Oct. 9, 2006
Head Coach Frank Solich Quotes
On the offensive similarities between the Northern Illinois win and the Western Michigan win:
"In the Northern Illinois game, we had a fair number of yards passing. In this game, we didn't hit a number of big plays in the passing game. We had some set up. Austen (Everson) tripped over our guard on one play-action pass, and Scott (Mayle) fell down on another that I think potentially could have been big plays for us. We were able to do some things offensively, which was very much like the Northern Illinois game in that we were able to run our whole offense a little bit. I think that was a plus for us. If we can get our running game going, then we have a chance to build off it."
On the defense's play last week:
"We won the explosive play battle so our defense kind of controlled them getting a number of runs, as well as passes, that were big plays. That was critical. They had 75 plays in the game, which is a lot of offensive plays, but there were not a lot of big plays in the game so that allowed us to work for field position off of that. Our defense has been playing well as of late."
On not using any "trick" plays against Western Michigan:
"We actually did run, I don't know if you'd classify them as trick plays, but we ran some plays that were set up off the running game that would've been big plays for us that we just didn't execute well. We tried to get the ball deep to Scott (Mayle) a couple of times and utilize his speed, but it didn't play out for us in this game. We'll continue to go into every game with a fair number of, I guess what you'd call trick plays. Sometimes you find times and opportunities to use them, other times you don't. Sometimes you have some that can carry over to the next game, and some you have to throw them out and start again because of their defensive alignment. We'll always try and find a way to make big plays."
On utilizing Chris Garrett more in the offense:
"We'd like to find ways to get the ball in his hands more often. Line-of-scrimmage plays are certainly something we're working on now. We've got him as our kickoff returner and our punt return guy. Now, if they would just kick to him and punt to him, we'd be okay on that end of it. On the offensive side of it, we'd like to get him more touches, and also more touches for Scott (Mayle)."
On having a freshman make such a big impact:
"It's good that we have a lot of good young players in the system from last year's freshman class and this year's freshman class. There's a lot of players contributing right away, and of course, Chris stands out. He's such an explosive player and can make the big play for you to put points on the board. Ernie Hodge is really playing well. Jameson Hartke from last year played really well and made big plays for us. Chris' just jump out at you so much because when he makes a big play, it's usually six points on the board. It feels good to have Chris being an explosive player for us with a lot of years to play in our system left."
On having three players win MAC Player of the Week:
"I think it's great. I don't know how often that's been done here before. I know it's the first time in this coaching staff's short career here that it's been done. It's certainly well deserved. All three of those players did a great job. Tyler (Russ) has had numerous excellent football games this year. Kalvin came out and started to find creases and make big plays for us in the running game which is something we need to have happen if we're going to be successful. He stepped up and so did the offensive line. Mitch (Morsillo) at fullback played well helping get Kalvin get those yards. Certainly, Chris is doing a lot for us on special teams and had that great return. They're certainly well-deserved honors."
On what the team needs to work on this week:
"The passing game is always something that we're always going to continue working on. We need to find a way to get some bigger plays in the passing game. That will be something we'll continue to focus on. The same thing with taking care of the ball. We had three turnovers this past game. That's too many. Generally, with the number of different guys you have handling the ball, you can go into a game with a goal of one-or-less turnovers, and generally you'll be pretty good. When you get up to three turnovers a game, then in order for it to be a ball game, you're going to have to get some from your opponent. We really have to work hard at reducing our turnovers."
On the Illinois offense:
"They're really playing well lately. The Indiana game was decided on a last-second field goal. The Michigan State game the previous week, they won so you can see it starting to unfold for them. They're starting to get some confidence in what they're doing. They're getting guys stepping up and making plays. Their quarterback has made a ton of plays for them. They are something like 26th (22nd) in the nation in rushing, and a lot of that yardage is coming from the quarterback position. They've got a guy that can run and throw. He's a very young player for them. He'll drop back and if the throw is there, take it, but he'll scramble and make plays that way. They're an explosive offensive football team in that regard. They put quite a few points up on the board."
On the Illinois defense:
"Defensively, they're pretty basic. They're not a team that tries to blitz you every other play and come at you at a lot of different angles. They've got good athletes. They line them up and slant and move them a little bit, but generally, they're not a team that just blitzes you totally. It's more of a physical match up for your guys up front."
On Brad Bower returning to Illinois:
"That's always a little different for a player, of course. It doesn't happen all that often. Brad's a bright young player. He'll handle that and control that very well. We'd like to get him some opportunities and find a way to build him in. He has been practicing better as of late. Certainly, taking care of the ball is a prime thing that we need to do, and in some of the opportunities he had early on he didn't do a great job taking care of it, but I think that's improved a great deal. We'll see how it goes. I'd like to get him a chance to get some opportunities in the game."
On his assessment of the team at the halfway point of the season:
"I think we've played hard, and played well for a share of the season. It didn't seem like we had quite the drive and energy level in the Bowling Green game that we had in the other games. That can happen to you, and will happen once or twice a season. I've been real pleased with the way they've practice and approached games. I really like the idea that they'll battle for four quarters. This last ball game, they showed the ability to win the game right at the end, and found a way to do it. They believed in themselves that they were going to get it done. I think all that is important in the building process of having this program move forward. There are some signs that are positive. We just need to keep improving."
On the Ohio running game:
"If we can continue to run the ball in each game as we finish the second half of the season, we should be able to develop some good play-action passes and start to get some bigger plays in the passing game. That's the whole key for us. We don't want to have to drop back and throw the ball 40 times a game. We want a good mix of run versus pass, but we want to be able to control the game to some degree with the running game and try to wear people down. I think Western Michigan does that very well. They have big, strong, physical running backs. They're able to get two or three yards extra after contact. Their lineman are big, and they wear you down. That happened to us a little bit. In the second half, it was more of a struggle to slow them down. We just got tired. You can have that if you're a good running team, and that's what we want to keep working on."
On playing another road game against a BCS-conference team:
"You need funding to operate your program. You need to find yourself getting to a point where you don't need to have as many of those kinds of games. Generally, those games are played away from home to make more money. Certainly money is needed to finance all the athletic programs at the university. We understand that. We're all for taking on some of those games. You don't want an imbalance of that though. You don't want to feel like you have to line up three or four times where you're underdogs and you're pulling in money, but in the process you're not able to move the program forward. There needs to be a balance there."
On whether he thinks this year's schedule was not balanced:
"I don't know. I will say this. Missouri and Rutgers didn't start off in the top 25 so people may have thought that they were going to be good, but maybe not to the point where they're one of the top teams in the country and both of them undefeated at this point. When you play a team from the Big East, a team from the Big 12 and a team from the Big Ten, you're biting off quite a bit. Especially, in traveling to those it is a good year financially for us on that end of it. I think we proved to ourselves that we can line up and play against a Big 12 team. We can line up and play against a Big East team. We need to learn how to make some plays coming down the stretch and get some things done to be able to finish those kinds of games in the fourth quarter, and have it be a game in the fourth quarter. I think we are showing some signs of progress there."
On how big a win against Illinois would be for recruiting:
"Every win is important to recruiting. We had some recruits here that saw the Western Michigan game. They walked away with a good feeling about what this program is about and what we're getting done with it. Any time you take on a BCS-caliber conference program of that nature, and if you have success against it, that certainly brings notice to your program around the country. You battle for those kinds of wins."
On Illinois' game with Rutgers:
"That game was a little earlier in the season. I think Illinois was coming through a time where they weren't the same football team that they are now. Rutgers did a good job defensively. They showed a lot of movement. They're tough to block because they're so athletic with a lot of movement up front. Illinois has two tackles that are around 6-6 and around 320 apiece so they can be huge up front. Sometimes movement can combat the size up front somewhat. If those two teams played today, it would be a much, much closer ball game and who knows how it would play out. I just know that Illinois has become a much better football team within the last couple games."
On what he said to Matt Lasher after the blocked field goal against Western Michigan:
"Usually I don't talk much to kickers. You kind of let them go because if you talk to them too much about a bad kick here or a bad kick there it's kind of tough. Nobody's perfect. Matt (Lasher) is a bright guy. He works himself through things. That's what I'm so pleased about with him this year. He's not had to battle himself. He has confidence in himself, and when it's time he goes in with the idea that he's going to get it done. I thought he had a great game. If you look at his punting, he put two inside the 20. If you look at our opponents' punt return average, he's doing a great job of punting and our guys are doing a very good job of covering. On the field goal that was blocked, there was an inside push. There was some penetration and there was some movement. Could he have gotten the ball up a little higher? Probably. Would it have been a good kick if the push wasn't there and they hadn't gotten the penetration? It wouldn't have gotten blocked if that was the case. It was probably a combination of the two things there."
On playing a non-conference game in the middle of the conference schedule:
"I think most coaches prefer to play their non-conference schedule at the beginning versus having a game in the middle or having a game at the end. Once you start your season and you get a conference game under your belt, you'd like to just continue in your conference. But that's not the case. It does present maybe to some teams a challenge. To us, we know that we need to prepare really well to win game after game. We're trying to gather some momentum."
On Illinois' improvement:
"They played a ton of freshman last year. It's starting to come for them. They're not the same football team right now that they were three weeks ago. They legitiitmally beat Michigan State. They got beat on a last second field goal in this game (Indiana). They see this program moving forward. That's the key. When your players can see your program moving forward, now all of the sudden you're starting to play with a little different energy than maybe if you're getting beat game after game. I give a lot of credit to their coaching staff and their players to keep battling and to get their team now where they can line up and beat anybody."