Bobby Wilder Press Conference (Video and Transcript)
By ODU Athletics
Below is the transcript to the Bobby Wilder Press Conference.
Good afternoon everybody. Good afternoon to of all our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation. We are coming off a 17-7 win at UMass this week. The mission accomplished. We went 1-0, which gets our overall record to 2-0. It’s always difficult to win on the road as we talked about as a team going into this game.
When you travel and play on the road, you have to figure out a way to create your own momentum and the best way to create momentum on the road is don’t turn the ball over, which we did, and not to allow big momentum plays. There were really only two significant momentum plays against us in this game. One was the long touchdown pass they had to open the second half, and the other one was when they stopped us on fourth down at their one-yard line. We did a really good job overall in this game with those momentum plays.
Defensively we were outstanding. We shut them out in the first half only allowing 96 yards on 24 plays. We’ve allowed three points in the first half of our first two games, and that is very difficult to do. Our guys have played really good football. We broke our own school record for sacks which lasted only a week. We had seven against Albany last week and we had eight this week in the game against Massachusetts. We’re getting really good play out of our front four right now, which is really our front eight. We’re rotating two groups through in the defensive line about every four plays. We rotate to try and keep those guys fresh coming off the ball, and having tremendous success in the front, which is obviously helping all aspects of our defense.
The third significant thing in this game is we ran the ball well. We didn’t run the ball well week one; this week we had 197 yards rushing, which is the number we had last year when we led Conference USA in rushing. If we can continue to build on that, being able to run the ball, play good defense and not turn it over, that’s going to work well for us in the future.
Special teams were outstanding again this week. Bailey Cate had seven punts for a 43-yard average, three punts were pinned inside the 20, which led to Massachusetts average drive start being on the 21-yard line. That is critical field position. Nick Rice was solid again this week; he made his field goal and both extra points. He is now 6-for-6 on extra points on the year, and 2-for-2 on field goals, so a really good start for him. Brad Davis kicked the ball well, we had another touchback this week, so overall on special teams this was a really good performance.
Our defense as I mentioned only allowed seven points on the road against a team that was averaging 32 points through their first two games; that’s impressive. We’re number one in the nation right now in sacks with 15 through two weeks. Both our linebackers were outstanding in this game. Marvin Branch had 15 tackles; Jordan Young, the red-shirt freshman, had 10 tackles in this game and we had six different players have sacks in this game. Miles Fox had two sacks, which led the team, but it is always better for your defense when the offense can’t look at just one or two guys and say we have to double this defense end, or we have to double this defensive tackle. Right now, we are getting production from a lot of different guys in the front, and we are able to keep that rotation which is big.
Offensively, I mentioned the key stat was no turnovers. We had three in our first game, and we didn’t have any turnovers in this football game, which on the road didn’t allow momentum for Massachusetts. We need to throw and catch the ball better, we had some missed throws and we had some drops. We were 13-for-29 overall, and the offensive line was much improved in this game. When you see that you only allowed one sack, and that was the first play of the game, and that was the coverage and the quarterback not getting rid of the ball. So, one sack on nearly 80 snaps, and the ability to run the ball like we did. We stayed out of negative plays in this game.
Looking to this week’s opponent, North Carolina. They come in with a 0-2 record. Two very tough losses. In both games they led late in the game. They were actually ahead of Louisville, 28-27, in the third quarter of this game. We expect they will be big, fast and physical; that’s what they look like on video. They’ve scored a lot of points, they’re throwing for a lot of yards right now. Defensively, they have been hurt by big plays. That has been the biggest difference with them is they have had a lot of big plays against them. They are outstanding on special teams, they returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown against Louisville, the punter is averaging 47 yards. We know this is going to be a major challenge, we know we are going to be underdogs in this game at home, and we are going to need a loud and proud group of 12th Monarchs there Saturday at 3:30.
Q: You got some injuries on offense. At receiver, it looks like Hasaan Patterson is another size guy. What kind of progress has he made?
A: Jonathan Duhart has a broken foot, he is going to need surgery this week. He is going to need a screw to be placed in the foot, so it looks as if he is going to be out for the year. We’ll pursue a medical redshirt for him. Jonathan played as a true freshman, so we are going to try and get another year for him and I am confident that we’ll be able to do that. Based on what the doctors are telling us, it looks like a season ending injury for him. You mentioned Patterson, he had a couple catches in the game, he has progressed well. Fulgham had four catches for 81 yards. He is going to need to be a bigger factor for us. Noah Ellison is going to need to step in. Marques Little had a diving catch on the sideline; he’s got to play more and better for us. Basically, out of all those guys at wide receiver, they are going to need to step into it and make an impact for us. Hopefully on that injury front, we will get Ray Lawry back this week. We worked him out before the game, he said he was ready to play but I just didn’t feel confident he was 100%. That’s the goal to work toward to this week, is to get him back healthy.
Q: When you’re in FCS, obviously the difference between FBS is 63 and 85. When you look at a power five team on tape, to your trained eye, what is the biggest difference between those teams, and group of five teams.
A: The biggest difference that I see right now, for example, when I look at us back in 2013 when we started playing FBS and look at it now, if I do this with my hands, we started here (big gap), height difference partially in the trenches, the size, and now were closing that gap. We’ve gone from probably six inches to two or three inches. It’s the size and strength in the trenches. When you look at that box from tight end, to tackle, and the linebacker area, we’re closing the gap in the size. You can watch games all over the country and that is what you’re going to see is that size difference up front. Sure, athletically you may be a step slower in some spots, but it’s the offensive and defensive lines that are the biggest differences.
Q: About half of Conference USA is playing two power fives this season. I think you and Middle Tennessee are the only ones playing them back-to-back. I know you don’t control dates, but in a perfect world, would you like a break in-between them, or is back-to-back fine?
A: If you look at the future schedule, we’ve tried to organize it to where it’s not back-to-back. At least this year even with back to back, we have a bye following the Virginia Tech game before we open league play. It’s going to be more physical for us. All due respect to everybody else that we play, up front is going to be more physical this week and next week. You’re talking about two games in a seven-day period where your offensive lineman and defensive lineman are going to be sore. We’ve already set up with that bye week coming after, the kids are going to have four days where it’s just in the training room stretching and treatments. We know how the kids are going to feel not only this coming Sunday, but the following Sunday. That’s the challenge. That’s why you try when you organize those P-5 games, you try to evaluate who you’re playing, you evaluate their style, you evaluate how they play the game, and then you try your best to set it up where you get a break in there. As you know, most of the P-5 games happen early in the year. Those first four games, and then everybody gets into their leagues. If you’re going to play in more than one, if it’s not back-to-back, it’s going to be pretty close. Middle Tennessee is a great example, they’re playing three in a row. Two of them on the road, and that’s a major challenge. Again, I go back to the size; you really got to evaluate who you play, and what they’re style is. For us were playing back-to-back two physical teams, so that bye week is critical for us after the Tech game.
Q: When you look at the film for North Carolina, what are your major concerns?
A: Up front, its starts up front. Their defensive line, they’re not a big blitz team, but they are very physical in the front seven. That’s a major challenge for us, and then their offensive line. You look at them across the board size wise and the way they play the game. It’s going to be a physical game up front, and we’re going to have to hold our own. If we’re going to have an opportunity to win, it’s going to start for us in the o-line and d-line. We’ve got to be able to run the ball; we have to be able to run the ball. That is going to help us with field position and that’s going to set up our play action pass. With the defense, what North Carolina does a nice job of is they got enough quarterback running, and perimeter run. They’re a team that will attack you in every gap on offense. We’re going to end up in a lot of one on ones on the perimeter, both run and pass because of the style of their offense. That is going to put a lot of stress on us at linebacker and the back end, but up front is where it all starts this week for us.
Q: It appeared in the first half against Louisville, UNC had settled on Surratt and then he dings a hip and then Harris comes in and plays much better than he did against Cal. What have been your impressions on the two quarterbacks?
A: The first thing that jumped out to me, generally when you look at a two-quarterback rotation, you say okay they’re probably not completing the ball at a high percentage, but they’re at 70% and 61%. You rarely see that in a two-quarterback system. I thought Surratt was going to come back in the second half. We were talking about it as a staff, we couldn’t figure out whether Harris was just playing well, got a hot hand, or how banged up Surratt was. Were anticipating he’ll play. Were anticipating were going to see both of them, but they’re completing the ball at a high percentage and that’s something you don’t normally see in a two-quarterback system. Usually you see one guy is maybe a better thrower, and the other guy runs it, but both guys are completing the ball at a high level right now.
Q: Are you happy with the way your two quarterbacks are performing?
A: It’s such a work in progress right now because they both need reps. They both need a lot of reps. There’s not a major difference between both of them. Blake had such a good first half, we had a couple scoring drives, he was 10-for-15. Blake didn’t have success passing the ball in the second half and then we went with Jordan because we wanted to be able to run the ball a little bit more. The plan is that they’re both still going to play and we’re still trying to figure them both out within the system, what makes them both work. At this point we haven’t settled on one or the other and this could be a process going through. We know we are going to need both of them all year. We are still trying to develop both of them, still trying to figure out what their strengths are and be able to develop them more in the position.
Q: Would beating a power five team be a milestone for this program?
A: If you look at it, we’ve had so many firsts. There’s been so many firsts in the history of this program, going up to the big one last year, which was the bowl game. This would be the first if we’re able to be successful Saturday. I don’t look at it like there’s a time table on it. I don’t look at it like this has to happen, I look at it more as we’ve just got to continue to develop as a program. It’s going to happen eventually. When it happens, there’s no way to say exactly when it’s going to happen, but as long as we keep making the progress were making right now as a program, we’ve redeveloped ourselves as a team. We used to just be throwing all over the yard, onside kicks, fakes, but we’ve redeveloped ourselves into a defensive, special teams oriented team, that’s really trying to be smart with the football. As we keep redefining ourselves, I know it’s going to happen eventually, it’s just when is it going to happen.