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.
We’re coming off an exciting 21-17 win against Liberty and that puts our overall record at 4-2, 4-0 at home our 33rd consecutive sellout. Our record now is 26-7 at S.B. Ballard Stadium. We are in the top 5 C-USA attendance, we are number one at 100% capacity, ECU is second at 88% capacity, FIU at 80% Marshal at 72% and Tulsa at 70%. A big shout out to all the 12th monarchs for your support and also your efforts in stripe the stadium. It’s one more thing that adds to the tremendous home field advantage that we feel. We truly appreciate it, so thank you very much.
In terms of the win this was truly a character-building win for our football team. I say that because 54 of the 64 players that dressed played in the game. We had 19 on offense, 27 on defense and then eight others that played in various roles on special teams. To have 84% of our players who dressed contribute to this game is critical for our development as a program. It will not only help us now, with the mind set that the future is now, we want to win every game that we play now but it will also help develop our team as we move on into 2014 and beyond.
The keys to winning this game came down to game over plays. Meaning in the last five minutes of the game, if we don’t convert and if we don’t have success on special teams, defense or offense we’re going to lose. There were 191 snaps in this game and starting with play 169, which was a 3rd and 11 by Liberty on their own 29, if we don’t make a play we’re going to lose. We trailed 17-7 at that point. I’ll share with you some plays that were critical from that point on. First, with five minutes to go they run a double screen, Scott Wiggins, our freshman defensive end bats the ball down. We force a punt and Aaron Evans catches the ball on our 36, we had a couple of critical blocks on that play, three of them by true freshman and Aaron takes the ball back 64 yards for a touchdown which cuts the lead to 17-14 with 4:22 left in the game. We then get a stop by our defense on 3rd and 5. They’ve got the ball on their own 31 there’s 1:30 to go in the game, we already burned two time outs at that point to try and preserve some time, so if they convert on this 3rd and 5 its game over. Reggie Owens comes out and makes a great play on a slant route. They throw and not only did we stop them but the incomplete pass stopped the clock. They punt, Aaron Evans catches it, if he had dropped it and they had recovered it, it would have been game over. We take over on our own 27, 1:20 to go and one more time out. If you’ve seen us play you that’s plenty of time to make a field goal. Nothing went wrong, our guys threw a touchdown pass with a little under 30 seconds to go in the game. We make the touchdown but there was still a little drama after that.
There were a couple penalties involved, one involving John Darr. At the end of the game we break up the Hail Mary at the end zone, Fellonte Misher knocks the ball down. It took a team effort in the last five minutes to win the game. We had three stops by our defense in the last five minutes, we had a punt return for a touchdown, the extra point then Jarod Brown kicking the ball through the end zone that forced them to start on their 25, so we had three things happen with our special teams. Then our offense responds by going 73 yards in six plays in under a minute to score that touchdown.
As I explained to the team we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. We had three turnovers, we were 1 for 6 in the red zone, we had two missed field goals. That alone would have been an additional 41 points. So this could have been a 62-17 game. I feel like our offense wasn’t where it should have been execution wise in last week’s game and that hurt us this week. Three times in the red zone we were stopped on 4th and 1. We had two interceptions in the end zone that we didn’t execute. Certainly credit goes to Liberty, they stopped us, but it was our fault on execution, or lack there of that hurt us in this football game.
I’ll address right now a situation with the injuries that we’ve got. We currently have 17 players that are on the injury list at this time. First, Taylor Heinicke sustained a concussion in this game that happened with 13 minutes to go in the game when we had a 2nd and goal on Liberty’s seven-yard line. He had a four-yard run down the sideline where he had a major collision with their corner. The coaches and I had a talk with Taylor explaining to him that what he did was unacceptable, lowering his shoulder to get that extra yardage. Our rule with Quarterbacks are hash, numbers, sideline, meaning if you can’t get to the hash, slide, the numbers, slide or the sidelines then slide, the key word being slide and he didn’t. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion meaning he should be back for the Pittsburgh game if all goes as planned. David Born left this game in the first quarter, having some issues with both of his knees. We have decided to have arthroscopic surgery scheduled for him on Wednesday with our team doctor, Dr. Shaffer who will check to see if we need to clean out anything that might be degenerative. He will know more once he checks it but it looks like a minimum of three weeks that he will be out. Nate Barnes, our captain defensive tackle has been out but we anticipate that he will be back for the Pittsburgh game. Terrell Reid missed this game due to an AC sprain in his right shoulder and should be back for this game as well. The other guys are just some bumps and bruises.
In terms of John Darr, who was ejected with 16 seconds left in the game. Liberty had a 3rd and 6 on their own 27 yard line and we were in a preventive style defense which had John and our other linemen back about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage and Liberty ran a pattern that had Greg Pratt who is a senior wide receiver for them run a shallow crossing and John and Richie simultaneously hit the wide receiver. After reviewing this video about 25 times from three different angles I don’t believe that this play had malicious intent. After talking with John he said that he did not intend to have any contact with Greg Pratt. The video clearly shows that Greg’s head hits John’s shoulder first. Richie hitting him from behind only pushes him into John’s shoulder more. What makes it look even worse is that Greg’s helmet pops off his head. You can also see that John takes a step back after contact. I’ve traded messages with the league office and they are saying that they will get back to me as soon as they can about this situation. Hopefully we will get some positive news back. I have reached out to find out the condition of Greg Pratt. After the game he was sitting on the sideline and everyone on our team is hopeful that Greg is going to be okay from that collision.
I talked with our team about the bye week and it is in essence a tale of two halves. We just finished our first half and the good part of that is right now we stand at 4-2. We’re 4-0 at home and its great that we have that, the bad news it that we’re 0-2 on the road. We’re 0-2 against FBS football teams and as we move into this second half is to win the final six games. We want to end the season with a 10-2 record; we want to end this season on a 10-game winning streak. Number two; we want go to 3-2 in our five bowl games. The five FBS teams we play this year are our five bowl games, we don’t have any post-season games this year and we’re not in any championship games this year. Third is to continue to raise the bar as a team, by that I mean I feel we can play faster, smarter and stronger. Currently on our roster 70 of the 93 players have played this season. Of those, 34 are new players out of the 49 new players we got, either they arrived in January or they arrived this summer. 13 of those are true freshman. Nine of those are on defense and three on offense and one punter that are true freshmen. I see much improvement that can be made to play better, faster and stronger for this football team.
What prompted you to evaluate Taylor’s concussion?
After the game when he went back to his room he just wasn’t feeling well. After that he called his family and then Coach Whitcomb called me after that and he was taken to the hospital and our medical team stayed up with that. We reviewed it again on Sunday and he reported no headaches, along with none Monday morning and that’s where the diagnosis of a mild concussion came from. He didn’t exhibit any concussion symptoms during the game. That can happen because of the adrenaline flowing, you don’t realize you’re hurt until you start to relax. Whether that be a concussion or an injury to a body part we find out a lot more on Sunday. I was very proud of Taylor for reaching out to us Saturday night to tell us how he felt.
If you had a game this week what would his status be?
From what I’ve been told by our medical staff, he would be able to play.
If a player had come to you during the game complaining of head injury, what is your policy?
First and foremost I want to hear from the medical staff and the player about how they feel but I am always going to lean towards them not going back into the game unless the doctor feels 100% convinced that they’re going to be fine.
What does Born’s injury and surgery mean as far as changes for the team?
During the game offensive lineman Tyler Fisher came in and took most of the snaps. I was really glad to see some of the progress that he has made. Talk about critical situation, he’s out there with a 2-minute drive to win the game and he’s out there performing and doing it well. Tyler will compete for that job, that’s our philosophy that it’s a competition. Including Tyler there are 10 other guys willing to compete. We’re going to get our best guys out there for Pittsburg and we’ll continue to work in our backups.
Why did you go for it so much on 4th down instead of kicking field goals?
We had three fourth down situations. The initial one we were on the five yard line at 4th and 1 and you can clearly see that they were just trying to get lined up as we were snapping the ball. Taylor throws the ball to Marquel Thomas and he’s easily going to get the first down if not score and then he falls down. On the second you have a 4th and 1 on their 13 yard line we were on a pass play with the back wide open and our outside receiver runs the wrong route so now the safety doesn’t get cleared out like he would’ve. On the third one were on a 4th and 1 on the 1st yard line and we run a play right down the middle. This is where I go back to execution. All three of them it was a lack of execution on our part and we don’t get the yardage on the play. Our philosophy has always been to be aggressive on the 4th down and in this situation we fell short. Hindsight is always 20/20. Statistically when you look at us on 4th downs we’re over 60% every time we go for it.
When they kicked the field goal at the end of the first half, how did you feel about that?
I don’t feel like it had an effect on us. For our team it was just about getting the execution down and trying to get the fundamentals of offense, defense and special teams down. Good job by them. We line up for a 53 yarder and miss it then they get a 52 yarder, so good job by them.