ATHENS, Ohio–Fourteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (7-4, 5-2 MAC) upcoming matchup against Mid-American Conference East Division foe Akron (4-6, 2-5 MAC). Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 23) at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. The contest will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network. Click here for ticket information or call 1-800-575-CATS (2287).
The Bobcats will be showcased on national television for the fifth week in a row and will appear on CBS Sports Network for the second time this season. John Sadak and Randy Cross will have the call. Friday'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.
"Proud of the way our kids responded coming back from a loss and probably playing their best football game of the year. It was a complete game, special teams, offense defense. Obviously they're going to be up for another challenge. Akron will be a very physical football game. It always has been. They're competing right now to be bowl eligible."
On watching other games to adjust preparations:
"No, it certainly won't change how we prepare. It will not change my approach to this ball game. All of our concentration and thoughts are on Akron. It should be really good ball game. We have to be on our top game to get it done. That's what we're focused on. The rest of it will take care of itself. We don't have any opportunity to change anything that's happened. All we can do is play our best football game again and get a win."
On getting a team ready to play during a holiday:
"There will be some family coming in because it is senior day. There will be family of not only seniors but other players that are in town. We want to make sure they get an opportunity to spend time together but also keep the team focused on what lies ahead. There are all kinds of challenges in the MAC in terms of preparing for games. This isn't new for us. You still have to give some thought and planning going into this kind of game at the end of the year. Our guys are playing really well right now and we want to keep the momentum going."
On a team function for the holiday:
"Yeah, we'll have a dinner for all of the players on Thanksgiving. Anybody that does have family in and wants to have a separate dinner, we will allow that to occur. I think in most cases most of our team will be together during that lunch. We just want them to be focused on what's ahead. We'll make sure that family and everyone is together and it's an important holiday, so we'll make sure they get fed well."
On Senior Day events for Friday:
"They've been a great group. Not only in terms of their athleticism, which they have a lot of, this is a very talented group. They're playing their last home game here this coming Friday. They'll definitely be missed. They will be missed in other ways. I like their personalities, It's a fun group. They are guys who did everything right in terms of preparing. They're a group that are leaders of our football team. There are leaders that are juniors and sophomores, but this group has done a great job at leading this football team. Not only this year, but previous ones when they've been involved in the program. We have talent in the group, the leadership, excellent students who work hard in the classroom."
On the Seniors this year:
"They've been a group who's really prepared as well as they can prepare for football games. It started this past spring, it was a great spring lead by these guys. The summer was special in terms of development of players. Fall camp, we had a really good fall camp. That carries over to your season. They've been a huge part in what we've been able to accomplish this year."
On Akron's success:
"I think they have a great deal of toughness. I think Coach Bowden and his staff recruit really well. They've got physical football players. When you step on the field with them you have to be ready to match their physical ability or else the game can start to get away from you. We have to make sure that we're taking on the physical part of the game ourselves, which we have done well over the course of this season. I expect we'll do well on that end of it. I think it'll be a great matchup when it comes to that. They have some big play makers on offense and defense. I think Alvin Davis (CB) has had four interceptions. He's only 5'9, 175 pounds, but he will strike you. He has great ball instincts. They have those kinds of people on defense as well as offense. Obviously, Kato (Nelson, QB) is the kind of quarterback people look for in terms of running and throwing and being able to make the big plays. They have the athleticism that is there for big plays to happen. When it happens it can become a problem for you. You just can't let it happen very often."
On communication with the team about a bowl game:
"I have not talked to them about a bowl game once this year. They're smart guys, they know how it all works. That's putting the cart before the horse there. I don't want to have them start focusing on a Bowl game, who they might play, where they might play, any of that. Our total focus is on Akron. That's the way we always operate as a coach. We're certainly bowl eligible, probably will get a bowl. But until that comes it's not on our mind."
On bouncing back:
"That's been their makeup; they rely on one another to play their best. The thing that I've found difficult in the game of football is to line up and play 12 football games at your best level, your highest peak. There's sometimes you're not there, the energy level isn't as good, and when it comes around you just have to be good enough to win those games. We've had some games where we haven't played as well as we're capable of playing—in fact, I know we've had some of those—but it hasn't been because of effort. It has not been because of energy. We've played some good football teams, but things turned out kind of the way they did. You'd like to have had it turn out just a little bit different, but it is what it is. It's probably where these guys are at now and the effort that they've given throughout the course of not only this season but also their time here. I look forward to them playing their last game here and trying to get that to end on a very high note for those guys."
On extra motivation:
"I don't think because of how it transpired last week. Every time you line up you want to win. That's a given. If you had a group of guys like what we've got, they don't have to have something piled on top of something to have motivation. If you have a football team that can't motivate itself for the upcoming game without some kind of thought about what's happened in the past or what's going to happen in the future then I think you've got a problem."
On Senior Day and A.J. Ouellette:
"I agree with you on that, that he's playing his best football right now. His last couples of games have been special and to me, he's an All-MAC running back. He's had a great career here; he's finishing it up the way I'd hoped he'd finish it up for us, but also for himself because he deserves that kind of recognition because he's that kind of a player for you and he's that kind of a leader for you. He's got as much respect on this football team as anybody does from the other members of our team. So you want it to end well for him, obviously. It's really amazing that right now we've got I think three players, Maleek [Irons] and Nathan [Rourke], in the top ten-rushing in the MAC. I believe all three guys are in the top ten. That doesn't happen very often. It signifies that there is a great deal of talent right there. I think our offensive coaches do a great job and the rest of the coaching staff has done a great job preparing week-by-week to really utilize the athleticism we have on offense.
On preparations this week:
"We give them three days off totally. They didn't have to be around us at all if they didn't want to. I think that was good for them. Coaches went out and recruited for a couple of days—the first two days after the game—and then came back in and worked on the third day. In working on the third day we zeroed in on Akron and then the players came in yesterday. I think it's the best approach for them; it's been a hard-driving season, there's been a lot of pressure on these guys with mid-week games, four days between a game and five days between a game, the bye after the first game. That's a hard stretch. You've got to be really good and you've got to be a little bit lucky to get it all done no matter who you are in the MAC in order to just make it work."
On handing the rigorous schedule:
"I think they handled it as well as you can handle it, but were they a little tired? Probably. I don't think you go through what we went through and what some other schools in the MAC went through and not have yourself tired coming down that stretch. But, fighting through that and still trying to play your best ball is what it's all about."
On Papi White:
"We knew he was good. Some things you don't see on film sometimes; just his ability to make a quick fake cut and his route running has been special in allowing him to do that. He doesn't have great height, obviously, but he goes up and turns and twists with the best of them. He'll make those special kinds of catches where he's in the air and he turns his body in order to make the catch. He's been relentless in terms of his work ethic. He came through a little bit of an injury last year, but he battled right back onto the field as quickly as he could. He's played banged up at times, he's been physical for us at times and he comes with his backing a good share of the time here. Not only has he done what you've asked of him, but he has the talent to be special and he utilized that talent. He knew quickly that we had a really good one after he got here and went through some practices and started off early in the season in terms of what he's all about."
On Papi's overall talent:
"It makes sense. Obviously, you want to try to get him the ball as much as you can. Could he be a really, really good running back? He could. But is his body in position to carry the ball 36 times and those kinds of things. But can he run 36 routes for you? He'll run routes all day long. In my mind, it's the very best position for him."
On the senior class:
"I don't think you could ask any more of them. In fact, I never had to ask anything of them—they just get it. That was the great thing about this group; they pushed themselves. They didn't have to have a position coach, a head coach, a strength coach pushing. They pushed themselves to be better and get everything they could possibly get done for Ohio University."