ATHENS, Ohio – Fifteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (1-0) 2019 week two matchup at Pitt (0-1) on Saturday (Sept. 7) at Heinz Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. EST.
Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on the ACC Network, with Clay Matvick, John Congemi and Dr. Jerry Punch on the call.
Saturday's game can also be heard on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 12th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio Alum Rob Cornelius has been a part of the broadcasts for two decades. WXTQ (Power 105) in Athens returns as the 11-station network's flagship.The broadcasts are also available online through TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats and on the TuneIn app.
"I'm glad we got the opening win. They aren't always easy. If you watched games leading up to ours you saw a lot of teams that struggled. We did enough good things to win the game, but obviously we have to get better in certain areas. The good thing is, we'll go to work today and start getting to work on those things. I talked to Rhode Island's coach a little before the game and I think Rhode Island was a little bit better team than what a lot of people suspected. In terms of the athletes that they have, he feels that they've found their niche in terms of recruiting up in that area. They've been able to recruit well and it's starting to show in their program. If you were down on the field where I was pregame watching them warm up, they looked pretty good. They look very athletic in their uniforms and they came out and played with a lot of athleticism. They had some receivers who got up and had some 50/50 catches. They had some height, some leaping ability to them and good hands. Their quarterback did a good job. They were solid in line play on both sides of the ball and they're physical. It was a good win, I'm proud of our guys for getting that done, but we're back to work now.
On the inability to get off the field on third downs in some situations:
"Some of it was Rhode Island making plays. I think you have to give them some credit. Some of it came back to us. I think if you look at it from the stand point of how it went on third down and getting them off the field, I think we only had three possessions in the first half, which is not what you look for. They were moving the football. They did it early on the ground. They got good field position. Our first drive was 94 yards that we had to go and put points on the board, which we got done. It was a good deal that we were able to do that to eat up some clock because they could wear down your defense pretty early with how they were going against us in the beginning. We needed staying power with our offense being on the field and it was good to see that from them. Defensively, there are some things to work on. The statistics didn't seem that way to me. As I was watching the game, certainly in the first half, it didn't look like we had the ball or a chance to get field position to put points on the board. It was somewhat of a frustrating beginning for us in that regard. They just moved the ball and they did a good job early moving the ball. But our defensive guys made great adjustments and we finally got control of the game."
On special teams play and the miscues they had:
"Those two things are frustrating to you. They can happen and they do happen, you just don't want them to happen to you. Other than that, I thought there were a lot of really good things special teams wise. Louis [Zeros] accounted for 11 points – two field goals and five extra points. [Michael] Farkas didn't have to punt and that's great special teams play right there. After the first kickoff coverage, I thought the rest of our kickoff coverage was really good. On the punt return team, we had some breakdowns where guys got down the field and then out own guy run into the punt returner. That's not what you're after. There were a few things like that which are not customary for us. But I don't expect that they will be happening with any regularity."
On Pitt and looking back at the meeting in 2005:
"I put that game out of my mind. That's going to have zero to do with this ballgame so I'm not dwelling on that one bit. These guys weren't even around when that happened. It was a great moment for us at Ohio, but that moment's gone."
On having a prior relationship with Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi:
"I don't think it matters. Our staff learned a lot of Coach Narduzzi on coverages and stopping the run and those kinds of things. His staff now is a master of going against cover four and knowing what you need to do if the run isn't going as well as it should be and what adjustments need to be made. I think it just balances itself out a little bit. Certainly, we are appreciative of all that help that he had given along the way when we were converting to that style of defense."
On going up against a Coach Narduzzi run defense and a Mark Whipple run offense:
"We've gone up against Coach Whipple a couple of times and they scored a ton of points. We were able to win both games, but they put points on the board, so that's a little concerning. I have a lot of respect for Mark. I think he's an excellent offensive mind and they'll be really well prepared. The fact that we have some awareness of both those guys and what they're all about, I don't know it will necessarily help us, I think it will still come down to execution on the field and making adjustments as the game goes on. Hopefully, we get some things done on special teams to try and establish field position and have yourself a ball game."
On Coach Narduzzi referring to Coach Solich as a legend:
"Any kind of comment from Pat like that is extremely meaningful. I certainly appreciate his comment there. We feel the same about him and what he's accomplished. Our whole defensive staff has spent time around Pat and he's what we built our defense around with his philosophy and his approach. He's a great coach. I think he's doing an excellent job. It's never easy when you take over a program and you're trying to make it all fit and work together. He's a great recruiter and a great organizer and his style of coaching will take them a long way, I'm sure of that."
On Pitt junior quarterback Kenny Pickett:
"He's a tremendous athlete. He has good size, he can run and is a good thrower. He has five leading receivers coming back and that is very scary in itself. You put all that together and you know it's a very explosive style of offense. It's one that will be difficult to slow down. They'll just keep getting better. I don't have any doubts about that. The longer Coach Whipple is there working with them and the talent that they have, they'll keep getting better."
On the challenges the Pitt defensive line will bring:
"We've have to win the sack battle and the tackles for loss battle. Those kinds of things all play into field position which will be critical in this ballgame. We'll meet with the players this afternoon and go over – I've got a list of things on my sheet here that I'll cover with those guys. Certainly, some of it to winning the turnover battle, which we did not do in the first game. We need to start winning that by plus two in games. Last year I think we were plus 13 in turnover ratio and now we're in the negative. You can't play winning football with that being the case. Sacks enter into that big time. We only had two (last week), and that's not enough with our personnel. We have enough to put more pressure on the quarterback. We'll look at things in that regard and what we can do to help us get better. It's one game, and you don't just look at that one game and say "gosh darn, we got to get better here, here, here, here or here." We'll automatically get better in some of those areas so it's not something that we're really distraught about at this point but we'll continue to monitor it and make sure we're not deficient in some of those areas as we get into the season."
On the offensive line's performance against Rhode Island:
"I thought it was good. Those guys, a mistake there, shows immediately. I thought they played well. Coach Rudolph has done a great job. Allen (Rudolph) got a hold of those guys and they know that he can make them better so they are really dead set on his coaching techniques and what he is all about. I think that's going to resolve him with really good line play as we continue through the year. We're trying to build depth and I think he's done a good job of trying to get some young kids in position to play to develop that depth. We lost some really talented guys up front, as you mentioned, and it's going to be a situation where I think that first unit is going to be really good. Whether they'll be able to replace what we had or we had the same style of offense that we had remains to be seen. We'll adjust where we need to adjust but he's done a great job with those guys.
I might just mention too that I thought a little bit about the running backs – we had four or so that played considerable amount of football and did an excellent job. There was concern with A.J. (Ouellette) not being there like he was for 1,000 years and Maleek (Irons), and how much he gave to the program as a running back. There was real concern with if we would be able to replace those guys. I don't know about replacing them, but we've got really good running backs. I'm really satisfied and pleased with what they showed in the first game. I think the same could be said about the receivers. We lost some really good receivers – Andrew Meyer, Papi (White) – you can go down the list a little bit there and you lost some talent there, yet I thought our receivers showed very well. I think we have a number of guys that we can go to there. It remains to be seen how well we continue to play in that area, but I think for the first game I thought those two areas showed well whenever there was some question about if you can replace those guys."
On what the plan is at running back moving forward:
"I think Coach Albin is wanting to get those guys a good amount of playing time, and if one or two guys just surface as the best, or two best, then they'll get the vast majority of the reps. But for right now, we've got some guys that are capable of doing what all running backs need to do. They have running skill, they have strength and power. If you look at De'Montre (Tuggle) and his feet and breakaway ability. They all can contribute with their style of play, which I think is very good. We'll continue with that for a little while, but eventually someone is probably going to surface. They'll be the guy or two that sets the race himself."
On senior quarterback Nathan Rourke's progression over the past three seasons:
"We thought he was an excellent player coming in but really until a guy gets on your campus and really shows it, you aren't sure. He didn't have a great offensive line when we recruited him and he was scrambling a lot, so we knew he could run. His throwing ability – it looked like he could throw well, but he was throwing on the run because they were chasing him. He's been more than what you would hope for. Not only with his athleticism, with his running and throwing ability, but his leadership ability. He's a smart, smart player. He's studying the game all the time. You couldn't ask for anything more in a quarterback. In this game, he was involved in 11 big plays which is 10 yards or more up to a point. Then explosive plays, which are 30 yards or more, he had two of those. He was involved in a total of 13 big and explosive plays for us either running or throwing the ball. That's a huge amount. That's a big part of a team's offense. You can see how important he's been to us over the years because that gets reflected back to us and what he's been able to do for a number of years now here for us."
On redshirt junior linebacker Jared Dorsa handling setbacks and coming back to be a better player:
"He's very much a team player and an unselfish player. He gives you everything he's got every snap. That's a perfect combination for what a coach looks for. I think he will have a great year. He handled that very well just like I expect he'll handle anything very well. He's just got that kind of personality. He doesn't let things upset him and he keeps pushing himself forward. He's got the right makeup for a really good player. He wants to maintain that playing ability and not get frustrated and not get upset when something doesn't go his way. That not his style."
On his favorite play or one that sums up what football is about to him:
"In the earlier days, when our offense was a little different, it would have been just an iso, a hammer type of play or a pitch play that is also a downhill play. I love downhill football when it comes to the running game. What I really love to do is go like this (makes touchdown signal) on play action passes after that. That's kind of my philosophy in the game, to really run hard at people, downhill kind of running. Although, we'll utilize the option a lot which is not downhill necessarily. That's what I like about the game, the toughness part of it, how your players respond to that, how your linemen love it. They're upset when they come off the field, "you're throwing too much coach, this is happening, that is happening." They want to run the ball and they take pride in that. Then you have yourself a really good running back or two or three and utilizing them in that way. To me, that's all about football."
On beating Pitt in 2005 and if that set the tone on what the program was going to become:
"I think that certainly helped. I don't know if people knew what to expect. As we started that season that year, it hadn't been great previous years. To have an opening game like that was special in a lot of ways and certainly for the program. Again, let me emphasize, that's in the past. This is a completely different team. Our team is, their team is, and it's a whole different type of scenario and situation. That's why I don't want to dwell on that one bit."