ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio University football head coach Frank Solich held his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon to preview the Bobcats' matchup against Buffalo this Saturday at Peden Stadium.
On last week's game at UMass
"I think that anytime you're picked to win your conference, you're going to get everybody's best shot within your conference, and last week was an example of that. I think they probably played their best game of the year. I saw them on film as being a very physical football team that played hard, and give their coaches credit. I've always told you guys that if we have a tough football team that plays hard all the time, that we'll have a shot at winning, and that's how I see their football team. And we portray that to our guys, and I think they understood that. I don't think we took them easy by any stretch of the imagination, either as coaches or players, but I know where you're coming from. It's difficult at times to get young men to not look at statistics and win-loss records, and try to perceive what a team's about before you play them. We certainly guard against that, because the other thing I always mention is that every game in the MAC is a game you've got to come and play your best at to have a shot. I give our guys credit for being able to handle their best shot, and being able to come back and get the win. I don't think it was as much as a letdown on our part, there's a lot of areas we've got to improve to really be a good football team, and we're identifying those as we go through the season and trying to get those corrected. This was one of those games where you look at what they accomplished offensively against us, and you're a little concerned because they had not been able to move the ball that effectively against other teams. They did play some great teams, some high-ranking football teams, but it's what it is. We lined up, we played well, not great, but we played well enough to win."
On today's college defenses
"I think head coaches have to re-adjust their thinking a little bit because it's pretty easy to get down on your defense if a team scores a bunch of points, and teams are scoring a bunch of points across the board. You've got to understand that there's probably going to be some points on the board. You've got to look at areas like third-down conversions, and you've got to work on getting better in those areas. You've got to look at redzone chances and scores and get better in those areas. So there are some individual areas that if you really play well in, you'll probably manage the game a little bit better from a defensive standpoint. Of course, you look at the turnovers and all of those things being added into it, but with all of that being somewhat equal and field position being somewhat equal, then it comes down to how many three-and-outs you get, how effective are they in explosive plays, both passes and runs, and if you can manage that, then you're probably going to give yourself a chance to slow whoever's offense you're playing. It's a difficult field, it's a wide-open game, everybody's able to recruit wide receivers. I don't think there's a team that doesn't have really good wide receivers. I think we understand what quarterback recruiting is like, because there are several teams in the MAC who have outstanding quarterbacks. So you're able to get those, and with the kind of passing game that now exists, the short passes, the swing passes to the backs, the quick passes to the wideouts at the line of scrimmage, those are almost like running plays, and they're replacing running plays, and you're not able to get to the quarterback as much because they're really quick throws, three-step type of throws. So regardless of how good of an upfront group you have, if that ball is getting released quickly, they're able to convert on third downs, then they're going to put themselves in position to score points. So you're seeing a lot of that. At one point, it used to be you couldn't score in the redzone through the air as easily as you could on the ground. I don't think that's necessarily true anymore, I think you can find some really good offensive football teams that get down deep into the red zone, and they're putting points up on the board by throwing the ball, not necessarily by running it. Now you still have those teams that are just great running football teams, and then you have the combination guys that are able to be a one-back and a two-back team, and then use their two-back in yardage and goal line situations. So there's a lot of ways to attack, I think teams are working hard at figuring out, defensively, how to slow some of this down."
On Buffalo's running backs
"Well I'm not as familiar with the other backs, I watch tape on them but we've reviewed our tape extensively, spent a lot of time with our guys. So I, personally, am digging into what they are now, in terms of backup players, with film watching starting tonight and into the early part of the week. I know our offensive coaches and defensive coaches have had a chance to watch some of that film, I zero in a lot on special teams early in the week, too. I know their philosophy, they've got 300-pound linemen - they want big, strong and tough running backs. He's (Jeff Quinn) a very physical coach, they've got a very physical football team, so whoever they put in there is going to be a very good running back, I'm sure."
On Buffalo's defensive unit
"He was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, last year. They're using him a little differently this year; last year they were operating more of a 4-3 front with him as a rusher. Now he's an outside backer at times, but at times he's up at the line of scrimmage where he can rush, they're utilizing him in a lot of ways this year. I'm really impressed with their numbers, they lead our conference in both tackles for losses and sacks, two huge areas when it comes to stopping teams either running or throwing."
On Ohio's loss to Buffalo last year
"That's come and gone. We've got goals and again we know what every team is like that we face in the MAC and there's always a challenge. So we don't try to work on getting revenge from last year. We just look at trying to get football games won week after week. We look at things in terms - we got beat across the board - the only thing we did better than them last year was establishing field position, and some of that came from special teams play. But we lost the turnover battle, we lost the sack battle, we lost the big and explosive play battle, we lost the redzone battle and we lost the third down conversion battle. That's losing a lot of battles, so we want to do much better than that."
On what needs to improve from last week's game
"It was disappointing on how we handled the passing game last week, so that has to improve. Every team in the MAC has an identity and Buffalo's is toughness and they like to run the ball from the offensive standpoint, but UMass was somewhat the same way. So we let their passing attack come alive, and we can't afford to continue to do that."
On Tyler Tettleton's injury
"We think we got him through the last game without re-aggravating the injury, and that was huge for us, we were ready to take him out at the first sign of it bothering him. Right now, I believe he's over it. I know he had a little soreness yesterday, but that was to be expected. I think if we're smart on how we handle him, he has a shot of going into this game at 100 percent, and can operate everything within our offense. If you noticed, we became one-dimensional, with Beau (Blankenship) in the running game. They figured it out, we were still able to run it, but they obviously understood and they were taking away the run by our quarterback, which was good for us, because we didn't want him to do a lot of running. Our offense is running at two-thirds of how we should be operating."
On Beau Blankenship's season
"He's had a great season, he's second in the nation in yards rushing, so that's huge. That's a tribute to the offensive linemen, Beau himself, quarterbacks carrying out fakes, receivers blocking down field, so a lot goes into that. No one can argue with his productivity, his ability to get the tough yards, and then also to make a remarkable run. The one play where his hand went down and he kept his balance was a big time run. He's now starting to make more explosive runs over 25 yards, so that's really good to see. We've seen more of that this game than what we've had, so I think that's coming, some. You can't get anymore out of a back than what he's giving us, so we can give him some relief, but he doesn't really want relief. He just wants to get those types of reps, but I think we can give him some relief. Ryan Boykin should be 100 percent healthy this weekend. It has been the first time he's been this way since his injured hamstring early on in preseason camp. I think Ryan is a very good running back and we'll be able to utilize him this week."
On the number of Beau Blankenship's carries
"He's the only experienced, healthy running back. Daz and Kyle are good running backs, but they're inexperienced, so with Beau being able to handle that number of carries we just kept going with him. Obviously if Boykin was healthy at the early part of the season, Beau would have started and Ryan would have gotten playing time, so it wouldn't have been quite what it is now in terms of carries for him."
On Beau Blankenship's work ethic
"It's not rare to find players like that, it's rare to find players who are able to hold up and do it. Everybody wants it, I have not known a running back that doesn't want 100 carries in a game, but they can't hold up health-wise, but he seems to be a guy who