ATHENS, Ohio– Fourteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (5-3, 3-1 MAC) Mid-American Conference game at Western Michigan (6-3, 4-1 MAC) on Thursday (Nov. 1) at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Thursday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPNU with Dave LaMont and Ray Bentley 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.
"I think you can look and see that was our best game of the year. We're moving in the right direction, but we're coming up to the part of our schedule where the next four games will tell it all. If you look at all of those teams we'll be playing they'll all in contention for MAC Championships at this point. They're going to be very competitive football games. The first two will be on the road with one of those being with a five day turnaround. Then the last two will be at home. So they're certainly a lot of challenges ahead for us. I like the direction that our football team is moving right now and we'll give it more time and see what happens."
On A.J. Ouellette's impact on the team:
"I don't think on the day he arrived we felt that way. It took us about two weeks to get that figured out. He came as a walk on and we put him on scholarship very quickly after that because he showed he was a scholarship player. He got a lot of those yards, the tough way in terms of looking for contact and getting those yards after. I think he's changed his running style a little bit and he's looking to make cuts. When it's necessary to go into contact he'll certainly do it. He still continues to do it very well but he's making some bigger plays now by making quick slashing cuts, getting to the linebacker area and not just taking on a linebacker or safety that's filling the hole. He makes guys miss. I think that's helping him in terms of his body being able to hold up. A little bit of it is his personality to go into contact. I think what he's doing is smart football right now and he's making them even dangerous now because there are points in time where he needs to go into contact and he still does that."
On Western Michigan's running game:
"I think they're somewhat similar in that both teams feel like they have a good offensive line. If you're going to be at the top of the MAC then you better start with that. We have quality running backs and more than one. We utilize our running backs, certainly A.J. (Ouellette) and Maleek (Irons) get plenty of reps, so neither team is relying on one running back. I think both teams have quarterbacks that can pose a threat as throwers as well as running the ball so that helps your running game stats."
On the defense in conference play:
"Traditionally they've done a good job against the run over the last so many years. I think we're continuing to do that, our rushing numbers may be up a bit, but they're still good numbers. We've made a great deal of progress has been in the last defense game. I think that's contributed to getting a lot of young quarterbacks playing time in the beginning of year and have gotten some practice and are really good players now. If you combine that with the experience of the safety's, we have really good secondary's. Linebackers come into play and stop the runs and passes but we have somewhat inexperienced line backers coming into the season and I think giving them the kind of experience to play the run and pass now is good. I think now it's a combination of young guys getting better with experience and defensively we have a football team that's capable of running well. We have been showing that in the past games when we've done more line stunts and blitzing than we've done in the past."
On struggles at Western Michigan:
"They've had good football teams. They have a history of having good football teams. Whenever you're trying to build history you're not automatically going to go in and get things done at the level you want to. But in saying that, we've had some chances against them but they've played very well against us. I don't have an answer to that other than that needs to get remedied and ideally this year is when that will take place. We'll see, they're a really good football team, we're a really good football team. I think it'll be great football."
On preparation for the last four games:
"I think every year in the MAC is different for how things fit for you in conference play. You just don't know until the given year to how many games you're going to have that are less than the normal six days between those games. When those games come about, when your bi week is, those can play a role in your playing games during those six days break. Every year is different. There's been two years where we could have gotten things done, and we just didn't do it. We have another opportunity here and we'll see where that goes."
On the 2016 championship game and if it's in the back of their head:
"It really isn't. This year is a year in itself and that game was a really good football game, we had our chances. There were two really good football teams. That was really in the past. These guys have a tendency to look forward. That game was a heartbreaking loss against Cincinnati and we certainly had a huge chance there for a win, and those guys didn't hold onto that. They moved forward. There were a couple others, many games have been decided by really close margins. I don't think that has any impact on that football team at all."
On the success other teams have had against Western Michigan:
"Well first of all, I see myself and my staff as wanting a balanced attack. If we can run the ball, we're going to keep running it. We're not going to start searching for other things when we've had success so far. A balanced attack is what we're after. There are some interesting stats that are out there right now in terms of where we're at in the country in terms of throwing the ball, 10 yards or more, 20 yards or more, 30 yards or more, and some other stats that are mixed in with that. That really shows the effectiveness of our passing game. We really don't think we're one dimensional at all. If we have to throw the ball 30 times a game to win, I believe this club can do that. We try not to be one dimensional but if they allow you to put up yards and points with one of those dimensions, then you ought to stick with that."
On momentum carrying into Wednesday's game:
"This game with Western Michigan we've got the full allotment of a week. My feeling is if you're on a roll, it's always good to keep going. I think you can be on a roll and have a break in the middle of the season and it doesn't necessarily work out for you. That part of it just is what it is. You just try to build around your football team in terms of where they're at health-wise and what kind of practices you have and just try to fit it and make it all work together. Sometimes things work really well; sometimes you can have some injuries that kind of take you out of having your best football team on the field, but a lot of it is in the mindset as too how your players and coaches accept quick turnarounds. It's where "no limits" comes into play. I think that's huge. Our guys don't really think about it—coaches do; I don't believe our players do. They've never mentioned in once. I've never heard a complaint. I've never heard anybody say, 'Man, what bad luck we've got. We're playing two games under the normal time frame.' Nobody's said a word. Nobody cares. We're just out to win football games. We're trying to be smart with our approach and give our guys the best chance. I know they'll give great, great effort, and you know, that's all you can do."
On changes in the defense:
"We've given them some help in that we don't just have them playing static defense. It's not just a format in front where that's what they're doing. We're relying on stopping the run with a format in the front; we're relying on stopping the pass with a format in the front. We have mixed it up very, very well and I think that has been huge for us in terms of helping us play better defense. I've mentioned this before: we're a team that runs pretty well. When you have guys that can run there's no sense in having them stand still all the time. So we're trying to create a lot of movement with some of the concepts that we do with the defensive side of it and I think that's been a plus for us.
On preparing for a loud game:
"We generally, week after week, simulate crowd noise. We take our offense and we have somewhat of a split practice one day a week where we take our offense indoors and we crank up the music in there. We always work on that—it never comes down to one game's going to be loud all of a sudden for us. We try to work it so we're prepared for it, no matter what happens any game. We don't really, truly use the snap count for the most part; we're clapping a lot and we've not had a problem with that. So I think we're set. We talk this from day one in football: never let the fans take you out of a game. That's something that should never happen. And if you look at the history of our school, we've played in some really loud stadiums against some Big 10 teams. They've handled in very well. We're not all of a sudden going to try something unusual in terms of our preparation. I think we'll be okay with all of that."
On the higher stakes of the upcoming games:
"I think a couple weeks ago it showed to us that we're a football team that's going to rise to the occasion. We had really good practices after coming off of a loss; the next couple of weeks of practice were really, really good. So I think our team is set to give their best and that's something that in the middle of season or towards the end of the season is not always the case with football teams, regardless of whether they have a chance to be in the running for a conference championship or not. From the start, as I mentioned to you guys, I like the personality of this football team; I like the leadership on this football team. They've been great. I don't see that carrying off at all."
On the rushing game:
"That's a pretty huge number right there. I don't know that they're saying, 'Hey, we need to get 500 yards,' or, 'we need to this or do that.' I think they just want to be the running team that they can be. If they do that, if that's what they're all about and they're playing at that level, those numbers are going to be there. The competition dictates whether that's even a realistic figure and we're going against one of the best teams in the MAC—certainly one of the best defensive teams in that regard, so we're not necessarily going into this game saying we're going to run for 400 yards. We're just going into the game wanting, as always, a balanced offense where we can run the football, throw the football and put points on the board. It's not about yards. This game is not about yards: it's not about rushing yards, passing yards, total yards at all. It's about points and how you get points on the board. There are a lot of things that enter that picture."
"The emphasis has been heavy on it all year, but whenever you're losing the turnover ratio that really becomes a point that you emphasize on meetings, we emphasize on the football field in practices and you do anything you can. We're talking about ball technique with the running backs and receivers almost every play. Standing behind them—if you can see the ball as a running back coach from behind when you're standing behind the play, you let them know when they come back so you're constantly coaching that phase of the game. Making good decisions with quarterbacks, good ball technique with running backs and receivers or anyone that's handling the ball enters into it. And then getting the turnovers enters into it. If they have four turnovers, the team you're playing, and you have two or one, maybe you live with that two or one that day. As long as you're winning that turnover ratio, and we like to win it by two, that's our goal, and then you give yourself your best chance at winning. And I think our whole team understands how important that one statistic is."