Words and pictures from Citadel’s 59-58 loss at ODU

Jake Stenson's 23-yard TD catch gave Citadel a chance

Jake Stenson’s 23-yard TD catch gave Citadel a chance (Marjorie Maxon photo)


The Citadel Coach and Players post game press conference-

Kevin Higgins: “We had so many opportunities as we look back and I am sure as we travel back tonight we will look at all the opportunities that we did have to win the football game and unfortunately we just weren’t able to get it done.”

Q: Coach can you talk about the decision to go for two?

Higgins: “That was an easy one. On the road our defense was struggling stopping them, we were moving the ball effectively against them. I didn’t know if we’d get the ball back again. We missed it by 6 inches.”


Ben Dupree ran for school record 5 TDs

Ben Dupree ran for school record 5 TDs

Q: When the play started, it looked like you were going to get there.

Ben Dupree: “Yeah, I thought I was too, but the play got strung out, it was actually a double option. I could have pitched it but I thought I had leverage on the guy. I think I beat him to the corner but another guy stepped up. I probably could have went higher but I don’t know, I have to watch it on film.”

Q: Were you convinced that you didn’t get there? It looked so close.

Dupree: “Yeah, I knew I didn’t get in.”

Reggie Owens (23) stops Ben 2-point try (Scott Eisberg photo)

Reggie Owens (23) stops Ben 2-point try (Scott Eisberg photo)


Q: Did you think that game was over with the two onside kicks?

Higgins: “No, I really didn’t because I was really confident in our offense and we knew coming into the game that if we were going to win this game it was going to be a wild affair. We know that their offense is potent and really not many people have stopped them. We knew that they were going to be difficult in space. We turn it over twice on offense, we didn’t make stops on defense and then we gave them those two balls there. We did have a blocked kick and we were able to recover an on sidekick ourselves. We got two back but we didn’t get any turnovers on defense.”

Q: Did Old Dominion playing a triple option team have any effect to this week’s game plan?

Higgins: “No, we knew that they hadn’t played against the triple option and sometimes it’s a challenge when you only have three days to prepare for this. Our team is used to seeing this week in and week out. Our coaches prepare in the spring, prepare in summer camp, it’s different when you go outside the league and they’re not used to the triple options and sometimes that is an advantage and it certainly was today.”

Q: How heartbreaking is a one point loss on the road?

Higgins: “I feel bad for our players. These guys have worked their hearts out trying to get a win. We’ve come close at a bunch of locations but just didn’t get it done.”

Q: How did it feel to come up 6 inches short on such a back and forth wild game?

Darien Robinson: “We knew it was going to be an offensive game, offensive battle. We had a hundred points at offense but as far as us turning the ball over didn’t help as well. It was a prolific offense we were going against. We knew our defense was going to need some help. I feel like we could have helped out a little bit more and capitalized on a couple of different occasions.”

Dupree: “Every time you lose you have to take something away from it. One thing we can take away from this game today is, it gives us a little bit of confidence on the offense because we threw the ball well against a D1A team, granted they are not really good against our option but they are as big as anybody in our league and we should be able to move the ball against anybody else. One thing it does give is confidence on offense and a defense.”

Q: How good is their offense?

Dupree: “It looked good, but we knew that coming in. George Southern’s in our conference, they played them a few times. We knew what to expect. They have a good offense.”

Q: Did your defense executive the game plan?

Higgins: “They did, to use what they did to Howard, what they did to East Carolina, what they did to New Hampshire last year and Richmond. Of all the games I watched last year that was the same type of offense that they showed. We just needed to get one turnover. If we could have gotten just one or gotten another stop. We did get a stop. We got them a punt. We blocked the punt. I think we may have got another stop in there but we didn’t get enough stops and we needed to get a turnover to get the ball back for our offense. They have a guy that won the Walter Payton award and he’s back. They have great speed in the wide receiver position. They had four veteran offensive linemen back, so we knew what we were in for in terms of their offense. Again, that’s why we went for two.”

Q: The kick team did go out there and then you called a time out.

Higgins: “Yeah, we thought about it a little more and said you know what lets go ahead. We felt good about it. We think we could get this, use the time out and gave them a chance.”

Q: The play call was just double option?

Higgins: “Yup, double option to the left.”

ODU players Reggie Owens and Taylor Heinicke

Reggie can you talk about that two point conversion at the end.

Our main focus was just staying on our man, staying in coverage of the defensive back. It just came down to me shedding the block or making the tackle.”

What did you see on that play? Did you read run?

Reggie- “No I was reading pass like normal and when I saw him come outside I had to keep the outside contained, so I had to make the play.”

Were you sure that he didn’t get in?

Reggie- “I wasn’t sure, I just knew I hit him.”

Talk about the offense they run.

Reggie- “The triple option offense is mainly run but as a defensive back you can’t tie into that too much. We just have to stay on our keys and make plays.”

Taylor, can you talk about that last touchdown pass?

Well, I started with my first read which is to antonio vaughn across the middle, and I saw that they were running man to man and Vaughn was covered. So I came back and Larry was at the top of his route about to do a dig, and with our trust level and chemistry I knew he was going to be where he was. so I took a shot and he made the play. It was a huge play by Larry.”

Can you talk about the blocking you got today?

Taylor- “Well those are military guys. Those are soldiers out there, and they are coming all game. We knew they were going to be very disciplined. They wanted to win. We’re a conference USA team right now and it would have been huge for them to beat a conference USA team. So they were coming all game and they were coming hard. I give them props but I think our offensive line did exceptionally well.”

ODU coach Bobby Wilder

Coach Bobby Wilder:

I’m very excited to get the win 59-58, it was definitely a game that we had to earn the right to the victory. I told the players afterward that any time you can get the win it’s exciting, the ultimate goal of the game is to score more points than the other team and that’s what we did tonight. I’m very excited to get the win and get to 2-2.

Can you elaborate on your decision to take two on-side kicks in a row?

I felt like at that point in the game we had come out and had the opening possession and took the lead to score 35-31. Then the Citadel came back and had seven plays for 88 yards and then scored a touch down to take the lead back. I felt like they were being consistent in what they were doing. We tried to make some changes after halftime in both scheme and personnel and I didn’t see the success that I wanted to see on that first drive. I said to our coordinators that the next time we scored that we were going to pull that surprise play and the object of doing that was to try and steal possessions, as if your defense had a stop and you created a turnover, you also get the ball in the middle of the field and that’s something that Jarod Brown is exceptional at. He works on it every day in practice, as well as a bunch of other situations. We have a lot of styles of onside kicks and ways to try and retrieve the ball; he takes great pride in it and is exceptional at it. We did the play twice in a row and that took us from 38-35 to 48-38 and that really turned the game.

What do you think about Ben Dupree going into his zone?

At that point we had used all of our timeouts to use up time on the clock to make sure that we had at least one more possession. At that point I’m thinking we stop him and we win right there because we take a knee. If we don’t stop him then we’ve got a minute and thirty-nine seconds against one of the best quarterbacks in the country and an offense that hadn’t been stopped. You’re always thinking a situation ahead and that’s why I had used those timeouts to conserve as much time as possible. I felt confident that we could stop them on the two-point conversion and that if we didn’t stop them we could score and win the game.

How did you feel about the defense winning the play at the end?

It’s great, we’re trying to build confidence on the defense’s end. The reason we’re struggling to build confidence on the defensive end is because the first two teams we played were FBS teams and they are great teams. The team we played last week helped our confidence then getting to play the triple offence, which is hard enough but with 14 new guys that makes it even more challenging. I hope they win some confidence from that play tonight. We’re a work in progress right now, trying to grow up on defense and we’re doing it with a lot of new faces. I’m confident that we’ll get better we just have to keep working at it.

You’ve been in these situations before, were you stressing on the sidelines?

Yeah we have been in situations like this in the past. The fact that we outscored them in the second and that’s usually a full game, what happened in the second-half. I don’t think it’s going to be the normal around here in the future. I know we’ll get a lot better particularly on defense. We made some major mistakes tonight, especially on special teams, we got punt blocked, we had some opportunities to recover fumbles and we didn’t. That last one where they got it right before they scored a touchdown the fumble actually advanced itself and they recovered it for a first down. Jarod lost his 94 streak. There were some unusual things and we’ve got a lot of work to do. I said this at the start of the year, we’re going to evaluate from the first play at ECU to the last play at North Carolina because we’re playing so many new faces right now, 57 of our 66 starters are underclassmen and half are freshman, just trying to figure it out right now. We just have to stick with it right now and get better

Did the game last year again Georgia southern play any into the game this week for the offence?

No, it really had no bearing at all because we’re so new.

Did it feel extra redeeming to have a win against a triple option team?

I look at it as a win is a win. I will say that Kevin Higgins and the Citadel are a good team. They were 7-4 last year, they beat Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. I know everyone expects us to win all these games by 30 points but we’re not that good yet, we’ll get there and we’ll be a good team but we have to grow up.

What did you learn about your team tonight?

I’ve found that we’re very competitive, we work hard and we play hard. We just have to grow up. We’re trying to learn through situations. As coaches we’re trying to learn the adjustments we need to make and how much they can comprehend. When you’re teaching somebody concepts you have to evaluate those that you’re teaching. These kids work at it really hard during the week and they’re trying to be successful and do well. The end of the day nothing helps you get better more than just winning football games.

200 rushing yards again, are you happy with how they rushed the ball?

Yeah I am. When you look at what Taylor does, last year he was right around 50 yards. So to get 100 out of Colby, 50 out of Taylor and 50 out of Cam was good, it was the production we need. We’re our best when we’re going fast and when we’re wearing people out.

Did you talk to Jared Brown after the 52 yards, did you say anything to him after that?

Yeah it was pretty much all me, I told him don’t go make the next one. Those three guys that are working together, Rick Lavato, Joe Pulisic and Jarod and something just happened between them. I grabbed the three of them and told them to work it out and get it the next time, that was the magic potion that did it.

You we’re a very lucky man tonight, tell me more about those two on-side kicks.

I felt like at that point we needed to do that. We needed to take some possessions from Citadel. The opening drive in the first half they went right down the field and scored. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jared and he’s worked hard at it. Even though we haven’t used it yet this year we practice it every week. He knows when it comes that he’s got to be good at it. Stealing those two possessions was critical we went from down four to up 10.

Your thoughts on the last 2-point conversion.

Great play by Reggie Owens, that was one of the bigger plays that we’ve had on defense. I think back to 2011 when we blocked that field goal at JMU. This was a defensive play by a guy who isn’t involved a lot in play because he plays offense. With every play as a defensive play they do a lot of huddle time. For Reggie to step up and make that play it was really inspiring. It was great to see our defense make the final play to win a game that was dominated by both offences.

Defense struggled tonight to stop the triple option; can you talk a little about that?

It’s a couple things. First that their offence is so forward and it’s the first and only time that we’ll see it this year. Second was the speed. Third was when we tried to make some adjustments to what they were doing either communication wasn’t clear or it wasn’t received the right way. Those are things I’m confident we’ll work through. Last week we made great strides on defense. I have no doubt this week that we’ll get back to a conventional offense and that we’ll make great strides on defense. We played 28 guys tonight, 14 first year guys on defense. I told coach and the staff that we’re not going to change that; we’ll stick to the plan. When they make mistakes on the field they’ll learn from them and grow up.

What does it mean to you to have won a close game?

It’s very important; this is our first close game we’ve won with this team. The game at ECU was close going into the fourth quarter and we ended up losing by two touchdowns, we were blown out by Maryland and then we blew out Howard. This was a close game and it was the whole way. We’re a young team and half these kids are 2-2 and that’s all they know, they don’t know the championships or the playoffs, all they know is 2-2. It’ll be critical when I get back with them tomorrow to emphasize to them that winning this close game means a lot. They’ll grow from it and learn from it. I said to them before the game that it’s about adversity. I said that word about 100 times this week with them. I told them that we would be faced with adversity. We’re playing the triple offense team, a disciplined team. We’re going to get punched in the face but we’re going to have to get back up and I felt like we did that enough to win the football game.



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