Bobby Wilder Press Conference (Transcript and Video)
By ODU Athletics
Below is the transcript from the Bobby Wilder Press Conference.
Coming off a difficult loss at UAB. This game was really a tale of two halves. They won the first half, we won the second half. Unfortunately, we just spotted them too much in the first half. When you’re playing a team like UAB, the defending league champions, a lot of credit to Bill Clarke, this is a good football team in all three phases, playing at their place, they’ve got one of the longest home winning streaks in the nation, you can’t make the mistakes that we made early in this game and that included two turnovers, on offense, early in this football game. That included drive starts on our 31 and 38 [yard line] and when you do that, you have so little margin for error defensively with those short fields. As Coach Blackwell will tell you, we still have to stop them, but that put us in a difficult spot. We got down early and I loved the way we battled back. The one thing you see from this football team, week in and week out, is that they’ll keep fighting, they’ll keep competing. We’re youthful right now, we got some guys banged up, but right now, we’re playing 70 players. We’re playing a lot of players at this point, and of those 70 that are playing, only eight of them, that are playing a good amount of football will not be back next year. So, 89% of this roster, right now that’s playing a lot of football, there all going to be back. That’s what I’m most encouraged about with this team. If we keep finding a way to get better each week, start putting some wins together, and build some real momentum for this team moving forward because of the youth we’re dealing with. We got 28 guys right now that are injured in some way, shape or form. Hopefully, the majority of them will be back for this weekend. This was a physical game and we had a couple of more guys banged up in this football game.
Starting with special teams, Blake Watson had another big game. That first return set us up on the 41-yardline. He’s number one in Conference USA, right now, in kickoff returns, averaging 29 yards a game. Nick Rice hit the ball really well again this game. He was two-for-two on his field goals. He’s 9-for-11 on the season, just doing a great job with that. He’s perfect on extra points. He took over the kickoff duty three weeks ago, kicking it off well. Really excited with what he’s doing. Bailey Cate, another good day punting. Seven punts, 41 yards and he dropped two punts inside the 20. He’s playing at a really high level for us right now. And Darrell Brown, our returner, is so close to getting something going. We just needed one more block this week. He hit one for seven yards that could’ve been even bigger. So, that’s one area, the special teams, we’ve been really good, really solid, and I see us getting better each week.
Defensively, Lawrence Garner with another double-digit tackle game. He leads Conference USA in tackles right now. He’s playing really good football. Kaleb Ford-Dement is number two in the league in pass breakups. He played predominantly field corner, this was his first game where he played some boundary corner when Tobias Moss got nicked up. He actually asked us if he could go over into the boundary because they were really attacking that side of the field. And that’s something you love to see out of your best pass defender; he wants to be where the ball is. So, we’ll look at Florida Atlantic this week and decide where Kaleb is going to play, but I was really excited about what he did. Our run defense in this game, they had 40 runs for 80 yards and then they had four other runs for a total of 100 yards. We missed a couple of gap fits, the quarterback ran by us on a blitz. It was uncharacteristic of a couple of the explosive we allowed. We had not been doing that at this point, and that hurt us defensively in this football game. Our pass defense, you know Watkins and Parham are as good as advertised. They combined for 200 yards in receiving. I think they’re both NFL caliber receivers. Their quarterback was accurate. They made four tremendous catches on 50-50 balls when we were in great coverage, which is something we are not doing enough of, on offense. Those 50-50 balls right now, in this league, is a lot of man coverage, you’re going to get a lot of one-on-one situations and that’s what we have to get more of on offense because teams are crowding the box right now. They’re playing a lot of man coverage against us, and our young wideouts have to keep getting better at doing that type of thing. We saw three of them last week at Marshall. We had five opportunities, in this game, to catch those 50-50 one-on-one balls and we just did not convert them.
Our most explosive pass play was a double move underneath by Darrell Brown that he took for 44 yards right before the half. We need more of those plays, but against all this man coverage we are seeing right now, we have got to do a better job outside. Messiah deWeaver, the numbers don’t look good when you look at them on paper. He had five balls that were dropped in this game. I mentioned those 50-50 balls, but again he hung in the pocket, he got hit a lot in this game. He had a couple of explosive runs, one went for 19 yards. That’s an area, the quarterback position, overall, we’ve got to keep improving with our football team.
Looking ahead to this week’s opponent, FAU, they are 4-3, 2-1 in our league. They lost their first two games of the year at Ohio State, and at Central Florida. They had a tough loss Friday night against Marshall, 36-31, in a game that the lead changed four times. That speaks a lot to the balance in our league because you look at a couple of weeks ago, Marshall beats Middle Tennessee, then Middle Tennessee beats FAU, then all of sudden, Marshall comes back and beats Florida Atlantic. So, that’s what’s going on in our league right now. You see a lot of this balance between the top teams in the league. They’re led by Chris Robison, their quarterback, who’s an outstanding player. He’s thrown for a couple-thousand yards, 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. They’ve got a Mackey watchlist tight-end, in Harrison Bryant, who has 30 catches for almost 500 yards. He’s the number one guy they try and get the ball to. They’re talented at wide-receiver, solid on the offensive line, good at running back. Defensively, they’re leading Conference USA in takeaways right now. They’ve got 14 takeaways and nine interceptions which is a big number at this point in the season. And, they’re fast and physical on defense. Overall, this is a good football team, but I have no doubt in my mind, this is a team we can beat. We play good football, take care of the football, find some way to get some more production on offense, particularly in those explosive pass plays. We’re excited to be home after two tough road trips. To be back home, have homecoming at our place, we’ll be excited to play good football this weekend.
Q: Bobby, speaking of explosive pass plays, 50-50 balls and all those things, Eric Kumah has missed four straight weeks, any update on when you might get him back?
BW: He started practicing again last week, started to work himself in. I’m hopeful this is the week that he’s back. He was running much better last week. So, we’ll see if we can get him in some full speed work, this week, and hopefully get him back. Certainly, that’s an element we’re missing right now that Eric brings to the table. That big, physical guy against man coverage that can go up and make plays on those one-on-one balls.
Q: Bobby, you mentioned Kaleb’s volunteering to switch. How much of an adjustment is it to be able to go from boundary to field, field to boundary?
BW: The biggest difference between a boundary corner, when you’re on the short side of the field, the 17 yards as opposed to the 34 on the other side, is that you’re in more man coverage. You’re in more press man-coverage when you play into the boundary. What we like to do defensively, and most teams do, is you love for that boundary corner to just play that one guy, and the other ten guys take care of the other two-thirds of the field. That’s what was impressive about what Kaleb asked to do because he knew the ball was going to be coming at him more at the boundary. He doesn’t get as much work to the field, because generally we put him to the field and he’s all by himself. Other guys might be in bracket coverage, we might double the boundary receiver which you can do more of into the boundary, but he wanted to be where the action was. And it is a big difference especially how quickly the run gets on you, the run plays get to you fast when you’re into the boundary and you’ve got to be able to stick your face in there and have some courage.