ATHENS, Ohio -- Fifteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today as the Bobcats (6-6, 5-3 MAC) get ready to begin preparations for the 23rd Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Nevada (7-5, 4-4 MW), which will be played on Friday, Jan. 3, at 3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho.
The contest will be nationally televised on ESPN, with Anish Shroff, John Congemi and Kris Budden on the call. The game can also be heard on the radio on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College, with "Voice of the Bobcats" Russ Eisenstein and Ohio alum Rob Cornelius on the call.
The Bobcats are set to make their second appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Ohio earned its first-ever bowl victory in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a 24-23 win over Utah State.
On if having a special personal attachment to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl made him want to play in this bowl more than others:
"No, not really. I looked at it from the standpoint of what's good for our program, what's good for our players and what's really good for our coaches. Obviously, we've been to this bowl before and had a great experience there. We were treated really well. People were great. Kevin McDonald who basically runs the bowl, has always been super. I've run into him on several occasions where bowl people are at different events. He's a great guy. We're excited about going there. It's going to be a game that'll certainly be a good challenge from the Mountain West Conference with Nevada. It's all positive. We're all looking forward to it. In terms of location, our son lives there and his family, so we do have that connection there. It'll be easy for them to go to the game. Our daughter and her family from Lincoln [Neb.] are going to get out to the game, so everybody will have the chance to get together at some point."
On players on the 2011 team having a change in heart about playing a bowl game in Boise after being there:
"That one incident was obviously one that was too bad that it occurred. I think that young man shortly after getting there and having that bowl experience there had a change of heart. I think sometimes guys just associate bowls with a warm climate type of atmospheres and temperatures, so it might have been a shock to him at that point. With the experience our players and families have had there, I think these guys are excited to go. They know that the former players really liked the bowl. To top it all off, we had a really good bowl win, so there was nothing but positiveness about it."
On what he enjoyed about the team's last trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:
"They had a fair number of activities for the guys but didn't keep them too busy. They had things for them to do, things that they enjoyed doing. Consequently, their time there, I think, seemed to go by quickly for our guys. It seemed to be a short stay. I think they would've liked to stay longer due to the fact that they were having a good time. I've always come from the approach that you can win a bowl game and still have a good time. That's what we've done at Frisco, that's what we've done at the Bahamas and that's what we'll hope to do here."
On where the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ranks with his bowl experience at Ohio:
"I don't rank them. I don't know that I've been to a bad one. When you look at my career overall, I've been to the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the list goes on. This bowl will be as meaningful to me as any bowl I've been in. That's just the way I look at it, the way I see it and the way I approach it. There's no true ranking in my mind. It's where we can have a good matchup, it's where our players and families will have a good time, and I have not been to a bowl yet where that hasn't taken place."
On what it means to get one more game with this year's team:
"It's great. Everybody associated with our program is excited about the fact that we get the chance to play another game. We're on a roll. We were playing really well at the end of the season. We played well in the middle of the season for some of it, but not well enough, obviously, to get the number of wins and get into the MAC Championship Game that we wanted. That part of it became a little tough on us. We got to the point where our players showed up for practice and practiced hard. We loved the way they were committed to finish the season out and to have them finish the season out in the manner the way they did. I think we're all excited to have another game."
On whether the team will utilize all 15 practices for bowl preparation:
"We have fourteen practices scheduled right now. We'll see as we go along. It could be fifteen or it could be thirteen. I'm not one to give a specific number on what we're going to be doing practice-wise down the road. We basically take a practice like we take a game. We look at one practice at a time and see where we're at in terms of the energy and health of our players. All of those things come into play as you go through your practices leading up to any game, and, to me, a bowl game isn't any different. We'll see how it goes. Maybe fifteen. Maybe fourteen is too much, or maybe it's just right. We'll see how it all plays out, what the energy level is, how healthy we are and how well we're executing. All of those things, to me, make a difference in how many practices we get. We're practicing to win a bowl game. We're not practicing for next season. Good practices will lead into those helping you for next season, but fifteen just practices and not good practices doesn't get you anywhere, and, in fact, can cause you to move backwards a little bit. That's kind of how I view it."
On the mood of practices for bowl games:
"I think they're anxious to get back. I've always seen that in preparation for bowl games. They're here in college to get a great education and degree, but they're also here to play football, and that's what they love to do. That's what they're looking forward to doing, so they're ready to go. [Director of Strength & Conditioning] Dak [Notestine] has had them leading up to this point, making sure they're getting lifting in and making sure that they're keeping their conditioning up. We're building that around finals, which is this week for our players, which is huge, obviously, on every campus. All of that needs to be looked at and addressed as you go through preparation for the bowl."
On the different process this year with being on campus for singing day:
"When you're going to a bowl game, you have enough advance knowledge of where you're going. You're able to set up signing day very easily, whether it's off your campus or the Bahamas, for instance, or if it's here on our campus. It ran very smoothly when we were down in the Bahamas, and we're looking forward for this one to go smoothly. With an early signing date, it's important to make sure you've got all your ducks in order and got things ready to go for it."
On any extra benefit with being in town for signing day:
"No, you need to have your coaches around during signing day because if things aren't going the way they're supposed to go, then phone calls can get made. You can't go visiting. That's going to end here right away. There's no advantage to that in terms of having your coaches on the road or not on the road. They have to be here on campus or at a bowl site."
On what the last few weeks have been like for the coaching staff in terms of signing day:
"It's been a matter of keeping in touch with guys that are committed but also looking at other areas that we would still be open to taking a recruit and getting out to two or three people at those positions to try to put our best foot forward. There's been some traveling involved here lately."
On the quarterback situation for the bowl game:
"[Redshirt freshman quarterback] Joe Mischler came in, and he's going to put himself into the portal, so he will not be available for this game or for this program any longer. We're in a situation where Drew [Keszei] would be the backup at this point in time. He came in and performed well with the few snaps that he had in the last ballgame, so that's always encouraging. He's a smart young man. He's got excellent quickness. He has the ability to run the ball from the quarterback position, so it's not like we'd have to change offenses to try to show him at his best, so that's the situation we're in."
On redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Mischler's decision process to enter the transfer portal:
"You'll have to ask Joe on that one."
On if any players will not be on the roster for transfer purposes or to get healthy to try to play at the professional level:
"I've had no players come in and talk to me from those angles, so to my knowledge, we're full speed ahead."
On his reaction to senior quarterback Nathan Rourke earning All-MAC First Team honors:
"Well deserved, but in my mind, he should've gotten it earlier in his career here. He's played at that level, so it's what it is. I'm glad that it happened for him now. He's been tremendous for this program, and he's been great for this conference. He's gotten this conference a lot of recognition, so we're proud of what he's accomplished. We're glad he was a part of our program, and you couldn't ask for a guy who is a better leader, who had great work ethic, who sets the pace for the rest of his teammates and a guy that's got talent. Even though he's got talent, he's worked every year to get better, and that's shown in his playing."
On how senior quarterback Nathan Rourke impacted the offense to lead the MAC in scoring once again this season:
"He was certainly a big part of that. Just his individual talent alone, but then his leadership ability to bring the young players along in our program. That doesn't always happen, that guys get brought along at that pace and are able to contribute that much. [Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Tim] Albin, who's graded some figures, said we have 97% of our offense back if you take Nathan out of the equation in terms of not just counting him that got seven points on the board because of the pass; you have to count the receiver, too, in those kind of things. I think we've got a system in place, offensively, that has shown to be what we're after. We'll make some critiques on it now that [freshman quarterback] Kurtis [Rourke] will be the front runner for the position that will fit his skills. From that, we'll continue to move forward offensively. We have a lot of talent coming back next season in terms of being able to run the ball and throw the ball. Obviously, it all starts up front, so that'll continue to be a major component of it. Those linemen this year had to go through three different line coaches, which I can't emphasize that enough. You're not going to find that around the country very often where a team has to do that and can maintain the offensive numbers that this team has maintained. Pats on the back to Coach Albin, the offensive staff and those players."
On what senior quarterback Nathan Rourke's football future holds after his final game for Ohio:
"It's difficult for me to judge it. I'm biased. He's got a tremendous amount of talent. He's got toughness. He shows the ability to escape out of pocket, which the announcers that are doing pro football love. They're all over that, a quarterback that could run. Certainly, he's got that, and his throwing ability, I think, is really good, his passing and completion percentage. We've had good receivers, so I think that's not been a detriment to him in that regard. It's going to be a matter of how the pros look at him, how they look at his arm strength and accuracy level and all those kind of things. I think they're intrigued by him, and they want to see him in person."
On the growth at the running back position this season:
"I thought the running backs came along about as all we had anticipated. They were all going to be good, and that's really what happened. At the end of the year, I think you saw different styles of running backs there, but they all had the ability to make an offense work. I'm really pleased at the talent level that we have at the running back spot.
On what stands out about Nevada on tape:
"They're a talented football team. As you watch them, you can see that. They've had some ups and downs this year if you look at the San Diego State game or the Purdue game. Their season hasn't been too far from ours. They've had some great wins and they've had a few disappointing losses that were very close ballgames. I see them as being an excellent football team on both sides of the ball. Defensively, their upfront people will be probably as good as we've faced in our conference. I don't think there's much question about that. Their linebackers, one of them is a spectacular player and the rest can play. There's no true weaknesses on the defensive side of it. You see a strong defensive football team that can run, and they're physical. Offensively, they can run the ball, but when they want to throw, they throw. They have the capability of being an excellent throwing football team. I think their quarterback is probably around a 61 percent thrower, I think that's what he is in terms of stats. That kind of throwing can win you a lot of football games. It'll be a test for our defense, our pass rush and our secondary as to how that all transpires. They have a big back, and they can run the ball, so it's not like they're just going to sit back and throw. They will mix it up. It'll be a combination of both. They're capable of beating you in both those areas. That's really a lot to prepare for, but that's what we're going to try to do."
On how to prepare with Nevada's defensive staff changes:
"Obviously, we were game planning right from the start when we found out who we were playing around the 3-3-5 defense, which is not too different from what San Diego State ran when we played them in the bowl game. It's different, and you've got to prepare for that a little differently than what you would for some other base defensive fronts. They haven't blitzed as much as San Diego State has done in this season. They've been more straight up, and that's probably because they have pretty dominant defensive linemen. What we'll get is anybody's guess. They kept the defensive line coach, which somewhat makes sense since they're a strong defensive line. It probably gives them their best chance, if they're not going to use the defensive line coach as their coordinator. If they bring somebody in, it's going to be like a spring ball for them. They're going to have fifteen practices to put their defense in, and if it's different than what they're doing, the head coach will have some say about that. If it's different from what they've been doing then they're going to have some time to adjust, get familiar with the players and make sure they're fitting the right rules that they need to fit for the style of defense that they plan on playing. It's going to be tougher on us. We're going to have to wait and see who gets hired, where they came from, their background, their history in terms of defensive football and start fresh again from that. We'll probably mix in a little bit of what they have done just in case."