games left, our guys know that this a competitive league. And a lot of games on Saturdays, especially the ones lately, have come down to the wire. We need to find a way to win one, to finish one. And I think they’re very well aware of that. They have continued to play hard and bust their tail for us and I respect our guys for that, I love our guys for that, I think that shows buy in. But the biggest thing for us is that we continue down our process, we live by our core values, the things that we’re going to do every single day to give us a chance to win and deserve victory on Saturday and that’s what we have to continue to fight for as coaches and as leaders in this program, the culture and the how, how you do things every day. But I like the way our guys are playing, they’re practicing hard, and, man, we’re going to turn the corner and we need to find a way to win one. We know that.
A little bit about the Mountaineers on offense and defense:
Q. West Virginia on the offensive side of the ball, what have you seen from Austin Kendall? Just there’s been times he struggled but he has the talent being an Oklahoma transfer.
MATT WELLS: I just think a first-year starter he’s at his moments just like most first year guys do. He’s done a pretty good job of taking care of the football. He’s a talented kid, he can make a lot of throws, he throws it on time. When he gets protection and the guys protect in front of him, he can throw it, 1 and 13 are really good wide outs that have had good years and so they certainly have some offensive explosive guys out on the perimeter that he can get the ball to.
Q. When you look at West Virginia’s defense, specifically the defense of Stills, what makes him so dangerous?
MATT WELLS: Another big nose guard. Another powerful nose guard. Stills is a good player. You have seen the last few weeks against, he held his own against Oklahoma and Texas and certainly had a good game against Baylor Thursday night. I think that’s where you always want to try to start to build a defense. It’s right up the middle. And in this league the longer, I mean, I guess, week-to-week it seems like I keep setting up here saying, man, there’s another good nose guard in this league. And I think Stills is a really good player.
Wells is asked about linebacker Jordyn Brooks:
Q. Jordyn Brooks. How important is he to this defense?
MATT WELLS: He’s everything. I think so, so impressed with Jordyn. Truth be told maybe more so in the last six weeks than ever before. But the guy since day one, I remember him, he sits right there in team meeting, since December 1st he’s fully bought in to what we have brought here to Tech in terms of core values, the way we practice, Keith Patterson, a new scheme, a new way to do things, a new way to be coached. He is, he cares, he’s becoming a better leader, quiet by nature, just in his personality, and you guys have all seen that. But he’s really come out and I think spoken up at times and in the meetings and locker room and I respect Jordyn. And I know the whole room does, the whole locker room does. And he continues to play at a high level because he practices at a high level and he invests time into the game plan every week and he comes ready to play, mentally emotionally ready to play every Saturday and I just think you see it by his production every Saturday. He’s playing at a really, really high level.
And Wells is also asked about quarterback Jett Duffey:
Q. How have seen Jett progress, like specifically has he earned just like, I don’t know if it’s more trust, but has the play book got a lot bigger for him and he’s developing well in this offense?
MATT WELLS: I think Jett’s played well, there’s still things that he needs to improve on and Coach Yost is certainly addressing those with him. But the thing that as a quarterback you got to do before you win a game is not beat yourself. He’s done that. He’s been very stingy with the football and given us a chance in every game, really, and I think that’s the mark of a good quarterback. I think the better he becomes within some of the things that he needs to improve on, you know, I think maybe you get to the point where the quarterback can win one for you. But it also takes the 10 guys around him protecting him and making plays for him out on the perimeter and any time you can establish the run game and when we have done that I think he’s played better because I think the running game’s a quarterback’s best friend.
Q. What are some of the things he needs to work on?
MATT WELLS: I just think some of the progressions in our passing game, some of the things in the run game that whether it’s reading the run game, it’s checking out a run game, all those kind of things that I think continue to come with time and different looks each week and there’s certainly getting addressed in the QB room. But he’s no different than anybody else. We always try to address things that he can work on and try to continue to improve on the other things, but take something each week and improve on that and make that part of your game better. And Jett’s doing a good job of responding to that.
And let’s end this on how the team improves on a week-to-week basis:
Q. You’ve been coaching for a long time how much can a team improve this far in the season from percentage-wise or however you want to quantify it. But how can they improve from a week-to-week basis this late in the season?
MATT WELLS: Oh, I think there’s always room for individual improvement and I think the more individual improvement you get the better your team is. I’ll tell you the other thing is, is how can you stay upticking just a little bit with each individual and then collectively you’re a little bit better each Saturday. I think it’s also your mind. Minds get lazy, minds get tired on teams. I think there’s a lack of discipline as teams, as the year goes on and I think that fragments a team. I’ve been on teams that have run the table in the month of November and I think more than anything their practice habits stay the same or they improve just a little bit, their level of investment, being a football junkie, the treatment they get is improving just a little bit. And then their discipline and their accountability is at a high level and it doesn’t slack. I think as soon as teams start having individuals that lack in discipline or accountability I think you start to fragment from inside and then I think the elements or the travel or I’m tired or my stuff doesn’t feel right and I think all that kind of stuff starts to creep in and then it can be difficult to win.
And when you keep it at a high level, I think when you play an opponent that doesn’t do that, I think you have a chance, better chance for success and then it looks like you’re improving, but what you’re doing is you’re just being more accountable and your being more disciplined and maybe your on-the-field improvement doesn’t, it doesn’t do that, but you just continue to do all the little things right and then when you face your opponent maybe in the fourth quarter, their performance goes down, it looks like yours is significantly better.
RedRaiderSports’ Billy Watson who recaps the media sessions with offensive coordinator David Yost and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Patterson said that the bye came at a good time:
The same topic was discussed with Patterson as far as how time critical the bye week came, saying it was right on time. Patterson continued saying it was good for the athletes to get away from the tough loss to the Kansas Jayhawks. Moreover, Patterson called it a tough loss, especially going into the fourth quarter in Lawrence with the lead.
“The kids took it extremely hard. So, I do think the bye has been really good for us. I mean, we got a renewed spirit. Felt like today got away from them a little bit. Truly, it gave us the time to evaluate some things that we were doing and just getting back to the fundamentals.”
Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams has a notebook with various items that I think have been addressed above.