Bobby Wilder Weekly Press Conference
NORFOLK, Va. - ODU Head Coach Bobby Wilder met with the media today, below is a transcription of the press conference.
Good afternoon to all our 12th monarchs out there in Monarch Nation. You know, we coaches are sometimes accused of not being as nice as we should be to the media. The media will tell you that we treat them like mushrooms. We put them in dark places and feed them…well we feed them candy! Skittles for Harry, skittles for Dave, we got jolly ranchers coming out over here, some starburst, and Ted some sweet tarts for just a sweet guy. Let’s not let it be thought that here at Old Dominion Football we don’t take care of our good friends in the media.
In a very festive mood today coming off of what was a complete win for us Saturday, 66-14 over Rhode Island. Puts our record at six and three overall, five and 0 at home. One of the goals we set this year as a program was to be undefeated at home. No previous Old Dominion team has done that, and we now have that opportunity with one game remaining at home. Also, a big shout out to our 12th monarchs on our 34th consecutive sellout, very grateful for that. And to our military, as you can see I still have my hat honoring the military hat on from Military Appreciation Day. A big thank you to all those who protect and serve our country.
I felt like we dominated in all three phases of the game, which was encouraging to see. We played two halves of football. The first half we won 31 to 7 and the second half we won 35 to 7. We had not done that in the previous two weeks. Dating back to our Pittsburgh game, where we jumped out 10 to nothing then were outscored 28 to nothing. Then our Norfolk state game, we jumped out 17 to three and then got outscored 21 to nothing before we came back and won it.
In this football game we challenged ourselves as a team to play a complete game and we did that so I’m very pleased with that. Turnovers, we won the turnover battle two to zero. We took two away with our defense. We had not done that in previous two weeks. We did not turn the ball over and then on third and fourth down we were very good on those downs. We were 10 for 18 offensively 56 %, and even more impressive defensively 13 out of 17 times on third and fourth downs, 77%, we were successful which got us off the field.
Very pleased with the development and game experience we’re getting for a lot of the players right now. 57 players played in the game on Saturday, 34 of them are first year players, and I can see with each game we’re making improvements. We’re starting to understand situational football better. At the start of the year, particularly the first couple games it was painful certain situations and I can see the momentum we’re making right now. We only had three of 22 starters Saturday on offense and defense who were seniors. With all the players that are going to be coming back, with all the players that are returning and the progress we’re making, we’re definitely trending in the right direction as a football program. We took another big step forward defensively in this game and overall when I look at our defense we’re allowing 420 yards and 30 points a game. In our last five games that’s 335 yards and 20 points. So that’s an 85-yard improvement off the average and 10 points. Most recently in this game versus Rhode Island had 268 yards and 14 points. So when I say we’re trending in the right direction particularly defensively right now. What really jumped out at me I looked at the yardage in the last four games going back to Liberty, we allowed 401 yards, in the Pittsburgh game we allowed 370 yards, and then in the Norfolk state game 315 yards. Now in this Rhode Island game it was down 268 yards. So I see us making tremendous progress right now on that side of the ball under Coach (Rich) Nagy and the defensive staff. You can see the excitement level; you can see the confidence level on defense. If you walk out in the hallways right now you’ll see a lot of those defensive kids. They’re here on what is their day off because they want to watch video. They’re excited. They see the improvement right now we’re making, and that’s critical to the development of our program, and what we are trying to accomplish. In that game Saturday we had 30 players on defense that played, 30 players that were involved. So we have more guys now that are taking ownership, that are excited with the direction were going on defense.
In terms of offense we were efficient in every measurable Saturday. 66 points and 633 yards. We were nine for nine in the red zone which had been an area the last three weeks where we had not been as efficient as we were accustomed to. I was excited about the fact that we ran for 285 yards. Offensively we also had 23 players involved Saturday. You saw a lot of different guys playing. I was really excited at the fact that we played all of our offensive linemen, all of our receivers, all of our running backs. We got David Washington in for some quality time, and as you all can see with every snap he takes he’s getting better as a football players.
Speaking to this week’s opponent, Idaho the one very glaring statistic that I shared with our team yesterday in the team meeting is that Idaho has one FBS win and Old Dominion has zero. That’s really what our players need to know right now, and what we need to focus on. They’ve got something we don’t have and something that we want. Their one win came against Temple at home. There are three big challenges this week. Number one we’re beat up right now as a football team. This is as beat up as I’ve seen us since going back to 2010. We’ve got 22 players that are on the injury report. We’ve got eight starters that are out, and at this point it looks like majority of them could be out for the season. We’ve got to travel a long distance, over 2700 miles to play this game. Then we have to play Idaho in their dome on senior day. Idaho has been a much different team when they play at home than they have on the road this year. They’ve been very competitive at home. Other than the Fresno state game, which Fresno state right now is number 16 in the latest BCS rankings. Everyone else they’ve played it has been very, very competitive. Including Northern Illinois who played in the orange bowl last year, and the most recently Texas State who’s a six win bowl team. That’s who they lost to this Saturday at home. Offensively they’ve got a running back that is similar to the running back we faced at Pittsburgh. James Baker who went for 115 yards this weekend. James is a big back, he’s 6’2” 230 pounds. They’ve got a big offensive line and that concerns me. They run a complicated scheme on offense which at times has backfired against them, but at other times has guys running in wide open in the pass game. With an inexperienced defense like we have that concerns me so we’ve got to have a great week of preparation against what they are doing offensively.
Defensively they’ve struggled. They only have two seniors that are in the starting lineup. They are playing a lot of young players, a lot of transfers. Not unlike us in terms of philosophically what they are trying to do. A first year coach, they are trying to build for the future. But what has really impressed me is they compete, and they compete for the entire game. So overall this is two programs that are in transition. We’re transitioning to conference USA playing a makeshift schedule, and they are transitioning into the Sun Belt and they’re playing an unbelievable makeshift schedule, particularly in their travel. They’ve traveled through a number of time zones, they have a bye next week then they go to Florida State the week after. They will have played eight teams on their schedule that will go to bowl games this year, so they’ve played a very competitive schedule. I’m not so sure if you flipped the roles, if you flipped the schedules and had us play their schedule and Idaho play our schedule, I’m not so sure it might not be similar in terms of the records of the team. I think we are evenly matched in this football game. They’ve got the advantage because they are at home. So this will be a major challenge, but one that we are very excited for as a program.
The injury update you mentioned eight starters can you go through them?
We learned this past week that David Born is out for the year. Blair Roberts does in fact have a concussion, and he is questionable at this point. Gerard Johnson with the ankle sprain he’s questionable. Defensively, Dominique Guinn-Bailey who has been out the last couple of weeks, he’s questionable at this point coming off the concussion. Larry Alston, linebacker, same thing questionable. Eriq Lewis who’s been playing as good as football as anybody for us defensively in the last month, he’s definitely out for the year. Anthony Wilson who’d been starting at linebacker as a redshirt freshman is going to be out for the year with that high ankle sprain. And Galen Evans who has been out the entire year. It reminds me a lot of 2010. The good thing for us is that we’ve been playing so many players that the next guy has been able to step in and at this point be an experienced guy. We’re just getting really thin at some positions right now, particularly linebacker and running back.
What are the primary challenges when you are traveling this type of distance?
Going back to the spring I did some research and talked to some other schools that had traveled three time zones just to find out what’s been the approach. Most of the feedback I got was to try to stay on the same schedule, try not to vary the player’s schedules. So were going to take the approach like we’ve always done. We’re going to practice here on Friday morning, we’ll hop on a plane and go. It’s scheduled to be a four-hour flight so I already instructed the guys to grab their favorite pillow and rest up on this one. Then just try to keep them on a regular routine. We’re going to stay on east coast time, as far as we’re concerned this is a five o’clock kickoff. Similar approach if you will to Maryland.
What specific areas have you seen improvement?
The number one thing I’ve seen is the knowledge of what we’re doing. This goes back to the East Carolina game. On Friday I put the East Carolina game on and then put the Norfolk state game on, and we just looked so much faster as a defense. When players can think fast they play fast. They have a better knowledge now of our defense. So your taking some kids that at the start of year that looked like they were 5.0 40 guys and now they look like they are 4.7 40 guys. They look faster on the field. Coach Nagy is able to do some more things schematically. We’ve changed some philosophically to what we’re doing on defense. You watched us Saturday, you’re looking and seeing Reggie Owens in a lot of man coverage and then across from him there are two freshmen. Sandy Chapman played a lot of man coverage. Sandy Chapman wasn’t playing the first game of the year. Now he’s being able to play man coverage and play zone coverage. These are the type of things now that we are able to do defensively. Our defensive staff is in there right now and they can look at some things schematically Idaho is dong and make adjustments. Start of the year we were just trying to get lined up and it was as simple as that, and we were very obvious. We’re not as obvious now defensively when we line up. There’s some disguise in there some blitz by week. There’s some different things were doing. The biggest thing is see is now our players are gaining confidence. They were getting beat up pretty good, at the start of the year defensively. Looking at the first three games it didn’t look very good and I just kept reminding them to stay with the process, were going to get better, and that’s what happened to us. That’s why I feel better about the fact that we can sustain this even though were pretty beat up right now.
With attendance of 14 to 16,000 and it being senior day I would imagine it would be a pretty hostile environment.
I have an experience I can relate to that from when I was the offensive coordinator at Maine in 2002, we played at the Unidome in Northern Iowa. Its gets very loud because it’s so closed in. When you look at the dimensions of this arena you can run through the end zone and you better slow down quick because you’re going to hit the wall. The wall is literally right outside the end zone. I can see it when I watch offenses play against their defense. When you watch the sideline camera you can see their fans and you can see them up on their feet. You can see the quarterback having to walk up to the line to make checks and make the calls. It should be a great environment it should make for a great environment to play. I told our players Sunday this isn’t going to be like the Georgia dome where you can yell across the field to your buddy and he can hear you. It’s going to be loud and exciting.
Thank you all for coming. We will see you at two weeks at home for hopefully our 35th consecutive sellout.