Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder
Good afternoon everybody. Good afternoon to all of our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation. We are coming off of a 51-35 win over Southern Miss. That puts our record at 7-3 overall and 5-1 in Conference USA and we are very excited about the fact that we are 5-0 at home this year. We also remain in contention to win the East Division of C-USA with two weeks to go which is very exciting for our program.
In terms of this game, it was critical that we get off to a fast start. We were up 21-0 11 minutes into the game after three turnovers by our defense. We had drives start on Southern Miss’ 5, 28 and 43 that our offense converted into for touchdowns. In the 3rd quarter we led 42-7 four minutes into the third quarter and then we got smacked in the mouth with adversity. Southern Miss is a very good football team, scored 21 consecutive points to cut the led to 41-28 and our defense responded at that point scoring nine straight points with a safety and a touchdown. It was a really good way for us to end the game but there were certainly a lot of things we know we need to improve on.
For our special teams, this was really a bounce-back performance from the Marshall game where we did not perform well. We were solid starting with the opening kick off, as Zach Pascal returned it 53 yards with really good blocking from that unit. We also had Brandon Simmons, who is a player that not a lot of people hear his name. He had a 29-yard return in this game and played very good for us on special teams and that was critical for field position in this game. Bailey Cate had a 37.8-yard average and he had five punts inside the 20-yard line. I emphasize that because of the field position in this game. Southern Miss’ average drive start was the 26-yard line, our average drive start was the 45. That is almost a two first-down difference in the game, which was crucial. Brad Davis was 7-for-7 on his extra points, so overall a good performance there.
Defensively we had five turnovers, six sacks, 11 tackles for loss for minus 66 yards, five forced fumbles, four recovered fumbles and an interception, which is probably the best performance for what we call ‘havoc’ plays that we’ve had as a program. Anthony Wilson had 17 tackles and a sack, TJ Ricks 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and two recovered fumbles. That’s 28 tackles from our two inside linebackers and then someone that has quietly been really good this year is Sean Carter, our safety. He had eight tackles and forced a fumble. Sean’s name isn’t a name that you hear a lot because of some of the performances we have been having on defense but he is clearly one of our smartest players on defense. When you look during a game and you see somebody motion or make an adjustment, you can usually find Sean Carter making sure that everybody is coordinated with whatever the check is. He is an extremely intelligent player and I am really happy for him and for our team with the way he is playing right now.
Bunmi Rotimi with two sacks in this game, now holds the single-season record at Old Dominion with seven sacks, still with at least two more games to play. He is playing excellent football right now. Rashaad Coward scored a touchdown. [Oshane] Ximines and [Miles] Fox each had a sack, as did Tim Ward. So, those five guys I mentioned on the defensive line had five of our sacks in the football game. They are playing at a very high level right now.
Overall, this was a solid performance. We’ve got some areas that we need to clean up. We gave up a lot of explosive plays in this game, which we have not been doing a lot, which I also have to give credit to Southern Miss and the way they performed.
Offensively, we had zero turnovers and six touchdowns. We only ran 50 plays in this game for 320 yards and the reason is we were 3-for-12 on third down. If you’re not converting on third down, you are not going to run a lot of plays and that is why we only ran 50 plays in this game. David Washington was solid again, 12-of-18 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He was only sacked one time in this game, when he could have been sacked multiple times in this game but his ability to scramble and get out of the pocket and throw the ball away. I am very pleased with his level right now. [Ray] Lawry and [Jeremy] Cox combined for 21 carries, 148 yards and four touchdowns. The reason they didn’t have more carries is we didn’t have enough plays. I would have loved to see those two to be combined for around 40 carries, because obviously they were having success. I think combined they were averaging 7 yards per carry in this game. We just did not run enough plays offensively. The wide receivers played well, they caught the ball, they blocked well. Our offensive line had a very tough day against a very good Southern Miss team, particularly Southern Miss’s defensive line and we will look to bounce back this week on our offensive line.
Speaking to our opponent this week, Florida Atlantic, they are 3-7 at this point, 1-4 in C-USA. Head coach Charlie Partridge and their staff have done a phenomenal job keeping this team together throughout the year. They have won their last two games. They beat Rice and they just beat a very good UTEP team at home. UTEP is a team that we beat on the road by 10 and they [FAU] came back to beat them in this football game in what was a very good game. They’ve really had some heartbreaking losses this year. When you look at the middle part of their schedule, they lost four straight games by a touchdown or less, and if they win those games, they are just like us 7-3, 4-1, so they’ve just lost some really heartbreaking games. One of them, the Charlotte game, they complete a Hail Mary pass, they think they win, they celebrate and then video overturns the result, which was the right call, but overturned it. That’s how heartbreaking their losses have been, to the point where they were celebrating for a couple minutes in a win.
Winning on the road in Conference USA is always a major challenge, so this will be too. This is a very good team. They’ve got really good players. They are sound schematically in all three phases. They run really good schemes with what they are doing. They are well-coached and for us we will need a great week of planning and preparation that started on Sunday with our coaches meeting and then carrying that in our practices throughout the week. Then go to Florida and hopefully execute that on Saturday night.
Q: David Washington said that in his time here that was the best he had ever seen the defense play. Where does that rank for you?
A: In terms of the turnovers, the sacks, how we forced fumbles and the TFLs, it was a very good performance. We gave up a lot of explosive plays, which we had not been doing overall. So I don’t have a ranking of where it is but there were a lot of really good things when you talk about all of the ‘havoc’ plays that we had, particularly, early in the game. The three turnovers and then following it up with scores, but this was a very, very good performance.
Q: You are now tied for first in the country in turnover margin. How important is that to what you guys are able to do?
A: It’s the reason why we are 7-3. If we were minus 15 right its not 7-3. It’s the reason why we are having this level of success and when you get a turnover, it’s not just getting the ball and the field position, but it is getting the momentum. You get momentum from that, your sideline gets excited, and all your players get excited. Now being plus 15, that is a lot of momentum, when you look for example at the field position in this game, their average drive start was their 26 and our’s was the 45 and that’s two first downs. First downs are really hard to get, they are really hard to come by but we had an advantage of two first downs in this game and that was because our defense took it away five times and we didn’t give it up to them. So we were forcing them to have to drive 74 yards for scores and our’s were an average of 55 yards. That’s how important turnovers are.
A: Last year, a very painful loss at FAU and not making a bowl because of it. How tough was that loss last year and do you think it helped motivate you guys in the offseason?
A: It definitely set the tone for our offseason, when all of our players and coaches decided we were going to be accountable in the throughout offseason. We learned some lessons through spring ball that helped us with the 41 players that weren’t available for that first spring practice because they did not meet all of their goals in the offseason. Then we came out of that and went into the summer program and everybody met their goals and that was a real eye-opener for all of us. That all started with not being able to go to a bowl game and the motivation. Other than that, this team right now is of the mindset that it is so much about us and the areas we need to improve and each week the opponent is a new challenge.
Q: Looking back to last year’s game, are you saying ‘we didn’t beat them so we want to beat them because of that’?
A: No, we don’t have any control over that. That’s done. That’s in the past. It’s history. All that matters is this year’s team, the opponent this week, the importance of the game and that’s what the players are thinking about.
Q: There were a lot of big upsets in college football last weekend and on paper you guys should be a favorite. Do you spend more time this week talking to the players about overconfidence?
A: Not at all. There is no need to even have the conversation or bring it up. The team meeting yesterday was all about putting it up on the board, here are the areas we need to improve, here is where we need to get better. Our focus right now is on what we need to do because the players are seeing the progress. They are seeing each week that there are areas where we are getting better. They recognize the areas that we still need to improve. We are trying really hard to play better football each week and that is what their focus has been on. They’ve been really good about that. They’re taking coaching, they want to be coached. A bunch of them are in the building now. This is technically their off day, but they are here. They want to start talking about the game plan, they want to get ready, they want to go play so it’s really got nothing to do with that. Quite frankly we haven’t earned the right to be overconfident in any game we play. We are nowhere near that point right now. Every week we know we need to play our best football to have an opportunity to win. Just to have an opportunity we have to win and that’s a good mindset. That is something I am really proud of as a head coach that that is where we are right now as a program that we recognize we have to play good football.
Q: I know every week the goal is to go 1-0, but you have to opportunity to be 9-3 when the season ends. Did you think you could be 9-3 when the season began?
A: I knew there were 12 games when the season began. I was very well aware that there were 12 on the schedule. Now, I wasn’t aware that we were going to have multiple hurricanes and things like that but I was assuming we would play 12 games. No I didn’t have a preconceived notion in my head, I just wanted to get better. I wanted our team to improve. I knew that we had a bunch of starters back and a lot of guys that played. I know this team right now there is 101 that could be back next year and that we are still developing. We are still playing with a lot of underclassmen right now, though our seniors have been unbelievable. What a great group this is to work with and be around, but there wasn’t a number that was in my head. You know the two goals that the kids put up on the wall was #1 to try and win the East and #2 to go to a bowl and obviously to do that you have to win a good amount of your 12, but I didn’t have a number in my head.
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