NORFOLK, Va. - ODU Head Coach Bobby Wilder met with the media today, below is a transcription of the press conference.
We’re coming off a disappointing 35-24 loss at Pittsburgh. Going into this game we talked all week long to our players about having to be one step faster to be able to compete with a team like Pittsburgh. I felt like our kids competed for all 60 minutes of this game. I felt like they played hard and that they gave everything they had. I was very proud of their level of competitiveness. The key to this game was that we lost the turnover battle, only turning the ball over one time with the interception late in the game. We didn’t get any turnovers from Pittsburgh with their offense or in their kicking game. We hurt ourselves significantly with penalties, 14 total and eight of those on offense, three on defense and three on special teams. That took away from our opportunities on some of the drives especially late in the game that led to their final touchdown.
With special teams, we needed to win this phase of the game and we didn’t. We got the onside kick which created a touchdown and that brought the game to 28-24 in the 3rd quarter and that created a huge momentum shift for us in the game. We gave up a 56-yard punt return in the first half of the second quarter, we went from up 10-7 to down 14-10. Those two really neutralized each other in special teams. We made them punt five times, we went after them and we needed to block a punt and get a return and we didn’t.
Defensively, we had some positives in this game. First off we forced them to punt five times in the game. We also had a point in the game when we were down by 11 and chasing points and we made a big stop on 4th down. We did great defending the pass. They have an NFL prospect at Quarterback; he’s a big guy who throws the ball well. He was 11 for 18 for 104 yards. We played a lot of man coverage this game, more than we have ever in the past. We put Reggie Owens and Eriq Lewis on man coverage a majority of the game. Reggie played 68 snaps and Eriq played 60 playing predominately in man coverage. We were trying to commit as many guys as we could to the run game. We knew coming into this they were going to outweigh us by about 50 pounds a man. Their average was 320 ours was 270. This put tremendous stress on Lewis and Owens and they really came through with coverage. They ran the ball for 266 yards. It was really a combination of their size and their run fits and tackling that allowed them to have the success that they had. It’s certainly something for our defense to build on. When I look at what ECU and Maryland did to us yards wise and points wise, I look at this game I see tremendous progress by our defense.
Offensively, we just weren’t good enough to win. We had 405 yards and 24 points. I felt like this was a 600 yard 45 point night with some of the adjustments we made on offense. What really killed us was that six of our 13 drives were stopped by penalties. We had six drives in this game, four of those in the first half that were stopped by penalties. We had more opportunities to score, especially in that first half but we were killing ourselves with penalties, including a holding penalty, a false start, a couple of legal formations, which we never have. We protected well enough in this game to throw for 312 yards, Taylor was only officially sacked twice, this is clearly the best defensive line that we have played against. We rushed the ball for 93 yards, we had to have an ability in this game to run the ball some and I felt like we did that by moving Antonio Vaughun to tailback, we were able to get a couple explosive plays out of him. He had a huge run when we were backed up in the first quarter and then he had the touchdown run and that was critical for us.
Overall we were all very disappointed in this one. We felt like this was a game that we were capable of winning. We feel like the penalties were the biggest difference in not being able to win this game.
Talking to our next week’s opponent, Norfolk State. Their only blow out loss was at Rutgers, 38-0. The other six games that they’ve played were close football games. We have a lot of respect for their head coach, Pete Adrian. I like Pete a lot. The only knowledge I had of the team before I came here was that it was one of the most losing teams in the country, but since I’ve been here they’ve accomplished a lot overall since Pete has been there. We have to win on the road and this is technically an away game, right now we’re an 0-3 team on the road, so we need this win.
Offensively Rolandan Finch really grabs my attention, their running back. He’s a transfer from Boston College and has a similar style to the running back that we just played against. He had 21 carries for 141 yards against Hampton; he only had two negative yards.
Defensively, this is a typical Pete Adrian defense, they’re fast, physical and well coached. They have 20 takeaways in seven games. They create opportunities. Their downfall is that they’ve turned the ball over 16 times on offense. The biggest issue we’re dealing with is it’s a 3-4 scheme, the blitz’s they come at you with makes us have to be prepared for what they do. They’re only allowing 342 yards of offense, 24 points a game and there top three linebackers: Cook, King and Trail those three guys really have our attention right now.
Overall, I’m very excited to play this game, I think it’s a great game for the city of Norfolk. When we played them back in 2011 there was so much excitement around the game. It’s a great football game to play and it’s really cool because we’re only four miles apart. They’ll come back to us in 2015 and I hope we can continue this game.
Is Antonio Vaughan your tailback now?
We’ll be moving forward the rest of the season with him in that position. We feel that it makes us a more dynamic offense with what he can do running the ball and what he can do coming out of the backfield. Colby Goodwyn, Cam Boyd and Gerard Johnson will still get some time in that position. We can’t be a one running back operation. I like seeing that Vaughan got 23 touches, that makes us a better football team. The more we can have the ball in his hands the more creative we can be now. It creates more opportunities.
The offense had to slow down to keep up with Vaughan, why was that?
We slowed it down at times so that he could catch his breath. He hit that run in the first quarter and ran 34 yards and he needed a second to catch his breath. There will be times when we slow it down based on him and others when we’ll keep going as fast as we can. We felt like the game against Pittsburgh that we needed our best 11 on the field but in the future I see it as more of a rotation.
Anything with the FBS schools that have surprised you?
It’s exactly what we thought it would be. We’ve played all good teams. Depth, size and speed is where you can see the difference. The other teams we’ve played are a step above us in that regard. We’ll catch up with them with recruiting and developing but that is going to take time. I feel like we’ve made tremendous progress from the game in Maryland to the game in Pittsburgh.
Do you feel like this game against NSU is just a game we can’t lose because we’re a step above them?
I look at every game like a game we can’t lose. The goal and the expectation going into every game is to win. I told the players yesterday that we played solid in Pittsburgh but we didn’t win and a loss is a loss. We’re a 4-3 team right now and we’ve never lost more than three games as a team.
What makes this match up with NSU so cool?
I think it’s the fact that we’re only four miles apart, that’s the biggest thing that sticks out to me. There are very few of these match ups that happen in college football and that’s why I hope we can continue to play this game in the future. It’s also cool that there is an FBS program in Hampton Roads, it would be sad to think that only Hampton and NSU would keep playing each other and we wouldn’t be able to keep playing NSU. I think this game is something that’s good for the city.
What areas have you seen progress in since Maryland?
The biggest area I’ve seen is understanding scheme. We were a very basic defense against ECU and Maryland. They were just trying to understand what they were being taught. With this Pittsburgh game, we did some different things than we’ve done in the past defensively. The types of line games and blitz’s, there are more adjustments in this game and that’s what gets me excited about where we can go in the future with this defense. We have to recruit bigger and get bigger in the weight room and then we can play teams like Pittsburgh and North Carolina. I was glad to see that on defense we shut down at least one phase, I feel like we shut down their passing, there was progress made in that area from the ECU and Maryland game. We’re seeing a lot of development out of the big group of guys we’re playing on defense. If we’re going to win these next five games then we need to keep improving on that side of the ball.
Can you talk a little more about the penalties received during this game?
We had some false starts by some guys that were playing different positions and they were matched up with some of the best defensive linemen in the country that contributed to that. A couple of the illegal formations were just unacceptable. We had three holding penalties and while I don’t like them there were a couple of times that we were over matched. They got us into some one-on-one situations and they got us on some holding penalties. The one on Jarod Brown is just unacceptable, he recovers the onside kick and the guys grabs his face mask so he slaps him in the head and you can’t do that. The most critical one of the game was when we were down 28-24 and Savage was clearly throwing the ball out of bounds and our guys just went a step too far and pushed him at the end of the play. The point I made to our guys was that if its clear he’s throwing it out of bounds you need to back up and throw your hands up. We had won the rep and instead we take one more step and push it. I didn’t think it was an overly excessive push but the bottom line is that it was a push. That penalty shifted our momentum big time. We had just scored twice taking us from 28-10 to 28-24 and we stop them on that drive. All three of our defensive penalties happened on that drive and that put them up 35-24. We just have to keep educating our guys on when you pull off.
Can you talk more about shuffling the lines?
Connor Mewbourne moved from right guard to right tackle. He had some penalties and we rotated in Kyle Bottoms to right tackle so both those guys were playing. We started Tyler Fisher at left guard and now he’s going to be starting at that spot. We were going to start Ely Anderson but he got a concussion during practice last week so we had to shift gears quickly. Jack Lowney at left tackle played well, the center Josh Mann played well. We moved D.J. Morrell to guard and he did well there. We were just working on those guys at tackle. We’ll see where Ely is this week before we finalize what we’re going to do positionally.