Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder
Good afternoon everybody and good afternoon to all of our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation, coming off what was clearly the most frustrating game that we have ever played here at Old Dominion with the loss at FIU.
We went into the game as an underdog playing on the road, I felt like we needed to be very aggressive in all facets of the game. We had some very clear goals in this game that we were going to try to make game-changing plays. When you go on the road and you are the underdog, you need to do that, you need to be aggressive enough in all phases whether it is going for it fourth down, onside kicks, all of those things you need to do to be successful. The frustration lies in the fact that we had five hundred yards of offense in this game and only scored 12 points. Generally, you are going to get about seven points for every 100 yards. So we felt like this should have clearly been at least 35 points, but we hurt ourselves with three turnovers in the second half. We hurt ourselves with three opportunities to score from the one-yard line before halftime. We allowed 236 pass yards in the third quarter alone on five long passes. That definitely changed the outcome of the game.
In regards to special teams, we got a pretty good performance from our punter Satchel Ziffer. He had three punts for 53 yards. The first one he punted, he hit a little bit low and the goal was to force a fair catch out of Richard Leonard every time and we didn’t. He got a 44-yard return, which gave them a short field and led to a touchdown.
We lost four points with our field-goal PAT unit. We gave up the block on the first extra point. We were going to make it 14-7 and didn’t execute. We had a high snap and that effected the kick.
Then on the opening kick, we deferred the toss, we wanted to kickoff because we wanted the wind. We were trying to kick it deep to the left, the ball should’ve been in the back of the end zone because we did not want Leonard to get it. Our kicker mishits it and puts it in the middle of the field away from our coverage and then they get a 54-yard return, which led to a short field and the opening touchdown.
Then when it was 14-6 we missed an open onside kick. We have never had an onside kick that was more open than that first one but we simply didn’t hit the ball 10 yards. So, overall not a good performance from our special teams.
Defensively, our number one goal was to shut down their run game. FIU had talked during the week that they wanted to come in and run the ball. We did not perform well the previous week against Charlotte in the run game, so it was a major focus. Then this game, they had 33 carries for 58 yards, so we accomplished that goal. We wanted to turn them into strictly a passing team. And in the passing game, we had one very bad quarter. The other three quarters we averaged giving up 50 yards passing per quarter, which if we would have stayed on that average in the third quarter then they would’ve had a 200 yard passing game, but that one bad quarter really hurt us. We were very poor in coverage in the third quarter and it was a combination of route recognition and then not tackling very well. Give them a lot of credit, Alex McGough is a top level quarterback in this league. He has proven it, as he has only turned the ball over three times in eight games, so he is a good football player. Their tight end is on the (John) Mackey Watch List; Jonnu Smith is an excellent player and he played big in this game.
Offensively, I mentioned 500 yards and only 12 points, which I have never been around before. As I mentioned, generally when you have that many yards you are going to score at least 35 points. We had 300 yards rushing, Lawry with 161, Cox started the game had 50 yards, and then Pascal on the one carry to open the second half had a 75 yard touchdown run. 200 yards passing, David was just okay in this game. He missed some throws and a couple reads. He had one very poor decision, in the third quarter when it was a 20-12 game and we just got a first down and he kind of threw the ball up for grabs for Zach Pascal instead of taking the check-down. Zach was running a double move on that play and FIU was in a zone pressure, so the corner was bailing. David should have checked down to the underneath route, but he threw it up and that was an interception. Then we had the nice pass by Zach Pascal on the double pass.
I thought our offensive line was solid in this game, they only allowed the one sack in the football game and we ran the ball effectively. So, a solid game overall by the offensive line.
This week’s opponent, Western Kentucky, is 6-2 and they are clearly the best team that we will play to this point in the season. They have a dark horse but I think a Heisman candidate at quarterback in Brandon Doughty, who is having a sensational season. He has thrown for over 3,000 yards in only eight games. He has 27 touchdowns and only five interceptions. WKU is averaging 41 points per game to this point. They have two very good running backs. Taywan Taylor and Jared Dangerfield are outstanding wide receivers. So, this is just a tremendous unit offensively.
Defensively, they are much improved over last year. They are very aggressive, very physical and this is an excellent football team. Western Kentucky is really good in special teams. This is a major challenge for us. We are going to need to have a great week of practice, but we will be excited to get back home and play.
Q: Is there any update on David Washington?
A: At this point, we haven’t gotten the results back from the MRI, but the X-rays were negative and the doctors do not think he has a tear of the MCL or the ACL, but we’re awaiting the test results. He’s very sore. He was very sore after the game yesterday and he’s in a walking cast to keep it immobile so he doesn’t bend it. I would think, at this point, he’s not going to be available this weekend. We’re just awaiting the results of the MRI that hopefully confirm there is no structural damage.
Other than David, we have a lot of bumps and bruises out of this one. This is clearly the biggest injury report that we’ve had all year. We have 26 players who are currently on the injury report, a number of them who we hope will be available for the weekend, but it’s just too early to tell right now.
Q: Are there any starters on the injury report?
A: Yes, we have a number of guys who started in this game and have some bumps and bruises. We’ll know more today andtomorrow before practice, but I am hopeful that some of the injuries we had won’t keep the guys out this weekend. We won’t know more until tomorrow.
Q: You had 500 yards and only 12 points. Is that something that just mystifies you more than everything else? Is there anything you can look at and tell why it’s happening?
A: I think it’s a product of youth. We have traditionally been a good team in the red zone and when we’ve gone back and looked at our red zone productivity, it’s been veteran players that make plays in that situation. It’s really hard to score in general in the redzone because the defense has the endline has an extra defender. There’s not a lot you can do down the field.
In the situation before the half when we didn’t score the touchdown, the first pass David throws to Travis Fulgham was a great throw, but Travis just can’t come down with the ball. The second one, he’s a little late on his throw to Duhart and he catches it, but he’s pushed out of the bounds. And then on third one, David should have pulled the ball and ran it, but he handed the ball to Ray and the defensive end closed down and that’s his read. He should’ve pulled it and been one-on-one with the safety. You have to make really quick decisions with the football and as a receiver you’re going to make contested catches. We had veteran players in the past who would make those catches and we’re throwing to younger guys now who are trying and giving it there all. It’s an area we’ll keep emphasizing and keep working on. You shouldn’t be 0-for-4 in the red zone. You have to get points when you get down there and that’s just something we’re not doing right now.
Q: What was the mood like in the meeting yesterday? And what was your message?
A: Frustration. That’s as frustrated as I’ve seen our team and the message was that we need to turn the frustration into motivation. I went back and reviewed last week with them. That was as bad of a week practice that we’ve had in the season and it started on Tuesday morning last week. It was a little cold and a little windy and we didn’t handle very well, so we lost a day there. I explained to them after practice, at the time, we’re a 3-3 football team and that was a 3-9 practice. ThenWednesday was just a little bit better and I told them that was a 5-7 practice. It showed on Saturday in the critical situations whether it be third down, which has been a major issue for us, or the red zone on both sides of the ball, because our defense allowed 6-of-8 scores in the red zone and we were 0-for-4. So, those are critical situations that we work hard on in full-speed, game-like situations Tuesday and Wednesday, we lost them last week and it showed. So, I really challenged the guys to learn that lesson because we’re young and this is all new to a lot of them. They don’t all comprehend that the game isn’t just playedon Saturday. It’s Tuesday and Wednesday. So, I challenged them to turn their frustration into motivation and come out and have the best week of practice that we’ve had all year and we’ll see how they respond.