ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio University football head coach Frank Solich held his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon to preview the Bobcats' matchup against Massachusetts this Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
"They've played, three BCS schools and then Miami, who was projected to have a good football team in our conference, and they've only played one game at home, so I'm sure they'll be anxious to be back home. Statistically, it doesn't match up to the kind of football team they are when you pull up the film. I think they're well coached, I think they're sound in all phases of the game, so it's a game where we can't afford to make errors and we're going to have to play well. We throw the previous games out the window. In the MAC, you're going to have to play really well every week in order to get it down, and I believe that's true in this one also. Statistics can be so misleading, and once you start to get into the conference play and just look at the conference statistics you're halfway through it you may start to get somewhat of a picture of what is happening. Right now you can identify some things from those statistics, and I do look at those pretty hard, and they're areas you can point to your own team as far as what you need to do to get better. So just looking at them on film, I think they're a really solid football team, a very sound football team, well coached. and their quarterback can throw the ball. He will really try to pinpoint passes, he's a guy that's not afraid to let the ball go. He's big and strong, so you're just going to have to try and get some pressure on him and hopefully make him throw a few (passes) up."
On UMass running Michael Cox
"I've watched their games, I think he's talented, he's a physical player, who's able to make plays - so you're faced with that. But we've been faced with individual talent throughout the course of our first few games, so it comes down to how you match up across the board. When you really look at the talent level, we identify players that do have exceptional ability and you try to have them in plan to where you try to prevent them from having huge plays. Other than that, you've just got to defend everybody and you've got to try and attack from on offensive standpoint. So I think he's a really good player."
On UMass going into the MAC schedule
"I would think that the tough start that they had - with a new staff, getting settled in, players adjusting on the run - it seems to me like they're operating at a pretty good level right now. I think it is clear that they're an improving football team. Obviously they've got to be upbeat about getting MAC play started and making an impression in it. So I think they'll play very very hard. They have the capability of playing well, and those two things combined will give you problems."
"We're plus 10 on the year and that's huge. There is a MAC school ahead of us, so we've got a ways to go. There's two things that I think have been really critical - you can look at all the statistics you want - but if you really look at the turnover margin and your plus 2.50 or plus 2.75 after 5 games, then you've got a huge advantage. If you can keep that up, and that's the goal to keep it up. We've got some really instinctive players, and if you look at those players and getting the turnovers, our guys really have been doing that for some time. You see it at practice; you see it on the game film. As far as taking care of the ball, I'm not sure that you could emphasize takeaways and taking care of the ball any more than we do. It's always in our conversation, it's always in our group work and in our individual work, at practice, and we're always talking about it in teamwork to players. It's something we know as coaches, and I think our players now know how important it is to winning football games. The other statistic is scoring offense and scoring defense. It looks to me that if you score a lot of points - right now I think we're number one in the MAC in scoring point - and we're number one in the MAC for defense for points allowed. That's a really good statistic that needs to carry on into MAC play. Turnovers allow you to have a chance to be good in those areas."
On Ryan Clark
"He's got good speed and quickness, and he's able to utilize that as a receiver, a punt-return guy, and as a punt-coverage guy. He can be on the kickoff coverage - and we did have him on the kickoff returns, so we try to use that quickness and speed in every aspect of the game - but we took him off the kickoff return because he was getting a lot of snaps as a receiver. We're banged up at the receiver spot, so it's a position that we're starting to get worried about, and not having him return kickoffs gives him a little bit of a break."
On Ryan Clark's injuries
"Ryan Clark has played some games with an ankle sprain, to where he hasn't got a full week of practice in, but he's played in the games - he seems to be healed now."
On the Minutemen return game
"I think they do a good job with their 11 guys on that unit. You just don't have a guy catch the ball and all of a sudden get an average of 24 yards of return by himself. So it's clear that they've got a good scheme. I think that their players operate that scheme very well. If you can find yourself with the kind of people that can operate well and that your kick-return game carries off into the punt-return game, that means you've got some skilled athletes. They're still working on finding the right combination with some of those skilled athletes. But their kickoff return unit is something that you have to be aware of, and we've covered it fairly well. It's almost impossible to get to the bottom of kickoff coverage statistics. There's about half a dozen ways you can measure it and none of them make me happy in terms of getting to the bottom of it, but I think we've got a pretty good kickoff coverage unit. I think that will be a good match up. If you look at this last game our starting position was at the 50-yard line, while Norfolk State's was at the 25 - special teams are a huge part of that."
On Matt Weller's field goal attempts
"I think he's 9-of-15, and there's been a block, so we need to clear that up, that will help. We just need to kick them (field goals) like they're extra points. We're 100 percent on extra points, and we've kicked a lot of them. I think he presses to be perfect all the time and we're not perfect across the board on that unit. I think that we need to get some of those issues resolved, and some of it starts upfront with the wings in terms of protection. It's no secret that we've got a new snapper, we've got a new holder and all of those things enter into it a bit."
On his experience in getting off to fast starts at Nebraska
"How we approach games - one at a time - is what we're doing here and that's clearly, to me, the best way to do it. The trouble with this business is winning consistently. You can win through a period of time in a year and all of a sudden it's not there. You can have one really good year and all of a sudden it's not there. You can put together a couple of years and then all of a sudden there's a drop-off, so a big part of it is winning consistently. In order to do that you've got to have good athletes, you've got to have depth, and our depth is coming into play right now. We've lost a lot of really top of the line players, a lot of them on the defensive end of it, and to be able to overcome that - you have to have depth within your program. I think we've built the depth within our program to give us a chance. Obviously at some point in time it's got to level off and that's got to stop in terms of injuries, which is a big key. Not focusing down the road, you do have goals for the year, they know what those goals are, but you've got to be ready to break it down to where it's one game at a time and the goals you need to accomplish to win that game at hand. Then not to pat yourself on the back, if you win and win and win, there will be enough people patting you on the back, you can't afford to do that yourself. You've got to understand that the only way that we can win, and win with any kind of consistently, is by being on top of every single game. At Nebraska we lined up at times, and we were favorites in our non-conference schedule and most of the games by a bunch, so we don't have that luxury to be favored like that as we get into MAC play. We might have had one game in non-conference play where we were heavily favored in non-conference play, but that was it, that's strange to us. So we just need to keep our focus, and keep going in the direction we're going, practice well, know who you're playing, understand what you need to win the game and then go out and execute it."
On receiving votes in the national polls
"It's been brought to my attention, I do not look it up and I view it really as nothing at this point. It would be an important step in our program to break into the top 25, but that shouldn't happen right now. It'll possibly happen if we really take care of business, but again, that's just looking too far ahead for us. So I don't pay any mind to that at this point."
On the possibility of Derrius Vick playing more this weekend at UMass
"That's a good question, there is a possibility of that, but Tyler has one won so consistently for us, and is really experienced and such a good quarterback for us, that when he's operating at a high level, it's hard to say, `Go sit on the bench for a couple series, we're going to try something else.' There may be times when it makes sense to utilize Derrius in some games. That will be something we look at game-by-game also, and what makes sense."
On Tyler Tettleton's health
"He will not practice today or tomorrow, we hope to start practicing him on Wednesday. He will be conditioning today and tomorrow."