Press Conference: ODU football coach Bobby Wilder

oduODU football coach Bobby Wilder talks with reporters on Monday at his weekly press conference. ODU’s four captains TJ Ricks, Rashaad Coward, Zach Pascal and David Washington were each asked a question as well.

 

Bobby Wilder: Good afternoon to all our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation! We are very excited today to talk about what has been a whirlwind of a last seven days. From the captains’ historic announcement last Monday about our bowl destination and the excitement of everyone in our organization to the coaches going out recruiting this past week, it has been a really exciting time.

Personally, I got the opportunity to visit Nassau and Atlantis for an on-site tour and press conference last Thursday and Friday. As I shared with our captains and they shared with the team in our meeting yesterday, they have a lot to look forward to. I got to spend some time with Eastern Michigan’s head coach Chris Creighton. It is really easy to see why they’ve enjoyed the success they’ve had this season.

I returned yesterday for a great practice. Our players had 10 days since our last practice before the FIU game. They were excited to get out yesterday and practice, and as Rashaad Coward said it best, this is the first time since he’s been here that the players have gotten to practice in December. There was a lot of excitement at practice yesterday.

Over the course of the next 18 days we are scheduled to practice 13 times. The majority of what we do will be involving our game plan for Eastern Michigan, but also one of the really exciting things that happens when you go to a bowl game is within those 13 practices you can take a lot of your players who are redshirting or don’t get a lot of playing time and have great practice time for them. What I mean by that is starting last Sunday, we had segments of practice that were dedicated to the younger players getting to run Old Dominion’s offense and defense. Usually in practice they are running the scout team, which means they are emulating the team we will be playing that week. So the development of the younger players will be critical over the next 18 days.

We have a huge recruiting weekend, and I am really excited for our players. They will be announced early in the ODU vs. VCU basketball game, so they’ll get to go out on the court for what we know will be a sellout crowd. As everyone knows, anytime ODU and VCU get together, that is a special occasion, so it is something we have done in the past. In 2011-12 they were honored for making the playoffs, so I am really excited for them to see the fans and for the fans to see them without a helmet on. We have our last week of classes this week and then finals week, so it is a really busy time but an exciting time.

Looking to Eastern Michigan, they are 7-5, and we have a history with them, which doesn’t always happen when you play bowl games against teams from different conferences. We had a really good game with them here at ODU in 2014, when we got a late punt return touchdown from Antonio Vaughn to win, 17-3. Then we opened the 2015 season at EMU, in a game that we trailed 34-31 with only a few minutes left before Ray Lawry broke a long touchdown run to give us a 38-34 lead. Then true freshman Tim Ward tipped a pass to himself and caught it for an interception to give us the win. We clearly had two very exciting games against them.

I can say this is a much improved football team from those two seasons. Chris Creighton has done an outstanding job in his third year with the program. If you think about last year, we beat them closely, then the next week they went out and beat Wyoming at Wyoming before losing the next 10 to go 1-11 on the year. After talking to Chris down there, it is easy to see how what they did in the offseason has given them success this year. They set a goal to make a bowl game after going 1-11 last year, and it is a lot of credit to their senior leadership and their coaching staff.

When you look at their accomplishments this year, they beat Wyoming again this year, which went on to win the Mountain division of the Mountain West Conference. They beat Ohio, which won the East division of the MAC. Those are two quality wins. Offensively they average over 30 points a game and are very explosive in the pass game, as they average 295 yards a game. Defensively, they allow 30 points a game but have made a tremendous amount of havoc plays, which include turnovers, sacks and tackles for loss. They’ve made big plays at opportune times and have been great in close games. Their special teams are very good, as their kicker has made 17-of-22 field goals, and their punter averages 44 yards per punt. They’ve been able to gain field position, which is critical for a team’s success.

We know and understand this will be a major challenge for us. As the captains said, they know the goal this week is to have success in practice but also to be 1-0 versus the classroom in our last week of regular classes. Then next week, our playoff classes will be during finals week, so we need to go 1-0 then, too. We will spend the majority of our time preparing for finals, and then we will practice in the mornings before their classes. We will do a good job balancing what we need to do academically and athletically.

I think TJ had a great comment, talking about how excited the kids were about this game. Rashaad also talked about how much this means to the players. This group getting to spend another month together is really special. This is such a special year and special group of players. The more time they get to spend together before we send these 14 seniors out into the world to become the future leaders of this country, the better. Zach Pascal made a really good point about the travel, too. The majority of our players have never been outside the country. The majority of the people in the world don’t get to go to a top-five resort area and that means a lot. David Washington talked about what a 10-win season could mean to this program, and I think those four guys said it best. I’m very proud of these guys, as I’ve always been.

Is it kind of like a good perk of the job to be the coach that gets to do the reconnaissance down in the Bahamas?

“That is probably one of the greatest perks I have ever been a part of, yes The reconnaissance mission was a success and I got to spend a little time with Dr. Wood Selig on that mission.”

TJ Ricks – What has the reaction been from your teammates since the announcement of playing in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl?

“The reactions from the players have been great. They are all excited to go. When Coach Wilder pull the four of us into his office to tell us that we would be announcing where we would be going, we all had an excited look on our faces like kids in a candy store. Yeah everyone has been excited but Coach Wilder has been telling us to go 1-0 in the classroom so we want everybody to be able to make this trip and not miss out on this opportunity.”

Rashaad Coward – What is it like to be a part of the first ODU football team to go to a bowl game?

“Well it is giving us an extra month pretty much to stay together as a group and the seniors last game and we just want to embrace the moment now. It is a great feeling to practice in December and the energy in practice is just ridiculous and I am just very thankful.”

Zach Pascal – How do you and your teammates feel about playing the only bowl game outside of the United States this year?

“The feeling [among the team] is very exciting. A lot of guys on this team have different backgrounds. A lot of guys are not able to travel and have a lot of sightseeing opportunities and thing like that including myself. I’ve never been outside of the United States. To be able to have this reward for the accomplishments of our team and our goals, to be traveling to the Bahamas and enjoy this it is very exciting and we are all very excited.”

David Washington – Only 16 teams out of 129 in the FBS have 10 wins this year. What would 10 wins mean to you and your teammates?

“Not just for me and my teammates this year, but for the program as a whole, it would mean a whole lot. It shows that we are getting back our winning ways like it was when I first got here. We have had a couple of off years where we weren’t as good or our record wasn’t as good but this team this year, it means so much because of all the hard work that we went through in the offseason and everything. It is great and to be one of 16 teams in the country with 10 wins that just shows a lot. It shows that we have grown a lot and that we have been working hard.”

 
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