Bobby Wilder Press Conference (Transcript and Video)
By ODU Athletics
Below is the transcript from the Bobby Wilder Press Conference.
Hey, good afternoon everyone, thanks for coming, out coming off of a difficult loss at Virginia Tech, 31-17. A much-improved team from week one to week two, that was what I was most encouraged with. I always feel like, as a team, particularly when you’ve got a younger team with a lot of new players, that your biggest improvement is from week one to week two and we definitely saw that in this football game. We had 62 guys play in this game, so we continued to develop depth, which is something we’re going to need over the course of the rest of the season. What really jumped out to me is how hard we competed for two weeks in a row, regardless of the score or if we create some adversity for ourselves, this team just plays hard every snap in all three phases and that’s something we can definitely build on. I felt like we were the better football team than Virginia Tech in the second half. Unfortunately, we got behind 17-3 on the scoreboard. It was almost a tie game in the second half, we got it from 24-3 to 24-17 with about 13 minutes to go in the game and we had all the momentum at that point and then, unfortunately, they hit that long kickoff return on us.
A couple of really good things that came out of this game, we were +2 in the turnovers, which when you go on the road in a hostile environment against a better team on paper, to be able to go +2. I mean, we didn’t turn the ball over, we took it away twice, we’re number one in the league right now in turnovers and we created five turnovers by our defense to this point. Offensively, we ran 73 plays in this game without a turnover, which is really important for our development. Battling back in the games, as I mentioned, was a big one. To be able to come back from 24-3 down and get it to a one-score game with all the momentum, we can build on that.
From a special teams standpoint, our punt team, we averaged 41 yards a punt and we only gave up one in return. Bailey [Cate] can punt better than he did, I know he will. Nick Rice was perfect on his kicks and Brad Davis kicked the ball really well in this game, he just had the one kick that was a little bit short, wasn’t positioned properly, and then we didn’t cover it well, that certainly wasn’t all on the kicker. We’ve got to be able to tackle in that situation. Kickoff return right now, it’s really good to see Blake Watson’s development. He’s second in Conference USA right now in return average. We’re still trying to get the right people in front of him, get the right scheme for him. But he runs hard, he’s hard to tackle, he almost broke one in this game and their kicker had to make the tackle, so I’m really excited about what he can bring to us on kickoff return.
Defensively, in the first quarter, we only allowed five yards rushing. That really set the tempo for the game, how well we played on run defense. Our issue was that they had four explosive pass plays in the first quarter. That’s what really got them going, and third down was when they made those explosive plays. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Ryan Willis, he may be the best passer we see all season. I think he’s an NFL-caliber arm, he throws the ball extremely well, he throws the deep ball well, he’s got every throw in his arsenal. He gave us a lot of problems on Saturday. Our run defense was excellent, we only allowed 3.4 yards per rush in this game, and that’s something, now two weeks in a row, we’ve done really well against the run. One of the big positives coming out of this is we’ve learned with Geronda Hall at nickel, he’s a little bit undersized but he tackles extremely well, he had seven tackles in this game. Calvin Brewton had eight tackles, our safety, who we inserted to the front. Especially on run downs, he played really well. Calvin’s a really good football player, I couldn’t be any happier that he came to us from Florida State because he’s passionate, he works very hard, he’s a very good football player. And, as expected, we got 18 tackles from Lawrence Garner and Jordan Young in this football game. I was also really pleased with the development of Keion White, playing only his second game at defensive end. He was disruptive, they started to double team him in the second half because they really couldn’t handle his play off the edge. He only got half a sack in the game but he forced the quarterback to move a lot, he was dominant in the run game, he’s going to be an excellent football player as he continues to develop. Then, you saw Tobias Moss played really well for us at corner, had an excellent pass breakup on a third and long. Harrell Blackmon, first time playing defense in this game, caused the fumble by DeShawn McClease with a really violent tackle in the fourth quarter. Both of those turnovers in the fourth quarter, just phenomenal play by Marcus Haynes on the quarterback. A lot of people don’t understand that rule, but when Marcus tackled Ryan Willis, Willis was still on top of Marcus, and he immediately ripped the ball out because he knew the quarterback hadn’t hit the ground yet. And although the officiating ruled it down, we got an immediate recovery, so we got the football, but that was a phenomenal play by Marcus. Then, like I said, the hit by Harrell Blackmon on DeShawn McClease was really explosive, and that’s what Harrell Blackmon brings, he’s a very physical player. We’re starting to develop a rotation in the back end that’s going to help us. This is the most depth we’ve ever had in the secondary, and a lot of credit to Grady Brown. He’s developing those guys, there’s competition there, they’re starting to learn the scheme, and I feel like we’ll just continue to improve on defense.
Offensively, it was really the tale of two halves. We had 24 plays for 70 yards in the first half, and really it all came on that first drive, the field goal. After that, we just couldn’t get anything going. We were 2-6 on third down, both conversions came on the first drive. Then we came out in the second half and we ran 49 plays for 254 yards. We converted three times on fourth down in the second half. We were really aggressive on fourth down, especially when we got behind. But you could just see the development in the confidence in the quarterback. He made some tremendous plays in the second half. Not only in the run game, but in the pass game. He escaped a couple of sacks and he got the ball on the perimeter. Both of his touchdown runs were just phenomenal athletic plays. I was also excited to see Messiah deWeaver come into a critical situation and move the chains. Stone had some cramps and Messiah came in and we ran a drop back pass on the fourth down, he didn’t see it and he ran it, and converted to first down, then Stone came back in. It was really good to get Messiah in the game. I wanted to play him week one, but there just wasn’t an opportunity to put him in. But to get him in this football game is really going to help us, because I feel like we’ve got two really good quarterbacks that can lead this team.
Obviously, we’ve got to improve some things in the pass game, particularly trying to get some explosive plays, and we’ll work hard on that this week. Going into the bye week, the focus, as I mentioned, will be in developing more in our pass game. People have gotten used to seeing us throw the ball successfully, and when you break in a new quarterback, you’re really running a new offense right now. We’re really tight end oriented, we’re more run game. We ran the ball really well in this game. We rushed the ball for 240 yards against Virginia Tech. Which, you know, Boston College didn’t do that, there weren’t many teams last year who ran the ball well against them, and they did in this football game. We averaged 4.7 yards a carry, which is only going to help us. Now it’s a matter of developing the play action pass off of the run game. That’s something we’ll work hard on this week to improve. Then our third down defense, as I said to Coach Blackwell, he was really disappointed that they went 8-13 on third down. Schematically, we’re running really good things, it’s just when you play a quarterback like Willis, if that coverage isn’t spot on, if you’re not locked on those receivers, he’s going make plays, and he did in this game. We’ll make a couple of minor adjustments to what we’re doing, but I feel really good about where we are defensively. We came out of the game healthy, which is critical. Everybody is good to go. We’ll give them a couple of days off early in the week to focus on academics and get themselves healed from the bumps and bruises, and then we’ll get right to UVA on Thursday. I will gladly take questions.
Q: How is a bye week this time of year different from the one you’ll have late in the year, or even mid-year?
BW: I’ve always said that I don’t mind the bye week early, because what gets lost in it is that we had four weeks of preseason, so this is really the seventh week that we’ve been at it. So, getting this bye week early and then we’ve got another one seven weeks from now, which times up pretty good with our last three games. It definitely helps from the standpoint of taking a deep breath, it gives us a chance to focus on our self-scouting in our first two games, which normally wouldn’t be that important. But with new systems on offense and defense, it’s critical that we take a look at who we are and then the numbers will tell you that you’re accurate or that you’ve got to make some adjustments. I feel good about having it right now, it gives the kids a chance to take a deep breath and regroup.
Q: Can you talk just a little bit about playing at the University of Virginia, which is a nationally ranked team, can you just tell me about what that experience will be like?
BW: Yeah, I was really hoping when we scheduled this game three years ago that they wouldn’t be this good if I’m being 100% truthful. But I’ve been upstairs all morning studying them, they are a really good football team. They’ve done a really good job, and you’ve got to give Bronco [Mendenhall] a lot of credit because he changed who they were. Their identity is completely different than the way UVA used to be as a football team. They’re really built in his mold. They do a lot on defense, there’s a lot of blitz, but they’re really sound. They’ve got arguably the best cornerback in America, and they play really good football. Offensively, they’ve become more of a running team, their quarterback throws it well, but he’s one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country. I mean, he does some really special things with the ball. It’s different, but it is going to be a good experience for our players. I don’t look at it differently than I did with us going to Virginia Tech. There was a little more drama there because we had beaten Tech last year, but it’s another Power Five on the road. You mentioned the ranking, they’ve got Florida State coming in, which if they beat them, they’re undefeated. A week after us, they’ve got Notre Dame, so maybe they’ll just forget we’re coming in. But this is a good football team, they’re special teams are excellent. I give Bronco a lot of credit because he’s done an excellent job. They had a point last year where I really felt like he really deserved to be commended was coming off of the Tech loss. How heartbreaking it was that they lost that game. I spent some time with Bronco at the senior bowl, we both had some players down there, I talked to him about his approach after that game because they went to a bowl game after that and just destroyed South Carolina 28-0. He talked about it and said they immediately went right back into preseason mode coming off that Tech game, they practiced hard, and said they weren’t going to have any hangover from the Tech loss. That’s a really good job of coaching to get your team back after a game where you feel like you’re going to break the streak and you don’t, and the job he did, I’ve got a lot of respect for Bronco, he’s an amazing coach and person. This’ll be a major challenge, but it is exciting to go play at UVA, a program I have tremendous respect for, especially him and what they’ve done. They’ve got really good football players.