Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder
Opening statement: Good afternoon to all our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation for a very special Halloween edition of our press conference. I would like to remind everybody that you can watch our weekly Wake Up With Wilder later today for a sneak peek of what my Halloween costume is, but please don’t tell the kids or you’ll spoil it for them when they come to my house to trick-or-treat tonight. There will be plenty of candy for them at the Wilder house tonight.
We are very excited coming off a 31-21 win over UTEP Saturday night. The win puts our record at 5-3 and 3-1 in the league. I give a lot of credit to Sean Kugler and the UTEP team. They are a tough, physical team, and that is a very tough place to play. We wish them well the rest of the season.
One of the keys to winning this game was our special teams. Starting with Brad Davis’ kickoffs, we were able to pin them deep in their own territory several times. He also made a 43-yard field goal for us, so he is doing an outstanding job for us. Our punter, Bailey Cate, had four punts and averaged 42.5 yards in this game. Overall, special teams helped us a lot.
Secondly, the play of our offensive and defensive line was critical to our success. The offensive line was challenged by the amount of blitz that they saw from UTEP, which is the top-blitzing team in the league. Those guys did a really good job with communication starting with our center, Nick Clarke. They made sure they had the blitzes identified. Then our defensive line put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We only had two sacks, but the amount of pressure was huge. They also helped to keep their running back Aaron Jones to only 94 yards on 25 carries.
Thirdly, the 21-0 run we went on in about a seven minute period in the third quarter was key to winning this game. At that point, we had been trailing 13-10, so that was huge for us.
Offensively, we only ran 52 plays, but we had 393 yards, which was due to the fact that we had several explosive plays in this game. Ray Lawry was finally healthy for the first time this season, and he had 17 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns. The majority of that came in the second half, as he only had five carries in the first half.
David Washington played a very good game. I can’t stress enough how challenging it is when you play a team that blitzes as much as they do. He was 14-22 for 262 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. He had the play of the game with Melvin Vaughn. We were in a stretch of almost 15 minutes, probably the longest of my coaching career, where we didn’t have the ball. UTEP took the lead, and on a second-and-10 Washington was looking to throw an outside route while scrambling to the left and flipped the ball without looking to Melvin, who broke two tackles and scored a touchdown. That play changed the game. That got us a lot of momentum back in the game.
Jonathan Duhart played outstanding with five catches for 155 yards and had a huge 77-yard catch where he broke a couple tackles and dragged a defender with him. I was joking with him about making it all the way down to the 1-yard line and getting tackled before the end zone. It was a sensational play. We needed the wideouts to make big plays like they did because of the man coverage.
Defensively, we got off to a fast start. The players really challenged themselves to start fast based on how the game started last week, so you could tell they were ready to execute starting with the first-drive interception by Sean Carter. It should have been a touchdown, but Miles Fox put an aggressive block on a guy, and there is an emphasis this year on calling unnecessary hits as penalties to protect the players.
On the second drive, we had a strip by CJ Bradshaw recovered by Oshane Ximines. So the first two drives we had turnovers, and their third and fourth drives were three-and-outs.
Then when we scored offensively to take a 17-13 lead, our defense responded with four-straight stops. They scored one late touchdown to make it 31-21, but I am proud of our team and everyone in our organization because these were two touch road trips back-to-back. Last weekend we didn’t get back until 3 a.m. and yesterday we got back at 6 a.m., so I am proud of everyone for stepping up.
Speaking to Marshall, this is still Marshall, as I said to our players and coaches. They are traditionally the best team in our league and went 33-8 the last three years. Looking back, they won their last four bowl games. This is a very good football team that has played a difficult schedule. They have very good special teams and a great quarterback. They are very physical on defense, too, so this will be a big challenge for us Saturday night, but we are up for it. We are trying to achieve our goal of just being 1-0 each week, which all starts with focusing on the process through our planning and preparation. Then Saturday we have to go out and execute.
Q: Was that play with Washington and Vaughn planned or just good players improvising?
A: That was just two great players improvising. You have to give a lot of credit to Melvin too, as he moved himself from behind the defender that was covering him so David had a lane to throw it.
Q: What is different about this Marshall team this year, only being 2-6?
A: The first thing is they played a very difficult schedule. They played Louisville, Pitt and Southern Miss on the road. They had a tough trip to Texas to play North Texas, too. The biggest difference this year is they usually lead the league in rushing and rush defense. They’re not this year. To this point, they have not had the success you are used to seeing in those two areas. That is putting a lot more pressure on Chase Litton, who I think is one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation. He is still throwing for over 250 yards a game.
Q: You guys aren’t necessarily just looking to get this sixth win, but you are looking to win the C-USA East. Has that been the mentality all along?
A: Yes, when we had our initial meeting in the beginning of the season, we wanted to work to compete to win the East and put ourselves into position to get to a bowl game. This is the first time out of our three seasons in Conference USA that we are entering November with a realistic shot to compete for the East. We all realize we have one loss, and there are three other teams in the East with one loss, so we know we have the opportunity to control our destiny.