Old Dominion head coach
The Pirates and new offensive coordinator Earnest Wilson installed the Air Raid scheme devised by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. Wilson's offense set records and led the nation in yardage at Jackson State, but had an uneven debut in last week's loss at Tennessee Tech.
"When you play somebody and they've got a new offensive coordinator, or even like us with a new defensive coordinator, you better catch them early," Wilder said Monday, in advance of Saturday's 6 p.m. game at Armstrong Stadium. "Because the kids are still trying to learn the nuances of the scheme. The coordinators are trying to learn how to call the game through the players."
HU managed just 192 yards in a 41-31 loss. The Pirates were in a 21-0 hole after one quarter and trailed 31-7 at halftime before special teams and defense fueled a comeback.
Hampton pulled starting quarterback Najee Tyler and inserted backup Travis Champion, who ran the offense more effectively in the final two-plus quarters.
"The pass game, I could tell the timing just isn't there," Wilder said. "I'm hoping the timing isn't there Saturday night. I prefer it not to be. But I expect they'll be much better in this second game. That's generally what happens, particularly when you've got a new system. That first game, you get all the mistakes out of your system and the second game your kids play a little bit faster. That's what I expect will happen Saturday night. I expect they'll play better."
There are similarities between Hampton's new offense and that of the Monarchs. Both spread the field, often employing five receivers. Both try to create personnel mismatches and exploit advantageous coverage situations.
Wilder counted five different offensive personnel packages that the Pirates used against Tennessee Tech. Conversely, ODU used only two in Saturday's opener against Duquesne.
"That's why it puts so much pressure on you," Wilder said, "because you're chasing five guys down the field. And if the quarterback gets out, then you've got some issues."
No question that ODU is further along offensively than Hampton at this point. The Monarchs piled up 723 yards against Duquesne in Saturday's 57-23 win. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke passed for 492 yards and four touchdowns in three-plus quarters as the Monarchs ran an astonishing 106 plays, simply wearing out the Dukes.
Wilder even was unconcerned with Heinicke's three interceptions, two more than he threw all of last season. He said that the "picks" were essentially flukes, and that Heinicke made the correct decision, not only on those plays, but on every pass play called.
"He played as good a football game as I've seen a quarterback play," Wilder said. "We called over 70 pass plays and he was on every single read."
ODU won two very different games against the Pirates. Two years ago, the Monarchs blocked two punts and tackled the punter as he tried to get the ball off. That resulted in 21 points that were the difference in a 28-14 game that was dominated by defense and statistically level otherwise.
Last year, ODU won a 45-42 shootout in which the two teams combined for nearly 800 yards, and defense was mostly a rumor.
"The one thing that I've noticed both years that we've played them is, it's going to be a 60-minute game because those kids play hard," Wilder said. "Donovan (Rose) has them competing."
Wilder said that he hoped the fact that the Monarchs' defense practices daily against a similar offense to the one they'll face Saturday will help.
Though Duquesne doesn't approach the caliber of some offenses they'll see this season, Wilder said he thought the defense played its best game in the program's short history. Under new coordinator
Wilder knows that the level of competition increases dramatically this week, even if the Pirates and their new offense aren't yet consistent.