ATHENS, Ohio– Fourteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (6-3, 4-1 MAC) upcoming Battle of the Bricks matchup against Mid-American Conference East Division rival Miami (3-6, 3-2 MAC). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 7) at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio.
The Bobcats will be showcased on national television for the third week in a row and will appear on ESPNU for the second-straight week. Matt Barrie and Rocky Boiman will be the call of the contest. Wednesday's 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 a good ballgame. Certainly, we're on a little bit of a roll, and it was good to extend that roll with the type of game we played in this last ballgame against Western Michigan. We've got the meat part of our schedule coming up in terms of trying to reach our goals. They're all going to be extremely important football games. Up next is Miami, who we all know is a big rivalry. Both schools see that game a little differently in terms of that. They've got a very, very good football team, so it should be a great matchup."
On keeping the team focused:
"I think we're a pretty smart football team. That's along with having talent and being a good football team. You don't get to be good on the field without being smart. You don't have a lot of breakdowns, and we don't have a lot of penalties on us. Another thing is just understanding what the game is all about. Those games we've shown improvement and have played well, but we have to play better in order to ride this thing out and reach our goals. They're a football team that's constantly improving, and they're smart in that regard. We've never accepted a win as a win. They look at it as what do they have to do to get better. When you have that kind of attitude, it can move you forward."
On making adjustments heading into the Miami game:
"You do some things different as you adjust for the practices leading up to these kinds of games. We had a four-day window earlier in the year, and we came through that pretty well. This is a five-day window. There's challenges to that. We give them a day off after we got back very late from WMU. Being on the road, when you have a shorter window, adds to that challenge. Our guys have been good at taking opportunities to rest themselves and get treatment and doing the things that enable you to move forward and continue to play your best football. We will see how that all plays out. We will have more of a regular practice today instead of a walk through. I think that will fit us fine. We did it earlier in the year. You just have to get some reps in, in terms of what the opponent is doing offensively, defensively and special teams wise. You can't get them if you don't use some of those days as a traditional practice. We haven't been in pads for practices for the last few weeks. Our practices have been cut short, and we're not going to do any running for special teams. We'll walk through that. We're down to 15 periods on this practice today. There's at least 20 minutes of special teams work built into that practice. We will walk or jog through our assignments on those instead of running through. You take steps wherever you can to help your teams save their legs and not get banged up.
"I think a share of it certainly comes down to emphasizing it. That's something all coaches do from the moment you start practicing in the fall to the end of practice in the fall. You put a heavy emphasis on it. You have to keep driving it home and find ways to keep it on their mind and focus on being one of the better teams in the MAC. Guys that play in the MAC championships game are guys that are very high in turnover ratios. Akron led the conference last year at ten-plus in the turnover ratio. Right now, they're maybe minus eight. You have to keep coaching it every year. You have to keep coaching it every game. I think that's what all coaches try to do. We have smart players, and they listen what we have to say and take in the coaching that is thrown their way. Some teams do that better than others in terms of teams that we've had over the years, but this group is special in that way. They've fought and worked at understanding how important the turnover ratio is and trying to win it."
On the emphasis of special teams:
"We know how important it is. We spend a great deal of time with special teams in meetings and on field. If you feel it's that important, then you better spend time on it. We do that, and we have the talent to be good. With the work that we're giving them, it allows them to be the best they can be in that area. We have a group that is really good at covering kicks, returning kicks, making smart decisions out there, and that all comes back and either hurts you or helps you. It depends how good you do it. This game will be interesting in that Miami's first in the MAC in terms of returning kickoffs, I think its 31-point-something. Miami is rated really high in terms of special teams and so are we, so that that should be really interesting."
On Miami this year:
"They're not one dimensional by any stretch of the imagination if you look at their offense, they have an excellent thrower. He's throwing something around 66 percent. He has really tall receivers on the outside that he throws to, and they throw the ball and let those guys go and get it. He's a very active thrower when it comes time to pinpoint a throw. They have speed at the slot, and it's a great combination of receivers and a guy that can get them the ball. He runs. He's a very good running quarterback. He will hurt you scrambling and keeping drives alive and sometimes getting in the end zone with the scramble. They have some runs designed for him. He'll hurt you every bit as much running the ball as he will throwing it. Their running game is really good. They have an experienced line. Their whole line is coming back from last year. They have an experienced group there. They have some good running backs, Kenny Young, you look at his stats, in MAC play, he's average nine-point-something in yards per carry, which I would imagine leads the MAC. I know (Miami head coach) Chuck (Martin) has indicated that he's one of their best players on the football team. They've got a way to score points in the air and on the ground. That makes them a tough football team to compete against in terms of stopping them from putting points up. Defensively, they're also very good. They're very aggressive. They've got a really good blitz package. In the sack department, they're one of the better teams in the MAC. They're good at getting tackles for losses and putting you in the wrong side of yardage. I think they're second against the run, only letting an average of 3.2 yards per carry by opponents. They stop the run, and they force you to throw and try to make you one-dimensional, and they do a very good job of that. So that should be a good matchup there. We run the ball with effectiveness in order to help our throwing game. I do like the fact that if we wanted to throw the ball 30 times a game, I think we can be successful at it. It doesn't have to be a rushing game that gets it done for you. It's a great way to start if we can get that going."
On previous trips to Oxford:
"You look at home games versus away games for most teams, and you see that their record is better at home than away generally. This has always been a traditionally hard-fought football game. I think both teams, every time they step on the field against one another, have played very, very hard, physical football. When you do that anything can happen within a game. I think both teams are talented. Both teams will play physical football game. It should be a very interesting game."
On the importance of the upcoming game:
"As you know, every game is important. As you get in the MAC, it seems like if you lose one, man, you're fighting from behind right away. It's a tough conference in that regard. And, I think there are some really good football teams in the MAC. That makes everything a little more difficult. The rivalry part of it has been good for both teams. It's a rivalry, but it's one of respect in terms of the football programs. This will be another typical game with these two ballclubs in terms of it being hard-fought. Some special plays will be made by both teams. You just hope we make a few more."
On making improvements late in the season:
"Well, this is the home stretch that we're on now, and there's not much time to get better. You better be a pretty good football team right now. I think we're playing on the top of our game, so I'd rather be sitting where we're sitting than fighting from the bottom working our way up, not getting better and just still making the same mistakes that were made earlier in the year type of thing. So, I don't see that happening. I see us having continually getting better. That's going to have to be the case. We're going to have to be on top of our game to certainly win this one and win the remaining two after this one."
On playing games six days apart
"I wouldn't mind a little more rest. I think that would be fine. Our players have been really amazing to me almost in terms of their energy for each game. They've gotten themselves ready to play football. They've really been a good practice team. They've done that with regularity throughout the course of the season. If you have a team that's that way and can get themselves ready to play mentally and emotionally and excited about it, then you're going to have your best chance. A lot of teams can't do that. It's one of the most difficult things to do that 12 games in a row. I've said this to you guys 100 times, but it's very true. If you have a team that has been able to do that then you have a team that's going to give itself its best chance of playing winning football."
On benefits of resting starters late in the last three games:
"That helps in a lot of ways, in terms of just freshness, legs, shoulders not being sore or banged up as much, being able to go from the game to most everybody practicing and not having to go through half of a week until they can even get back onto the football field if you just go through so many straight games where you're pounding, pounding, pounding. I think this has been fortunate that we've been able to play at a level and separate ourselves early in games that we've been able to get a lot of guys playing time and rest our starters. I thikk that's huge. Not only is that good for the starters, but it's good emotionally and mentally for your guys that do a lot of work at practice getting your starters ready and don't get a lot of chances to get on the field. You get a chance to get them on the field. I'm all for that kind of football. I'm not into if you are 70 points better than a team necessarily trying to beat them by 70 points. I like to get our guys reps that deserve reps. It only increases what they're all about in terms of their football ability and enthusiasm. It just helps your program in general in a lot of different ways."
On Western Michigan fumbling back-to-back kickoffs at Western Michigan:
"I can't say that I have. I've seen a lot of football over the years, and I can't ever recall that happening in a game. I've seen some teams muff a balll in a game, but never getting recovered on kickoffs like that by the opponent."
On rivalry with Miami:
"Well, it's been special in a lot of ways, and I think that's true of almost all rivalries. I go back to my older coaching days, and I don't care if it was the last school I coached at or high school, rivalries were huge to players. But, they're also huge to coaches. They're huge to your fans if the rivalry is a good enough rivalry. It's good to your school and community in general, and I think that's been the case with the Miami-Ohio rivalry for all the years. People understand the importance of it, the intensity of it and how hard the players fight to get it done."
On how the team performed in the first half at Western Michigan:
"You have to feel like they're in stride right now, obviously, with how they've been playing. You can get knocked off course so easily, so you've got to understand that being on a roll only means something if you are able to continue that roll. You've got to work and practice in a manner that's going to allow you to play your best football. You're going to be against different levels of programs and teams as you go through all of this, and they're going to have something to say about how fast you're rolling. You always work at playing your best football. You do that and you try to win. If you can get that done, you can feel pretty good about things."
On play of sophomore cornerback Marlin Brooks
"He's a great competitor. I love that in the guy. He is ready to compete on every play in practice. Sometimes a little too much, in the way you have to pull him back a little bit, but you like players who have this makeup in terms of his toughness and his fight. He's not a big corner, but he will battle you. He's got athleticism; that truly helps. He's a smart football player. He's been great for us. He's been playing a little banged up, but I think he's getting better."
On growth of the team captains:
"I think I've seen growth in a lot of the seniors through a couple of years of being in this program now. There are some things we do where we work on helping develop leadership and togetherness, and I think all of that can come together with the right group. So, you've got to have the right players to start with, but then you can always get them to really step up and be what they can be in terms of leadership for you. I think there's a sense or feeling that that we're doing pretty well right now. These guys worked to get us there, along with the rest of the team. I mean, earlier in the year, with the Cincinnati and Virginia games, things could have turned south a little bit on this football team, but the players didn't let that happen. I've got to give them a lot of credit for what they've been all about game after game after game in terms of getting ready to battle each game and giving it their best. They've been super with that."
On improvement of the defense:
"Some of those guys were playing with inexperience. So we had a mixture of guys on the field, as I've mentioned to you guys numerous times, the core of our defense inside is made up of young guys that are developing. Our corners, we still have a lot of young guys there that are getting playing time. They kept getting better, so that all comes along with just getting a chance to get on the field and get playing time in some positions for our guys."
On the secondary trusting the rest of the defense:
"I don't know how that all fits that way. I do know it fits in terms of getting 11 guys to play football together and believing in one another and trusting in one another. That's what you get in that. I think that feeling, that belief, is there now for our football team. They're going to have plenty of challenges ahead here. They're going to have to face those challenges and respond really, really well in a positive manner for us to finish this thing right."
On the loss at Miami in 2012:
"I'm not one that usually goes back and picks out games and tries to build off of that. We pretty much have a philosophy that we go by and continue to mold. It's a philosophy that really entails some of that stuff, how easy it is to lose what you've gained. You're all of a sudden not the same football team. That's something we don't want to have happen and so, our players understand the difficulty of being a football player and the difficulty of being on a great football team. It's not easy. There are all kinds of obstacles that get put in your way. We do talk to them about that. Sometimes, I get somewhat specific in pulling this up. A lot of the time, it'll be general conversation about it, but it is important to remind them what got them where they're at. We're not really where we want to be. We wanted to win more football games early on. So, it's not like we're just beating our chests. We're far from that. We're trying to make sure no one beats our chest. We're looking for ways to kind of continue to get better, and, if we do that, we're doing the best we can do, and we're doing what we need to do to give us our best chance."