ATHENS, Ohio -- Fifteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today as the Bobcats (4-5, 3-2 MAC) prepare to welcome Mid-American Conference West Division foe Western Michigan to Peden Stadium next Tuesday (Nov. 12) for a nationally televised Senior Night matchup on ESPN2. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.
Mark Neely and Rocky Boiman will have the call of the action on ESPN2. 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 the message to the team moving forward with the season:
"We set out to win every game, and as you go through the season, your goals are met or they're not met at a certain point in time. We're still in the race, but you need a ton of help and then we have to finish it off. Putting that aside, we set out to win every football game. That's the mission that we are on when we take on a season. We've got three left, and that's what we want to get done, and that's what we'll aim all of our energy towards."
On being in this situation before in terms of finishing out the season:
"I think that's what we are. We'll set out to play our very best football. The games that we look at in the past, the other night's game was a game that we certainly had our chances. There were a lot of things that we did well, and we put ourselves in position to win that football game on several different occasions, but right at the end we did not get that done. There were four big plays. One was the 53-yard field goal that was huge at the end. There was the 45-yard run, the post pattern and a 30-yard punt return. Other than that, we feel pretty good about what we got accomplished in the game. You don't take those four plays away. They're part of the game. We have to find a way to make sure that those kind of things don't happen to us. The same things have been kind of holding up as far as negatives for us. Not winning the turnover battle was huge. Anytime you have a big ballgame and you lose the turnover battle by two, you're fighting an uphill battle. That is something that we didn't set out to do and had to overcome it, but we didn't quite get that done."
On what is needed to make the big plays in close games:
"I don't know that it comes back to any one particular thing. There were a few games that we made those plays to win close ones. It's been a year of close football games, period, regardless whether you're talking about wins or losses. Coming through at the end is something that you need to do if you're going to have a great record, if you're going to have a great team that is accomplishing what it wants to accomplish. We haven't put ourselves in position at the end of the game. We've been in position to get it done, but we haven't gotten it done enough times. That is troublesome. Some of it comes down to experience at times, although when you get eight or nine games in the season, you stop talking about experience – you're what you are. We'll point out what we've not been doing again well in this last ball game and go out to correct that and improve on it to give ourselves the best chance of winning our final three games."
On Western Michigan's running game:
"They have a pretty good all-around football team in terms of rushing the football and throwing the football. They relied a little bit more on the rushing game because they've got a really good offensive line and a really talented running back. When you have that combination, you have the tendency to run the ball a little more, and that's what they do, that's what they are. It's not that they can't throw. They've got good receivers, and they have an experienced quarterback. Their capabilities on offense are good. They're averaging about 30 to 35 points a game so obviously that tells you they're capable of putting points on the board and finding ways of doing it. The way they generally do it is really wearing people down and running really well at them for four quarters."
On Western Michigan running back LeVante Bellamy:
"He's got the skill that a great running back needs to have. He's got tremendous quickness, explosiveness, able to make people miss, and then he's got the speed after making people miss to not get run down. When you have that combination of things, generally you're going to put points on the board. He's had a great year, and that's clarified by what he has done statistically."
On having three home losses this season:
"It's all a combination of things. Sometimes you've got to play your best and make sure all three units are doing that. If you do that and you give yourself you best chance of winning, you're going to win your fair share of games, whether it's on the road or at home. It's just not a deal that anybody wins automatically on the road. You still have to line up. You've still got to play your best football. The crowd was an advantage for us. It was a great crowd. There was tremendous support from the students, people in the community and all-around of people who came to the game, including former players, so that setting was there. If you look at the statistics, we've done an awful lot of things the right way. I don't know if I've ever been associated with a game where we have 73 plays and they have 47 plays. They had 14 first downs, and a lot of that develops from good plays, but you still have to play every play. You can't let explosive plays and turnovers enter into the game against you, and that's what happened. They had a few explosive plays, got some turnovers, and they took advantage of them. It seemed like we were always fighting from behind, and that gets old. To the credit of our guys, I thought they did exactly do that, and then we found ourselves in such a long yardage situation at the end there that it came to be very difficult to overcome that."
On the team's morale:
"This has been a team that's come out every day to practice and worked hard. This past week was a special week. They knew the importance of this game, and the fact that we didn't get it done is a setback, but what lies ahead is important to us. We'll work very hard at coming back."
On how to prepare for the quick turnaround:
"When you have a short week, it's never easy. You do some things to help yourself, out but it's not what you look for, and it's not what you want. You never want to have a team have extra days of an advantage on you, but in saying that, you just have to rise to the occasion. We've been through it before, and it's difficult. Some things are built in, and playing midweek games are difficult, but you just need to adjust to them, and your players need to understand how to get it done and then you go to work."
On the intensity of the preparation for Western Michigan:
"I don't know if we can be any more intense than we have been. Our staff has worked long hours and worked hard. Our players have worked long hours and worked hard. I will say that they've been fresh and energized, ready to go for every game. They had a ton of energy this past game, and I think that really showed on the opening drive, but energy alone doesn't get it done. There's a combination of things that need to happen to win football games, so we'll do our best to make sure we have the majority of what we need to go into this game and get a win."
On Western Michigan's defense:
"They're experienced and are good across the board defensively. Their sacks are coming off of just beating people one-on-one to some degree, but they do a lot of blitzing. They do a lot of movement, and if you're not ready for that, you're going to get caught. Even if you are ready it, they're going to apply pressure - that's the name of the game for them. If you look at their sacks and their tackles for loss, it comes from having a combination of good players and good schemes. I think that's what they've got."
On not being able to make the timely plays:
"It's been one of the more different seasons that I've been associated with. Every game being a close game, the things that have transpired have been a little unusual. It's frustrating. It's been frustrating for our players as well as our coaches, but you need to handle that in this business. Very few teams go undefeated throughout the course of this season, so you've got to handle defeat at some point of time in most cases. Even if you don't get it this year, you're going to get it maybe next year. You have to learn how to bounce back and how to handle it, and that's a good thing about college football and sports in general. You can't just take a defeat and let it cave you in. You've got to bounce back. In saying that, this has been a different season for us in terms of just having things go in a manner that have not been customary for us, so that's a little different."
On what the lack of turnovers feels like:
"It's one of the most frustrating things for me this season and for the coaches and team. We identify that every week and in terms of the importance of it, our players know how important it is. Turnovers are maybe the one statistic that gives you your best chance if you need a winning edge in something, you take it in turnovers. Not to have that, except for maybe one game this year where we've had that advantage, does say something about our team in order to be in the games at the end and have the chances that they've had and even to win a few games when we haven't won the turnover battle. That's in the past right now, and the only thing we can do is look ahead and take care of the ball. We need some pressure. We need people smacking the ball with their shoulder pad, helmet, or hand. Contact on the ball is what brings it out. We need to win some of those 50-50 downfield throws with an interception. We know what goes into causing turnovers. It's just we haven't had our fair share of them yet. Maybe they're all going to come here in this stretch."
On talking with redshirt freshman running back O'Shaan Allison about bouncing back from his fumble against Miami:
"I know Coach [Tim] Albin talks to his running backs consistently and he grades them. They've got their grades, and they go over what was good and what was not so good. It's frustrating to him [Allison] as much as anybody. He was down, but we've just got to take care of it. Our running backs know that's one of the important things that they have to do. That one is over, it's gone. I'm not going to beat him up. I'm not going to run him out of town. We're going to move forward, and no one will work harder on getting that corrected than he will."
On what this senior class means to him:
"Every time the senior game comes up, you get reminded of your seniors and start to look at what they've contributed. It's so meaningful to have your seniors be recognized because they've gone through a lot in the time that they've been here or in any program. You add up the hours they put into this sport and the demands of this sport and how they worked to represent this university at the highest level they can. I love what these guys have done and what they've been about. They are some really, truly special - not just players - but human beings with how they go about things as students, as scholar-athletes and as guys that are going to be really successful out there. You feel good about being able to release those kind of guys out into the real world but yet, you know you're going to miss them."
On the status redshirt freshman linebacker Bryce Houston and redshirt junior tight end Adam Luehrman:
"I think Adam [Luehrman] has a chance to come back, and Bryce [Houston] we'll know more here very shortly."
On following Athens native and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow's season:
"I think all of our coaches have followed his career both at Ohio State and at LSU. He's had a tremendous career. It was not a surprise to us, and certainly not to me, in terms of the type of player that he's become and what he's gotten accomplished. He is a tremendously skilled athlete. He's got the size, the strength. He's very smart, has a strong arm, and is a tremendous worker. When you put that combination together, you've got yourself one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and that's already been shown. I know these games are important for him and his team as they're going down the stretch, but I'm going to assume he'll play at the top of his game, just like he has all season."
On watching Burrow grow into the quarterback that he has become:
"As he matured and continued to grow up and you continue to see him perform, it did not become a surprise. He had a lot of those gifts early on, and he just kept developing them. He is very much a team-oriented guy, so he would've fit any system anywhere. Would we have loved to have him play here? Certainly, but we do also have a great quarterback who has been so important to this program and moving it forward."