ATHENS, Ohio– Fourteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (4-3, 2-1 MAC) Mid-American Conference game against Ball State (3-5, 2-2 MAC) on Thursday (Oct. 25) at Peden Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Thursday's contest will serve as Ohio's annual Blackout Game, with this year's theme being 'Thursday Night Lights.' Click here for ticket information or call 1-800-575-CATS (2287).
Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network Ben Holden and Jay Feely 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.
"It was the most complete game we've played. It felt like all three units contributed to the win and were pretty consistent throughout the game which is what we've been striving for. We plan to certainly build off of that when we go into the last of the six regular season match ups. They're all extremely important."
On Bowling Green after watching film:
"They have done a very good job in the passing game, but we were really concerned about their rushing attack. They've been able to get their backs into the linebacker area and when they do, those guys are very dangerous. They have great quickness. They have three guys that they use quite a bit and they're very similar. The size may vary some but they're very similar in terms of speed, quickness, ability to make people miss, ability to make big plays, and we were able to contain that. That was a very big first step on playing defense against those guys."
On what caused Ohio to be on track to win:
"It's a combination of the two. Our safeties are pretty experienced and generally they don't really have to grow into the position. They're guys who know what they're doing back there and can communicate pretty well. Our corners have been fairly young. They had to really mature into the position and I think all of them have come a great deal. You can see the strides they've been taking game after game. We had the big pass really on in the ball game in the third or fourth play. It was a little disheartening but they battled back as the game went on and continued to get better in terms of pass defense. We're a team that moves quite a bit. We're utilizing our speed up front with our interior guys. Our rush ends were playing for guys so we could keep them fresh. This all helped in terms of getting more movement and not being so static in our defense which helped us."
On the running game:
"I think we had a unit that played really well together. We've had excellent and great individual play, individual effort. We've had a break down here or there when a guy doesn't play to his potential in a series. I think this was one of the games where if you look at the unit across the board we played really well. We hope that's how we'll continue to function as an offensive line. Our running backs were banged up a little bit but they held up in the game really well. You can say that if you really get the running game going you'll have a chance to have a good passing game, which we did. If you look at our average per attempt and our average per catch they were really high. If you have a running game you can get those kind of stats for you in the passing game. Not necessarily the kind of passes that you throw and the completions, it's a matter of how well those throws are set up and the yardage you can get out of the throws you complete."
On the tough parts of non-traditional game days:
"It's making sure you have the right mixture of having your team prepared. The only way you can prepare them is to get out and practice. There are really only four days between our last ball game and this one that they have off. Four days is not a lot of time so you have to be careful with how much you practice and how you practice. We're not going to use pads at all. We'll shorten our practices which will be helpful to everyone. It's a little bit of a guessing game. Each team can be a little different in that regard as you prepare game after game, year after year to go up against that kind of schedule. We're going to have our challenges and the term of no limits that we use a lot, putting no limits on ourselves, the team, the coaches, the programs, will come into play when this kind of situation happens."
On adjustments for what to cover during practice:
"We're not going to have what we call service periods, where we work on our first and second team guys against our first and second team guys. We're trying to just work on speed more than anything and not necessarily too much on the plays being exactly how we want for offense and defense, but some similarity to it. We're just going to work on the opponent scheme period and make sure we get all the special teams covered with shortened practices, but we won't be eliminating anything because they're all important to winning football games."
On Nathan Rourke's hat on the sideline:
"It was Coach Dixon's idea. He came to me about the idea, I've seen him wearing the hat a few days in practice earlier in the week. I didn't think a lot about it. Coach Dixon does a little sewing so sometimes he'll show up in his own garb every once in a while. Or an adjustment to our garb I guess. He was wearing the military hat and he looked at me just before the game, which isn't normally a good thing to do, but he said 'Is it alright if we use this for guys that do certain things, to get a mark on that hat and get to wear that hat?' and I said okay. So Nathan had it on and a few other players may have too. I like anything that motivates our players and gives them a chance to feel good about their accomplishments. So regardless of what that is, whether it's the turnover belt or that hat, I'm open to suggestions and ideas for how to help our guys enjoy the game."
On keeping Ohio above Buffalo:
"That's the way it is. We had to win our last two ball games the last go around to get to Detroit, or at least one of them. We didn't get that done, so we know how that works. We just have to play really good football through these last six games. We have to be ready to go and play four quarters of football because of the quality of teams we're playing if we want to get done what we want to get done. It is what it is. We'll take them one at a time and see how it turns out."
On students balancing school and weeknight games:
"It can be challenging. There's been times on road trips that we've started ball games at 8 p.m. during the week and we don't get back until 5 a.m. But no limits. That can come into play every time we turn around. There's a lot of expectations of our guys, especially academically."
On Halloween coming up:
"No, we have not discussed that yet. We have not had a problem with Halloween when we've had games we played here. We've had games when we were away, we don't try to keep them out of town. We'll make a decision on that but we have a pretty mature group of guys and we have not had to do anything special. If they want to win the MAC championship and they want to win, Halloween is just another day just comes and goes. You don't do anything different you just make it work. I expect our guys will be really mature about it."
On fourth quarter against Bowling Green:
"I think that does play a role. Whether having the game come down to the end and your starter is in for four tough quarters; I think that will hopefully be of some help. A lot of things go into it, but obviously anytime you can rest your starters it's probably a good thing."
On carrying momentum forward:
"You don't want to just start to reach out there and start to do things that are different in hopes that it's going to help you continue on a trend of playing good football. We've been searching for this game where we played four quarters. You know, we've played two quarters and we've played three quarters; we've played really well for two and three quarters, but to play really well for four quarters is something that we've been striving for. We've reached it, we know what that means, we know what it means to win the turnover ratio. We know what it means in terms of field position and how many first downs you get. If you get a ton of first downs, that means that you're controlling the ball some and first downs mean field position. There's a lot that goes into it. We had a big thing, I guess I can mention it in here, is that we had 18 big runs. Runs from 10-29 yards. That's the most we've ever had in that regard, so when you have that there's a lot of people that have to be doing really good things. The defense stopped the running game—shut it down fairly well against Bowling Green. That was something we thought we had to do, so things are starting to come together. Things have been pretty consistent in the kicking game; Louis [Zervos] hasn't had many opportunities. I feel for Louis a little bit—but only a little bit. You want to score touchdowns; you do not want to score field goals. We know Louis is there; he's a proven kicker. Things are somewhat on track there. We have to keep all of that on track and there's no special way of doing that other than going out each day, continuing to practice well and to believe in yourself."
On difference in Saturday's game versus the rest of the season:
"We're maturing in the secondary. Our corners were pretty inexperienced. Our linebackers, except for Evan [Croutch], are inexperienced. Our defensive ends—we're playing four of them now in each game—they keep getting better and having the ability to play four of them is meaningful. We have three interior guys and sometimes four guys are getting reps. So they're all kind of growing. That defense was really a young defense if you look at it. We lost two really important inside guys in the interior defensive line. We lost two, I'll call both of them all-MAC players, because only Quentin [Poling] got it, but both guys were at that level. Replacing those guys is not easy to necessarily do."
On continuing to use the running game:
"You know, that's a point; I think it's a good point. If you can keep defense off the field, a lot of good things happen. So, obviously we'll try to do the things that will allow us to do that. Any way you can find to give your guys a break in a game or leading up to a games now are really important with the schedule being as it is. This isn't our only; I think Miami we have maybe five days between that game and I count a regular game week as six days. So there are five days for the Miami game and four days for this one. It's not really how you'd like to set your schedule up but it's what got handed to us. We'll play it and I think we'll play it well."
On Nathan Rourke as MAC East Player of the Week:
"I think he's really confident. We're really confident in him. I think that's all showing. His teammates are confident; he's got a group of receivers to throw to. He's got an offensive line that' protecting him well. There are a lot of good things that are happening and those are allowing him to showcase all his ability."
On Ball State's offense:
"They've got the ability to move the football, and that's regardless of whether you talk about the passing game or the running game. Not allowing them to be two-dimensional would be a really big plus. We've done some changing as we've gone through the year in terms of what our emphasis is on defensive football and movement and stunts and blitzes and coverages, when we run them and those kinds of things. It's shown to be helpful to us; we're hoping it continues to be helpful to us in this ball game. If you're not playing sound football, they're going to hurt you. They're going to put points on the board. Their defense is very, very aggressive: really good tacklers. So, they've got a good combination of things."
On third-down conversions:
"As an offense, if you can keep yourself from getting third and long. Third down conversions, if you're going third and short or third and medium, that's helpful. The thing that really helps is to get a first down on first or second down and keeping yourself out of the third down conversion table. If you're getting into third downs, not having third and longs, no one is great, just great at third and longs. It's a matter of how good you can get to not just have every third down punting the ball. We've been pretty good at that, as you said we're second. This last ball game we had one punt. We've not had the games where you're just punting the ball eight or nine times a game. That's attributed to both the offense and the defense. The defense is just not trying to be so protective of the deep ball when they throw a ten yard route that gets the first, or if it's third and fifteen and the guy runs for the first because your coverage is so deep, so soft, that you don't challenge them at all."
On Julian Ross:
"I will talk about Julian. He's had surgery, so he's finished for this season. It was somewhat planned out in terms of the number of games he could play and still keep his redshirt year, so with the fact that he definitely needed the surgery and it's going to take a while to recover, it made sense to do it now."