ATHENS, Ohio– Fourteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (3-2, 1-0 MAC) Mid-American Conference game against Northern Illinois (3-3, 3-0 MAC) on Saturday (Oct. 13) at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Saturday's contest between the Bobcats and the Huskies will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Shawn Kenney and Al Groh will be on the call. The game can also be heard on the Ohio IMG Sports Network. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 11th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio alum Rob Cornelius, who has been a part of the broadcasts for close to two decades, is back in the booth. The 12-station network has an over-the-air coverage area that hits three states. In addition, the broadcasts are available online through OhioBobcats.com and TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats.com. They are also free on the TuneIn app.
Head Coach Frank Solich
Weekly Press Conference Quotes
Oct. 8 - Week 7 at Northern Illinois
"Obviously we still have quite a bit to work on. We still are an improving football team in a lot of ways. There are some things we need to get corrected to help us move forward and to set the challenge of the MAC games that lie ahead. My thinking is the MAC is a very close race that will be a ton of games that come down to the last quarter. In some cases, we have prevailed doing that this year. We need to change our habit of getting off to a slow start and getting some quick touchdown scores against us and needing to come back. When you put yourself in that position it just takes one mistake on the last drive or the last two drives to have it go the wrong way. Whether it's a fumble and interception, a penalty at the wrong time, or just a broken play. We don't want the game to come down to those kind of situations very often."
On defensive changes in the final three quarters at Kent State:
"Obviously, we didn't play very well in the first quarter on the defensive side. We missed 31 tackles in that game. You don't miss 31 tackles in a football game. We were able to get it done despite that. We were 6-for-6 for touchdowns in the red zone for the offense, which is huge. We weren't kicking field goals, so the points being put on the board were six or seven points at a time. This allowed us to get back into the game. Back to your question, there wasn't a lot that was changed in terms of alignments or blitzing more. We continued to run the same package, we just ran things a little better. We had the ability to bring in a lot of players to substitute. Being able to keep some fresh players from the defensive end of it helped. If you look at our rush ends, we play a lot of rush ends. Three to four inside guys and you can put a lot of corners. For our starting safeties, we go the route that we can sub in there too. It helps us and it plays into it a little bit."
On passing efficiency:
"The percentage was high, 18 out of 20 passes were completed. Generally, that comes from having a good running football team that you're able to have high percentage passes coming from that. In our case, it comes down to (junior quarterback Nathan (Rourke) and (redshirt junior quarterback) Quinton (Maxwell) being good throwers. We have the best group of receivers that we've had ever, in terms of being able to make plays and catching the ball really well at this point in time in the season. That leads us to being able to not just throw coming off the running game, but whenever we want to. We weren't running the ball that well. We didn't have big runs or explosive runs. (Redshirt senior running back) A.J. (Ouellette) had a really good game if you look at his yards after contact and those kind of things. We were able to get a little bit done in the running game, not as much as we want to or used to. But, our passing game became the most efficient thing we were doing, and the most consistent."
On overcoming deficits late in games:
"Having talent is the biggest thing. Having leadership on your football team, those guys believe in themselves, and they know that they have a chance to come back. They're never out of a ball game. But it comes back to how many times can you let this happen to you this season, and you keep pulling them out. We need to get in the roll of playing four quarters of football better than the guys on the other side of the field, because they want to win, too. They have good players, and you're going to get in a hole sometimes, but we've been in that hole a little too much for us."
On Northern Illinois' defensive strategies separating them from other teams:
"They have some special players. They're physical, they run really well. They've got a good package to stop the run. Their pass rush is really trouble for most team to handle. They have some exceptional guys there. They're all good. They've got a really good group of defensive players on their football team. That's not saying they don't have an offensive game, because they have talent there and a majority of their offense coming back. Obviously, they've been able to score points. They've played a very tough schedule in the non-conference, and they were very representable in terms of playing those non-conference games."
On concerns about turning the ball over four times at Kent State
"You don't win many games if you give up four turnovers. We were able to get three from them, so that balanced that out a little bit. The ratio is still a losing ratio for us. That's not been a problem for us this year. We have done an excellent job of winning the turnover battle, and, sometimes, by multiple turnovers. This was a game that they came in some bunches, and we had some fumbles. A.J. hardly ever fumbles the ball, and he had one during a broken play. You look at a defensive fumble we had with (sophomore cornerback) Marlin (Brooks) after making a great interception. That all ends up in a loss in terms of field position, which is critical if you're trying to stop a team that has the ability to run the ball some and mix it up. So, we were fortunate to overcome that. It's been one of our goals to win the MAC in the turnover ratio, so we didn't get off to a very good start. We are minus one in terms of turnover ratio in MAC play. I think the winner last year was plus ten in turnover ratio with Akron. That, again, is an area in itself that you can't let slip away. We have to do a great job and win that."
On the importance of the game against Northern Illinois:
"It's going to be one game in the MAC. You want to win them all, they want to win them all. But, in saying that, it's not going to be a game that if we don't win, that our season is out the window. That isn't the case. Don't get me wrong; we plan on winning the game. It never comes down to one game for us because of so many things that can happen. You could have a ton of injuries, the other team could be healthy. You could get questionable calls that go against your team during the game at the wrong moment. You could lose the ball again. If that happens and you aren't ready to continue to compete, you're in trouble. We never go into it with that frame of mind. We go onto the field expecting to win every game we play."
On players rising to the occasion late in games:
"It speaks to the character of the football team with what they're all about in terms of how they practice and their attitude going into every practice or every game. You couldn't ask for a better group of guys in that regard. When you have those kind of guys on your team, you have a chance to win those kind of games at the end. So far, we've done a pretty good job. We goofed up with Cincinnati one, but that was a lot of me. Here I go, looking back a little bit, but we're moving on here. I think you understand what I'm getting at."
On preparing for road games:
"Every trip you go on is a different trip for you. You've just got to try to make sure your guys are in-tune to understanding that if you're going to be a really good football team, you need to win games. You're going to have to win on the road. So, that's a mindset that you need to have. You've got to be willing to understand that there's going to be some things on a road trip that don't all seem to fit. You can't get irritated at the little things. The "no limits" part, which is the term we use in terms of no matter what happens, we overcome it, we don't get distraught over it, we just move on. There are no limits set for us in terms of what we can encounter and overcome. That's used quite a bit in the program in terms of saying it, and I think it holds true a lot on away games.
On status of redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons:
"Well, we're probably not going to talk a great deal about his injuries. We're going to let that question fly over my head. It's flown over."
On how junior quarterback Nathan Rourke has performed the last two weeks:
"I think he's very comfortable in our system. The start that he had was probably not what any of us expected, but he overcame that, and that's part of his makeup. He's able to overcome things when they don't go right, and him being able to do that gives you the chance to have the kind of games he's having right now. He's throwing a high percentage or he's doing a great job in the running game. He's picking the right moments to scramble and picking up some crucial firsts for us just by his legs and running on a designed throw. Then, you build in a few runs for him. He's a complete quarterback, and I think that's really showing now."
On Northern Illinois redshirt junior defensive end Sutton Smith:
"Really great players make plays. So, he'll make some great plays because he's a great player. We've just got to make sure that he's not so disruptive to us that we don't have an offense. He's got great people that are around him in terms of that defense, too. They are really a strong defensive football team; probably the best defensive team we'll play after this point. That's a huge challenge for us, offensively. It's going to make that a huge challenge for us defensively, too, because we can't have a lot of missed tackles, and we can't have a lot of broken plays. We're going to have to play really good defense, and we're going to have to be good in the specials teams part of it to make sure that we give our best shot at this game."
On working on missed tackles in practice:
"That's been an emphasis, although it didn't show in this last ball game, but we think that we know that we have to continue to work on tackling. We have a good group of athletes -- a good, tough group of athletes. That hopefully won't happen too often. That was not counting special teams' missed tackles. That's just defensive, line of scrimmage plays. That is concerning, but we're hoping that that's not a pattern and that practicing the way we're practicing right now is going to help."
On words of wisdom to junior quarterback Nathan Rourke before game-winning drive at Kent State:
"Sometimes, you can come across and you're patting him on the back and he's wondering, 'Why the hell are you patting me on the back now?' So, there was nothing magical that went on there in terms of any conversation. He just takes the field in the same way, composed, a guy that's definitely confident in himself and confident in his teammates, and that's what you ask of your quarterback. He's got all of that."
On the interception redshirt junior safety Javon Hagan made to seal the win at Kent State:
"The interception was huge. All they (Kent State) need to do is get in position to kick a field goal. Javon is able to run back there pretty well. Obviously, he's tied down sometimes with other responsibilities, but when you let him roam back there, he finds the football. It was great positioning by him, a great job looking the ball in and a great job of running some after that catch. You don't want to run too far with the time that was left, but not a great job of running after that play was over. That didn't sit well, but he was excited and his teammates were excited, so they were just celebrating."
On redshirt senior wide receiver Andrew Meyer:
"He's really made some special catches over the last couple years. He's got that kind of ability. He's not a big wide receiver but he's got great quickness and can make the cuts and lead guys. He can go down low. He can scoop balls up right before they hit the turf. He can make the twisting catches. He's really a great addition to our passing game."
On celebrating his 100th win as the Ohio head coach:
"I received quite a few texts and got a fair number of calls."
On how he handled this:
"I texted back and said, 'Thanks for the call.'"
On how typical it is to receive calls or texts after games:
"Part of it is, after all games. I've got a lot of friends that are spread out all over. A lot of friends keep in touch, congratulate us on wins and try to keep encouraging you if the game doesn't go the way you want it to. That's great. I try to respond back to every one of those because they're great supporters of the program. Some of those are great supporters of myself, and they have been that way for years. I appreciate all that."
On hearing from former Ohio players:
"I did hear from former players. Actually, I heard from a few former players not only from here but from previous jobs. It's good. I think the fact that the MAC is either on TV or somehow people get the chance to see it or hear the game around the country makes it so much easier for people to keep in touch. We're on TV a lot; that helps."
On any particular message that stood out:
"No, not really. They were all short, 'Congratulations,' 'Keep it going,' or whatever. There's a few guys that I heard from that are coaching elsewhere that were on our staff as a full-time assistant or grad assistant. I heard from some of those guys, so it's always good to know you've got a lot of people that are out there supporting the program."