Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder

odu logoODU football coach Bobby Wilder talks with reporters on Monday, The Monarchs (2-2) are at Marshall (3-1) on Saturday.

 

Opening Statement: Good afternoon to all our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation! We are coming off of what we all feel was an embarrassing loss at home on Saturday. We give a lot of credit to Coach Satterfield and Appalachian State. That is a very good football team that is picked to compete for and maybe even win the Sun Belt. We want to give them a lot of credit, but we did not play a good football game in any facet. We didn’t coach well or play well, and that is my responsibility as a head coach to get that fixed. We always talk about how you have to own it when you have a poor performance, and now we will look to turn this setback around into a major comeback for the rest of the season.

This did not feel like a 49-0 game to me, particularly at the start. We were down 7-0 after the first quarter, and I was concerned with how much we were struggling to move the ball. We only ran nine plays while Appalachian State had 22 plays. In the second quarter, they hit us with a big pass play on third and eight that went for a 53-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.

The next drive, we started with great field position and we’re moving down the field. I thought we were about to make it 14-7, then the ball slips out of Shuler’s hands and they return it 77 yards for a touchdown. At that point, we came a little bit unsettled, offensively. It was good to see Shuler hit a big pass to Pascal and Marques Little on the next drive, and then I was thinking it was about to be 21-7. Then he throws it a little high for David Washington, whose route was ran a little short, and we miss a chip-shot field goal. The momentum was really turned against us at that point, but we have to be able to handle that type of adversity better.

On special teams, Satchel Ziffer was excellent at punting the ball for the second-straight week. He punted six times for a 40-yard average. We have the concern with Ricky missing the field goal. He tore his ACL last season, and that knee that he had surgically repaired was bothering him this weekend. We weren’t sure if he was going to kick for us in that game, and the knee is still bothering him now. So we will make a move this week with true freshman Chris Kirtley, who will definitely handle extra points and field goals for us this upcoming weekend. We will see how Ricky is feeling as far as kickoffs because his kickoffs have been exceptional. If Ricky can’t go this weekend, Kirtley will handle all the kicking responsibilities. Satchel is there as a backup, but he is punting so well right now that we’d really rather not ask him to do both.

Defensively, overall it was a poor performance, as we lost the gaps up front with our front seven. We had several blown coverages and some long touchdown passes that we allowed. We were not good tacklers in this game, either. With that being said, our safeties played very well. Justice Davila had a career-high in tackles, and Fellonte Misher played well. They both forced a few fumbles, but that is way too many tackles on the back-end. We gave up too many explosive plays for touchdowns, which we had not allowed before this game. We will start two true freshman on the defensive line this weekend in Miles Fox and Tim Ward. They played very well, and they will start based on that performance.

Offensively, four turnovers is what did us in. One of those they even scored on. We just did not play winning football on offense. Shuler was 16 for 28 for 133 yards and had two bad interceptions that he forced, which he had not been doing before. He has obviously got to play better, but we have to play better around him. I can’t emphasize enough that we are not playing well on offense. We are a little banged up on the offensive line. Connor Mewbourne hurt his ankle again in this game and Troy Butler got hurt as well. We are musical chairs up front right now. We really need to heal up because it is affecting our ability to protect the quarterback and run the ball for the second straight week.

This week we play Marshall, who is an outstanding team. They are 3-1 this year and 16-2 in their last 18 games. They have outstanding team speed, overall.

Offensively, they are averaging 33 points per game. They have already made a change at quarterback, whether it be from an injury or performance-related. Chase Litton, a freshman, looked really good two weeks ago against Norfolk State. He struggled this past week in their win against Kent State. They have two outstanding running backs in Tony Pittman and Devon Johnson, and they’re solid on the offensive line and at wideout.

Defensively, they’re giving up 22 points a game. Evan McKelvey has 47 tackles through four games and is an outstanding linebacker. Tiquan Lang, their free safety, is very good, and it is their speed that really jumps out at you when you watch them play.

This will be a tremendous challenge, as it is our third game in a row against what I would call an excellent football team. We will need to have a great week of practice, and our players have the right mindset. They approached me Saturdaynight via text morning and Sunday morning wanting to meet as a team without the coaching staff. I thought it might be a five-minute meeting, but they were in here for a half an hour talking about things they want to do better that pertain to them as players. They’ve taken responsibility for this past game, which I think is a good sign. They will need to carry that mindset into this week’s practice.

Q: Looking at the film on offense, is it a lot of little things that are going wrong and are they fixable?
A: Yes, they are all fixable. The inability to block up front after we were really good there the first two weeks is critical. We have to throw and catch better, and then just run the ball better like we were. The errors are all phases right now. We just have to stick with it and improve it.

Q: What was the mindset of the players during your meeting yesterday?
A: Embarrassed, disappointed, and they feel accountable, which is a good thing. The most encouraging thing was that they wanted this room to themselves for 30 minutes yesterday. From what I’ve heard, it wasn’t just one or two guys standing up to talk, as it has been sometimes in the past. There were 15 to 20 guys who got up there and talked about what we need to do better. I had to remind them that we started off this year 2-0, so we are a good football team. We have really good players, and we have a group of kids that want to work at it and improve. When your team takes the level of accountability that these guys have and aren’t pointing fingers, I suspect that means we are going to have a really good week of practice.

Q: Embarrassed is a word you probably chose very carefully. Did you use it to send a message to the players that this is not the expectation?
A: No, there was no message intended by that. That was the general feeling from everyone in the locker room after the game. I could see it in their faces, and every player I talked to went home that night feeling very somber. The good thing was that 24 hours later, the mood in this room was very different. This is a group of guys that is very focused on improving and getting the right mindset back of how we were through preseason and the first two weeks. It is important as a head coach also to remind them to keep in perspective who we have lost to these last two weeks. I don’t want anyone in this organization to lose confidence in what we’re doing. I had a very direct conversation with a lot of the players, and they don’t want to change anything we are doing. They just want the intensity level to pick up. But what happened Saturday was not the norm. To lose by that score against a team that we strongly felt like we could compete with and even beat, embarrassed was the best word to summarize how we felt. We still felt that way in the second quarter. So this was an entirely different feeing than last year against Marshall when we just felt overmatched even in the first quarter. We had plenty of opportunities to have had this game tied 14-14 at halftime. That’s what is should’ve been. But to have the final score end up the way it did, it was embarrassing to all of us.

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