Caught up with West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck today about several subjects about the West Virginia football team.
Here are some highlights of the interview, on what to expect moving forward, and his thoughts looking back at the Pinstripe Bowl and season.
1. Luck said changes will be made this offseason to improve on defense, including changes to the coaching staff, and an emphasis on recruiting for depth.
Luck: “Clearly we need to have a much more stout defense. I don’t think any team can expect to simply outscore folks. I think our coaches, including Dana (Holgorsen), understand that."
2. Luck declined to talk specifics about any changes to the coaching staff, but impressed how important the next several weeks will be.
Luck: “I can’t talk about any personnel issues. I think we need to improve our coaching as well. Not sure you can disconnect the two. We need to improve both from our recruiting and what we have in the pipeline. Our depth really wasn’t where we needed it to be in order to play in a very competitive conference like the Big 12.”
3. Luck agreed the motivation of the team was questionable heading into the Pinstripe Bowl. As context, several players were quite candid about preferring a warmer destination leading up to the game, then the team got just one outdoor practice in thanks to impending weather.
Luck: “The Yankees do a great job with the game. We had heard that from our previous years in the Big East. They do a phenomenal job and a lot of our kids had never been to New York City, a nice time of year obviously to go. Certainly based on the way we played it appeared we were not very motivated to play football, but I’ll be honest you watch a lot of bowl games and you see that in games in cold weather and not so cold weather.
“Our team has a mindset going in. Ours clearly wasn’t where it needed to be. We have to look at the reasons why. I’ll differ to the coaching staff there. It was not a performance that anybody was proud of.”
4. About the Pinstripe Bowl. There has been a lot of talk that the team's struggles on defense this year centered around the difficult transition to the prolific Big 12. Those passing attacks and talented quarterbacks quite obviously posed major problems for the defense. Then Syracuse rushed for 369 yards to run away with the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. Does that mean this team would have struggled as much in the Big East?
Luck: “That’s a fair question, and I really haven’t watched enough Big East football this year. Certainly this year there’s some pretty stout teams in the Big East…Kind of like Louisville we snuck into the Orange Bowl based on the BCS system (last year.) Years prior to that we’d get knocked off by Syracuse or Cincinnati. No disrespect to the Big East, there are some teams that gave us problems. But Syracuse clearly ran the ball. (It was) kind of a day where whoever could run the ball more effectively was going to win the game. As good as Geno is, and Ryan Nassib - who people are predicting as a second day draft pick - you weren’t going to throw the ball well with those conditions.
“I thought we didn’t tackle well. Guys were getting into the second level much too easily, running up the gut as opposed to around the end. They ran really two plays consistently, and ran them well.”