Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder
Opening Statement: Good afternoon everyone! We are excited coming off a 54-21 win over Hampton last weekend. First of all, a big shout out to all our fans for coming out to the game and to all of the great people at Old Dominion for allowing us to play this gameon Sunday despite the forecast. We weren’t sure if we were even going to be able to play and how many people would show up, but our players were so excited to run out of the tunnel and see so many fans still there. We are very thankful for that.
Looking at the game, the number one thing that jumped out to me was the improvement on special teams. We had 56 players play on special teams in this game compared to 40 that we had play last season. We also had 21 players who took their first snaps on Sunday, and I was pleased with how they played. I was impressed with punter Bailey Cate in his first game. He did an outstanding job. It was Brad Davis’ first game kicking, and he will get better at it. We need to make some improvement there.
Defensively, we had four turnovers, 10 tackles for loss and an interception for a touchdown. Of Hampton’s 17 drives, we stopped 14 of them with either a turnover or a punt, so that was exciting to see. Per usual, we were led by TJ Ricks in tackles with nine. In pass defense, we need to grow in that area. They had 44 attempts for about 220 yards, which is about five yards per attempt.
Offensively, we put up good yards and scored 47 of the 54 points on offense. Lawry, Marriner and Cox all ran the ball really well. We need to keep that rotation going throughout the year, particularly with Ray getting overloaded last season. He had 60 carries after the first two games and led the nation in rushing, but that caught up to him physically.
David Washington played well. He made good decisions and threw the ball well. He ran the ball well too, other than a few bad decisions where he didn’t get out of bounds. We had a long talk about that. That is something he needs to improve on. Instinctively, that is his style and when he played receiver that is what he was used to doing. Shuler Bentley also played well. I know he had a few passes that he wishes he could have back. A couple shorter, quicker throws he had fell short. We will continue to work on that.
The receivers all caught the ball and we had excellent distribution. The offensive line was also solid and will need to play much better heading into this weekend. As I told the guys, now we know what we need to improve on particularly with as many first year players who took snaps on Sunday.
Looking ahead to Appalachian State, I believe this is the most complete football team we have ever played in our history. Going back to East Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, I think this is the most complete team because of how good they are on all three phases. This reminds me of the NC State team a few years ago when they were so explosive in all three phases. We all watched the Tennessee game and were all impressed by how dominant they were in that game. They have our attention. It is hard to find weaknesses in their team. We will have to play as well as we have ever played to be competitive and beat this team.
Q: Were there any surprises in Sunday’s game? Did any players play better or worse than you expected?
A: Yes, there are always surprises. I was hopeful that Darrell Brown and Isaiah Harper would do well returning punts because they had never played the game or returned a punt before. They did really well. The kick returns and punt returns were impressive. Kesean Strong returned the opening kick to the 41 and that is even with him missing the hole. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get as much pressure from the defensive line, because we should have had more pressure. We had better pressure in the second half. I was hoping our offensive line would play a little better. They were solid, but we had a few false starts. We addressed all the areas that we need to improve on, and the guys were all really attentive. They know they have to play better. They have a good attitude.
Q: Was Cullen Casey a surprise on the offensive line?
A: Cullen was solid for us on Sunday. He had been used sparingly before but never took as many snaps as he did Sunday. He did a good job. I could see the difference in him already at practice. He had more confidence and could exhale knowing he played. Chad Hendricks still played too, but Cullen had been looking good in practice and that’s how it is around here. Every spot is always up for grabs and whoever plays better in practice and in the games on the weekends will get in there.