Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder

oduODU football coach Bobby Wilder talks with reporters. ODU (3-2, 2-0 Conference USA) hosts Massachusetts (1-4) on Saturday.

 

Opening Statement: Good afternoon everybody and thanks for coming. We are excited about our team’s performance after a 52-17 win over Charlotte Saturday, which brought our record to 2-0 in the league and 3-2 overall. Our players were definitely focused going into this game. We competed well in all three phases of football.

I was especially proud of how they handled the last eight days, as we have had a lot of important things going on off the field that took precedent over football. The kids really responded well to the circle of unity at the UTSA game and with Charlotte, and we thank Brad Lambert and his team for joining us in that. We also launched the Children for Humanity hashtag “WALT,” so there were a lot of things going on and they handled it very well.

With that, I’m proud to announce our first event for Children for Humanity will be Oct. 13 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the stadium. We already have some other teams that will be joining us including the always-excitable Karen Barefoot and the women’s basketball team as well as some other organizations on campus.

Speaking to the game, it was great to get out to such a fast start. We went up 21-3 in the first quarter. The pressure from our punt block unit initiated it when Justin Noye tackled their punter on the 17 yardline after he mishandled the snap. Then we came out in our Wildcat package with Zach Pascal at quarterback and Jeremy Cox scored the first of his three touchdowns from the one yardline. Then Sean Carter made a diving interception and we scored on the ensuing drive. For two weeks in a row we really had good momentum from all three phases, and that is what you need when you are trying to build a winning team.

We led 31-10 at the half, and we challenged ourselves to come out in the third quarter and put the game away. That was unfamiliar territory for us to be up that big at half time. We outscored them 21-0 in the third quarter, and went into the fourth up 52-10.

I was pleased again with how the defense responded to two critical changes in this game. We fumbled a punt on our 14 yardline early in the game when we were up 14-0, and at that point the goal is either to force a turnover or a field goal. That’s what our defense did, as they were forced to kick a field goal, which was a win for us. Then it happened again in the second half when their defensive back to the ball away from Jonathan Duhart and our defense stopped them on three plays.

I thought David Washington was outstanding and is getting better every week. He made some great plays where he had to escape the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. He continues to improve and play at a high level.

We discussed some areas we need to improve in our team meeting Sunday. We need to have better tackling on defense and on our coverage units. We need to get hats to the ball and then we need to catch the balls that are contested.

Speaking to this weekend’s opponent, I know UMass coach Mark Whipple very well. We coached against each other for 15 years when I was at Maine. He won a national championship at UMass during his first coaching stint there before he left in 2004 to become the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback coach when Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory that season. So Whipple has won championships at the collegiate and professional level, and he is as good as anyone at making adjustments. He calls the plays on their offense and is not getting the consistent play at quarterback that he is used to, but he runs good schemes.

They have played a brutal schedule so far this season. They lost a close game at Florida early on, and then they were down to Mississippi State 41-35 with four minutes to go before losing by two touchdowns. UMass beat Florida International 21-13, which is a team that beat us by 29 points last year. And they just had a tough loss at Tulane last weekend in a game they led by 14. We know this is a good football team, and it will be a major challenge for us.

Q: How have you guys been able to develop so much depth at running back?
A: We were hopeful that running back would be a position of strength for us now. With Ray’s situation, we were able to give him another week of rest. Knowing that we have a lot of depth at the position, we were able to do that. Cox had three touchdowns Saturday and that is even considering he had a bad cramp and came out early. Gemontae Jackson had an explosive run and a 37-yard touchdown, and Brandon Simmons breaking tackles was inspiring for us all. Josh Marriner is also a very consistent back. We know we have depth, so we feel good about the guys playing in the backfield.

Q: You guys are playing so well right now, so is it just about tweaking the little things at this point?
A: Well, as I told the guys, the reason we have been playing well the last two weeks is because we have had good weeks of practice and we have stayed focused on the process. The players and coaches have prepared well. I want to make it clear that the last two weeks we have beaten teams that were picked to finish down where we were picked to finish. We haven’t beaten the teams that were picked to finish at the top of the league. It is still a matter of understanding who we are and that there are still a lot of things to improve on. We had 10 penalties Saturday, which may be the most we have had in three years. Six of those were what I call focus penalties like false starts. So there is still a lot to improve on.

Q: How hard is it to stay focused even when you are playing so well?
A: Focus is critical to making improvements. Each week we are taking a different test. We need to be prepared enough to be able to adjust during games. We can be a better football team if we stay focused.

Q: Talk about your defense and how important the takeaways have been?
A: I am very impressed with how the defense has been playing the past two weeks. After giving up 49 points at NC State, we knew we had to start playing the way we are capable of. We only allowed 19 points against UTSA and our starters only allowed 10 at Charlotte. It all starts up front with the defensive line. We have had 15 sacks and great pressure on the quarterback. It is making our secondary better and freeing up our linebackers. There is so much that is happening because of how the defensive line is playing.

Q: How do you approach the rest of the schedule?
A: We just look at the next game. It is one at a time. Our goal this week is to go 1-0. That’s our philosophy this year. We are 2-0 in the league right now and we don’t play another league game for three weeks. We have a bye after this week, which is much needed. We need to heal up our bumps and bruises. If we win this week, we are 4-2 and on a four-game winning streak going into a bye. That will put us in first in the league. So, 1-0 this week is the goal.

 

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