Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder

oduODU football coach Bobby Wilder talks to reporters on Monday at his weekly press conference.

Good afternoon to all our 12th Monarchs in Monarch Nation on a brisk fall day here in the coastal Virginia region. We are excited coming off a 42-24 win over Florida Atlantic that puts our record at 8-3 and 6-1 in Conference USA. It is always a challenge playing on the road in a league game, so we give FAU a lot of credit. They had won their last two games and it was their senior night, so it was definitely a challenge for us.

I am very proud of the character and determination that our team showed. This has been a developing process, particularly over the last eight weeks, so we are really proud of how the guys are developing.

The keys to the victory were sticking to the plan and staying focused. We were down 14-3 after the first quarter and 21-10 at the half. We really regrouped at halftime. I made the point to the team that competitive people want to be in competitive situations. That was clearly a competitive situation, being down on the road at halftime, and I feel like our guys really responded to that message. We outscored FAU 29-3 in the second half, and that was simply just great execution.

Defensively, we tackled better, and offensively, we finished in the red zone in the second half. On special teams, we struggled kicking and punting the ball, which happens, especially when you have freshmen at both positions. It hurt us with field position, but we had some outstanding performances by our guys on special teams. We have a great group of unselfish players on what we call our “wefense.” These guys would love to be starting on offense or defense, but they have really bought in to our special teams and are doing a great job for us.

Defensively, we allowed 24 points but made two critical red zone stops. We started slow by not tackling well and not getting off blocks well, particularly in the first quarter. FAU only ran 62 plays in the game and only nine in the third quarter, which is when we were getting stops. We did not have the havoc plays that we had the previous week against Southern Miss. There was a little different plan for Florida Atlantic, which runs more run-pass option plays. If you look at our tackle chart, we definitely tackled better in the second half. If you have multiple guys in the four, five or six range for tackles, that means you are playing a good game defensively, so I like to see that.

Offensively, we had 42 points and 623 yards. We had 416 yards passing and 207 rushing yards, which was really good to see. David Washington was outstanding in this game, as he went 26-36 for 416 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers. He also added 21 yards rushing. He continues to play throughout the season by valuing the football, which has been critical to our success.

Ray Lawry had 25 rushes for 117 yards, and Jeremy Cox had 11 rushes for 63 yards as well as a highlight reel 84-yard touchdown catch where he ran over the corner. Usually when you see someone run over a defender like that, they usually get caught, but he really accelerated out of the play, which was impressive to see. That really ignited our sideline.

Zach Pascal had nine catches for 178 yards and a highlight reel touchdown catch. Jonathan Duhart had eight catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns. Another name you haven’t heard a lot this season but is someone that is really developing is Isaiah Harper. He had four catches for 42 yards. He plays hard and blocks hard, and it is good to see him getting more involved in the offense.

Our offensive line had a really good bounce-back game after a really difficult game against Southern Miss. Chad Hendricks was blocking the best defensive end in the league, and we only allowed one sack in the game. They are the unsung heroes, and I am really proud of the big guys up front.

Speaking to FIU, they’re 4-7 overall and 4-3 in the league. They have been through some unbelievable adversity this season. They lost their head coach after losing their first four games, then they won three straight and were sitting in first place in the league by themselves. They then lost three-straight games, all close ones, to WKU, Middle Tennessee and LA Tech. Then they get a new head coach and go and beat Marshall, 31-14, so those kids have been on an emotional roller coaster this season. I’ve watched every one of their games on tape, and they play hard and compete. From watching the video, you would never know they’ve been through so much adversity. It is a lot of credit to their players and assistant coaches that are in a position where they don’t know what the future will hold. I have tremendous respect for how they are handling it all.

For us, it will be a major challenge. We talked as a team yesterday about the things we need to improve. We have 36 goals as a team each week, and I put them up on the board that the team is always first. Then it is the three phases, offense, defense and special teams, and then it is all the individual positions. We were successful this week in 17 of the goals and 19 we weren’t. Therefore, we are all aware that we have a lot of things to improve and work on still.

I know you mentioned you watch all of FIU’s games and your assistant coaches go through all the film, but how much do you do looking at the film?
“I watch every game. I watch all three areas and then I meet with all three coordinators, Coach Scott, Coach Nagy and Coach Bankins. I get a detailed plan from them of every phase and what we are looking at. We always start with our best 11 and what our best 11 can do in all three phases. And then what do they [FIU] in the phases that we can try to minimize. So it’s fun, a lot of fun. You what is interesting about it is that it is almost like that movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. It’s the same each week you just rinse and repeat the next week. So the schedule of every hour of every day is the same. Monday’s the same, Tuesday, Wednesday, you know. All the coaches are doing the same thing right now, the players, but it is a lot more fun when you are at this moment. You know when you get to week 12 and all this is happening it is a lot more fun.”

You’ve made a point to go 1-0 each week and this is the last week in the regular season you can go 1-0. You guys could potentially win a championship and potentially host the championship game here. But your players, have you talked about what you could achieve this week?
“We did yes. We took them through every scenario yesterday in the team meeting. You know we always start with planning, preparation, execution and 1-0 versus the opponent, but I know they are hearing a lot and getting asked a lot of questions from family and friends. So I wanted to address it head on with them and we talked about every scenario. We talked about if we go 1-0 what happens? If Western Kentucky goes 0-1 what happens? If LA Tech goes 0-1 what happens? So they are aware of the scenarios. We went through every potential bowl game scenario and the biggest point I make to them is what we can control. What we can control is this week and that is all we can control. Everything else is out of our control. They just know at some point in the near future we will be getting on a plane and going somewhere whether it is going to Louisiana to play in the championship game or whether it is three weeks down the road for a bowl game or whether we will be playing at home next weekend. The good thing is; to be able to talk to all them about that and then bring them right back to here is what we can control.


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