ATHENS, Ohio -- Fifteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today as the Bobcats (1-3) open Mid-American Conference play on the road with an East Division matchup at Buffalo (2-3, 0-1 MAC) on Saturday (Oct. 5). Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET from UB Stadium in Amherst, N.Y.
Saturday's contest will be streamed live on ESPN+, with Michael Reghi and Dustin Fox on the call. The 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.
On self-scouting during the bye week and the lessons learned from it:
"Well, we're continually self-scouting ourselves even when we don't have a bye week. Obviously, it's trying to update ourselves as to how we're doing. Statistics do mean something, so obviously we go over those pretty hard. A couple things – we played four good football teams. I think Rhode Island was a very good, physical football team, and so that has something to do with our statistics. In saying that, we expected to be further ahead on some things, like defense against the run, being able to run the ball better, not giving up five turnovers in a game and not getting any turnovers. Those are the things that are somewhat frustrating, and you just continue to go about your business. There's only so many ways to drill those things, and we cover them all. We talk about them, so we're hoping that some of that will come to play where we do not have another game with that kind of turnover issue and where we're starting to get some turnovers. I think that's the one big statistic that is holding us back a little bit."
On belief that issues with defending the run, running the ball and creating turnovers will reverse course:
"I think so. I think we don't get off course. We don't take ourselves off course and try to do some drastic things to make those corrections that in some ways will play itself out. In saying that, though, there's obviously got to be some concentration that goes into creating turnovers and taking good care of the ball. There has to be concentration in continuing to drill that, not only in group work and individual work, but also in team work a lot and making a big issue out of it in practice. I think we can do a better job of that when we get a turnover in practice, making sure that we're excited about getting the turnover. Taking good care of the ball all the time from the offensive standpoint is important and needs to be recognized as well. But when you practice against yourself, there's a winner and a loser, so it's not quite the same as in a ballgame. We're working on it. There's other small things to take care of, and I think that'll help us out a great deal. In saying that, we're counting on some of those things playing out for us as we go down the MAC race."
On improving tackling:
"There's a combination of things that go into that. I got a chance to watch a lot of college football on Saturday. There's a ton of missed tackles, and you see them at every level. The Power Five, Division II, it makes no difference. Some of that is that you're faced with really good ball carriers and really good running backs. Some of it is that you just need to concentrate on getting it done at a higher level and trying to make sure that your players understand how important it is and the emphasis that we place on it. It has nothing to do with toughness. I know we're tough. We have a tough group of guys so that's not an issue. If you look at the other team, we're running over a few people there also. They're missing a few tackles also, so to some degree it's part of the game. I think we're missing a few more than what we're accustomed to doing, and we need to make sure that's not the case."
On defense creating more turnovers:
"Well, if everybody had the answer to that, there'd be no turnovers, but there's constantly going to be turnovers in games. The thing is to limit it and win the turnover ratio. We need to have a goal set and work toward that goal and have that goal be very meaningful and have your players understand how important that one goal is to win the turnover ratio. When you look at the Buffalo-Miami game, Buffalo had four turnovers. Some of that was from pressure, but it's what it is. You just hope that you don't have a ton of turnovers in a specific game. As you go through the year, you're going to have a few, but you just don't want that to amount to the point where that's hurting you game after game. If it hurts you once, that's once too many. You find a way to try to stop it, but there are only so many things you can do and only so many drills that are out there. I like our guys' attitude. That'll play an important role. Our guys are highly energized, and, in fact, they're the ones who said they want to do a little more celebrating after getting turnovers. That came from the Unity Council during practice. As coaches, we're always, 'Okay, on to the next play, hurry up, let's go,' but they want to take time to celebrate that. I'm not sure what kind of celebration that is and what it all means, but we're going to look into it. We're going to do a little celebrating and take a few moments. Obviously there's got to be energy coming from the coaches and energy coming from the players. That's got to be in practice and that's got to be in games."
On limiting runs that get into the second and third tiers of the defense:
"Well, we're a gap oriented team. What we're saying is that if you're responsible for that gap, there should be no one coming through that clean and getting a ten-yard start at our safety. In fact, our safeties are drilled to make tackles at the line of scrimmage or slightly beyond the line of scrimmage when filling a gap that they need to fill. There's a fine line there of being able to do that and being able to play pass defense. You've got to find out where that fine line is and make sure you're not going overboard in one area or the other. I think our safeties are making a ton of tackles. If we get tighter gaps, our upfront players have got to not allow big gaps to run through. They've got to squeeze down their gaps, and, in doing that, it really causes a back at times to veer off and maybe try to get to another gap and is not barreling down at 100 miles an hour on you if you're a safety, so we're trying to squeeze down the gap some."
On stopping Buffalo's running game:
"No question, [Buffalo head coach] Lance [Leipold] has dedicated themselves to run the football this year. Part of that is because of a new quarterback, part of that is because they've got a great running back and part of that is because they have a very experienced line coming back offensively, so that all adds up to wanting to be a good running football team. They had 49 carries against Miami – that's a fair number of carries. We'll get their best shot at running the football. I believe that will be their game plan going in."
On being in the negative column in time of possession and number of plays:
"It's not all the blame of the running game. Obviously, field position is critical, and that involves all three units in terms of trying to establish field position. As far as running the football, if you lose the turnover battle, there's a possession that's given up, or two or three, depends upon how much you lose the turnover battle by. We've been losing the turnover battle, and that doesn't help you in number of possessions and field position. That all comes back to being able to possess the ball longer for possession time and also number of plays."
On getting the running game going:
"We're wide open. Obviously, there's been some change with Coach [Allen] Rudolph in terms of techniques. Not a lot. He's very sound in everything we're doing, but you do have a change there a little bit. I think that our players have adapted to that very well, as far as the offensive lineman. I don't see that as being an issue whatsoever. What all is going to cause us to turn the page and all of a sudden become a really good running football team and a really good passing team - I like the people that we've got. I like our offensive linemen, I like our running backs, of course, I like Nathan [Rourke], our tight ends – we're utilizing our tight ends more than we ever have before. They're really good pass receivers, so we have the type of offense you look for. We just need to execute at a better level. I think as the season goes on you'll see us continue to improve. We can't wait. That time to show ourselves as really being good offensively and really being making progress defensively has got to be now."
On the punt return team:
"We addressed it, but we're not going to make a change at this point. We do have other punt return guys that I really like but Jerome [Buckner] is one of the best, if not the best, explosive player on our football team. His worth back there is immense. Again, I think that'll balance out a little bit. I have not seen Jerome [Buckner] during his time here have ball issues in terms of bad ball technique and those kind of this. The one punt return that got slapped behind, that could happen to anybody. He's such a young player that I think he's going through some things right now that once he works his way through them is going to make him an even better player, so we're not caving in on him whatsoever."
On depth at running back:
"Ja'Vahri Portis, on the depth chart, was down there a ways and he really had a good game this past game. He had to step in and kind of raise the level of his play, and I think he did that. The fact that we have really good quality in our running backs as far as depth goes is important right now. We should get a guy or two back and that's going to help us. You will see that some of those guys are to the point where they could use a little extra time, so we won't practice them all that hard this week. We'll see if they're ready game wise, but we'll have a good running back on the field I know that."
On if anyone has been ruled out for the Buffalo game:
"I don't know if that's the case. I don't know that very many have been ruled in necessarily at this point. This bye came at the right time for us. Couldn't have come at a better time for us in terms of the way that injuries all of a sudden accumulated as they did."
On attacking Buffalo's defense:
"They've got a good defensive football team. Their safeties come up and will meet you at the line of scrimmage, and they will hit you. Any time you have really strong and aggressive tacklers, that can cause turnovers. They've got a good, experienced group of linemen rushing at you. They're a very good defensive football team. You look at Miami, and their rushing yards per play were two-point something, I believe. Usually when you see statistics like that, you don't win. But Miami was able to take advantage of some things and played really well at times. They were smart about how they played and managed that game and ended up winning it. But statistically, [Buffalo's] defense has been gritty throughout the year, so it's going to be a real big test. I don't think that we can just line up and say that we're going to just run the ball on them and that's how we're going to win it. We're going to have to do a combination of running and passing. We have the potential to be that kind of football team you asked about earlier. How we break up our running versus defensive plays right now, it's close to 50-50 is what I presume it'll be. I think Nate [Rourke] is really a good thrower, and we've got really good receivers. That should help open up our running game a little bit, but I don't think we just go in saying that we're going to be a heavy, heavy run football team and win games right now."
On his message to the team as it tries to end a three-game losing streak:
"Well, that goal is still ahead of us, a conference championship. I really don't have to tell them anything, although it's been a great group. They have come right back after a loss and have really worked on things and practiced hard and been the kind of group that you want in that regard. They're going to give themselves their best chance to play winning football by their attitude and their effort. I still say that we have talent to win football games. We're just going to continue to pound away – I don't mean that as a running term – but pound away and try to be the football team we believe we can be."