ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio Football head coach Frank Solich met with the press on Monday to discuss the Bobcats' upcoming game at UMass on Saturday, Sept. 30. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium. Here is the complete transcript.
Head Coach Frank Solich
Weekly Press Conference Quotes
Sept. 25, 2017 – UMass Week
Coach Solich Opening Statement:
"Congratulations to Nathan (Manning Award Star of the Week) on that. I certainly believe that is well deserved. He started off with an okay first quarter or so and then, as the game went on, he got better in pressure situations and I thought he responded well. It was a great win for our team and the program. It was a hard-fought battle. They showed their resiliency and their fight and made play-after-play to get back into it. It was a great ending to a game. We're going to be playing UMass now with the second road trip in a row for us. This is an important point in our season to play two very good games on the road."
On how UMass has changed since they left the Mid-American Conference:
"They're an athletic group. I had a chance to watch them in several games already and will continue to watch them throughout this week so we can finalize some things. They have athletes. I think that shows because they're never really out of a game. The game against Tennessee was a close, hard fought football game. They had the potential to step on the field and win it. They have a good quarterback who likes to throw. Their receivers are very good who run good routes. I like what they're all about in terms of setting up their offense. Defensively, they play fast. Our experience with them at their stadium a few years ago was very hard fought. Now we'll be going to a new stadium and they have a lot of things to play for. Obviously, we'll be going into a similar situation as well, facing a football team with a lot of pride, and they know they're very close to winning some football games."
On UMass Head Coach Mark Whipple:
"I know Mark. I don't know him extremely well, but I do know him. I think he's a no nonsense coach that does a great job with his players. I think he knows how to get his players ready despite where things are in their season. I think he's a guy who has the ability to motivate players, and I have no doubt he'll have his players ready to go on Saturday."
On how UMass playing Tennessee tight keeps Ohio on their toes this week:
"It certainly helps me. We have the right players and they know what they'll be getting into. That football team at Tennessee when we played them was a good football team. It's the same way this year with UMass, who played them tooth and nail. Our guys are smart and they understand what this game is all about. You have to get ready every week, and if you don't, you're going to get beat. Everybody has the athletes. Look at the MAC. There isn't a team in the MAC that doesn't have the athletes. The teams that aren't ready to go are the teams who are going to be left out."
On a possible emphasis on getting to the red zone after struggling last week:
"Nobody has been great against Eastern Michigan on scoring in the red zone or getting into the red zone. They're first in our conference in scoring defense after three games. Those statistics are getting to a point where they mean something, so it's obvious they're a very good defensive football team. You have to take that into consideration when you talk about moving the ball against a team like Eastern Michigan. You have to look for opportunities and make the most of them. If you don't then you're going to have a problem. We had two fumbles, two turnovers that were costly. They didn't necessarily produce points for them, I think they got three points out of it, but you lose field position. We lost the field position battle with these guys, and you usually don't win a game when you lose the field position battle. I feel comfortable where we are in terms of red zone offense."
On A.J. Ouellette's big game last Saturday:
"He had a great game. He looked physical and made great moves. Before you even talk about his physicality and his decision making when he goes into contact; he makes great reads at the line of scrimmage. He finds the right creases that enable him to get to the linebackers and the safeties. I don't know if I have seen as many running backs that get as low as he gets going into contact. You can come in thinking you're going to cut his legs out from under him, but his pad level is right where you're coming. He's able to stay on his feet, have great balance, and rack up some yards after contact. You love a back like that, but you also love a back who is able to jump over somebody. The truly amazing part of that play for me was that he knew exactly what was going to happen with the next guy coming in, and he came underneath him for an extra couple of yards. Most backs would have taken the hit after the jump and gone down there, but he got the first down. He is special in a lot of ways. His leadership shows every practice and in the games, obviously. He has tremendous energy every time he steps out on the field. The line loves to block for him. He's coming off a year that was difficult for him and difficult for us, and it's hard to come off a year like that and play well, but that's exactly what he's doing."
On if A.J. Ouellette's hurdle surprised him:
"I saw it coming. I felt that might be what he was going to do. I didn't know if he was going to be able to get it done, but it was a very athletic move."
On Bradd Ellis' play through the first four games:
"He's an experienced guy for us on defense and that shows in a lot of ways. He takes his role very seriously, in terms of a leader and a very experienced guy. He's a great guy who not only uses his athletic ability, but he's a smart football player. It's not unusual for him to come up with special plays."
On the DB's coming through while under pressure against EMU:
"It was not an easy game for them, but I thought they responded great and I was very pleased with what they were able to get done. Not only were they able to break up passes, but they made tackles. Jalen Fox was our leading tackler, so if they broke down then we would have had a problem."
On seeing the young guys step up:
"Its great seeing those guys play at the level that they are capable of playing at. Some of them are somewhat young to where if you don't have a lot of confidence in yourself, you probably are not going to be able to make some of those plays. It was great to see them step up and make the plays. Elijah (Ball) was having a great fall camp and was ready to go and be a big contributor to us this year, so when he went down, that was a blow, Papi (White) goes down, but then you start looking at what those guys who are able to play accomplished in this game for us, and I think they all stepped up and did a good job."
On the decision to not push the field in the last 55 seconds of regulation:
"You can push it, but one mistake and the game is in their hands with under 55 seconds to go. We did run the ball, it wasn't a deal where we just took a knee. We tried a few things; we tried to fake take a knee and a couple other things, to see if we couldn't get better field position, to try and get into field goal range. What we didn't want to do was have to punt because you never know on a punt, our guy Michael gets it off quick and has great hands but you don't want that ball in the air at that point in time in the game. So we were going to run it, we were handing it off trying to get first downs but making sure we also found a way to make them use their final time out. I thought that was managed very well, there was a lot of conversation going on from the guys in the booth and myself, and that's the route we went."
On the end of the first half effecting the decisions at the end of regulation:
"Our staff has a lot of experience so we have been through other situations similar to this over our careers, in terms of when you should take a chance and when you probably shouldn't take a chance. We've been really good down in the red zone; I like the plays we're able to get to in the red zone, basically you're talking about over time. We thought our chances were good if we could get the game into overtime.
On Julian Ross playing the second half:
"A.J. was the guy we were going to keep going with for the most part, we did give Julian a couple reps but came back to A.J. It's not like we didn't feel comfortable with Julian in there, Julian did a lot for us last week. He kept pounding, he has breakaway speed, he's a guy that you truly trust in those second half situations, but A.J. just seemed to be going at a level that made us with him."
On resting guys this week more because of traveling:
"It can be draining going to an airport and getting through security and hoping your bus will be there when you land. But would I rather fly than bus for six, seven, eight hours? Yes, and I think our players feel the same way. This last bus trip of ours, wasn't bad, four and a half hours and we took a break halfway through. It wasn't bad, and gives you chance to relax. As long as you're not getting back at five-thirty, six in the morning. Playing on the road a far distance won't factor in, what will factor in is how our guys are right now. We will find out from John in terms of how he and Dak feel, if they can be pushed this week, but they have responded every week to us. You want to make sure you're giving them breaks, and having them sit a certain number of times. As the head couch, you're responsible for the team going in with fresh legs and good shoulders. If your team does they have a shot, especially if your team plays like ours does. We are going to try and get them as fresh as we possibly can for this game, even if that means adjusting the schedule."
On how it is for the program to have alumni rookies succeed in the NFL:
"It's great. I have kept in touch with both of them while they were in camp, and they seemed to think things were going well, but in pro ball you never know. Week by week you have to keep pressing and hope you stay with the club. Those guys have talent and in the long run, it will play out for them. I'm glad to see they are getting playing time right now, that's nothing but a good sign for them. It's great for our program to have them representing Ohio University."
On UMass' tight end effecting the offensive and defense:
"It's a huge factor; it gives you the extra big guy block that at times you need. A lot of teams go to 11 personnel where you have one tight end in a game, some teams go to two, we go to two sometimes, and so the value of the tight end is extreme. They are hard guys to find in terms of having the size and strength to be able to knock people around at the line of scrimmage, but at times you want them to go deep. They need to have enough speed to make that a viable option in your game. When you have a guy like that it's a big threat to opposing team, he's a multidimensional player and a really good tight end."
On defending against one of those tight ends:
"It's hard; they will move the tight end around. He will not only be on the line of scrimmage, most teams will have him off where he can motion, or split him out where he becomes a big target. It's difficult, you have to be aware of the great tight ends and know their favorite routes. You need to know when the quarterback is going to go to him and you have to wish for the best."
On UMass' backup quarterback:
"Obviously, the starter is a really good thrower, the backup, from what I have seen and what we have gotten information on, is definitely a threat as a runner as well as a player. They may run a little bit more with him, or he may decide to take off and run a little bit more. Regardless if you have a good thrower or pocket thrower or if you're facing a guy that can run and throw, it is going to cause you problems."