With his coaching staff scattered to the winds recruiting and his players concentrating on other areas,
His takeaway: The Monarchs, though unbeaten and all over the national stats offensively, have much work ahead to qualify for the playoffs.
"There's a lot we need to do to improve," Wilder said Monday. "I still to this point don't think we're as good of a football team as we can be. I love the fact that we're 5-0, but there's too many holes that need to be fixed at this point."
The push starts 3:30 p.m. Saturday at S.B. Ballard Stadium versus
Among the areas that ODU must address is turnovers. Despite quarterback Taylor Heinicke's stratospheric numbers (456.2 yards per game passing, 503.6 yards per game total offense), he's thrown six interceptions. Five have led directly to points for the opposing team, including two pick-sixes and two more returned inside the 5-yard line.
Wilder took it as a good sign that at Sunday's team meeting, Heinicke stood up in front of the group and volunteered his shortcomings and said that he needed to play better.
The Monarchs also must demonstrate that they can run the ball against a quality defense that plays them honestly. They rushed for big numbers against
A couple of the special teams units haven't been as efficient or as productive as necessary, Wilder said.
Most notably, ODU's defenders must do their jobs. The Monarchs broke down for three quarters against New Hampshire before tightening in the fourth. They were solid for three quarters at Richmond before regressing in the fourth, tightening the final score.
"Defensively, the biggest breakdowns we're having right now are missed assignments," Wilder said. "It's perplexing to me because we're not running a very complicated scheme right now. It's a matter of certain players just trying to do too much in situations instead of just managing their job. That's one thing I made very clear to our players."
First-year defensive coordinator
In advance of the second half of the season, Wilder said that he also handicapped for his players the team's postseason chances, based on final records.
If the Monarchs finish undefeated, they are likely a No. 1 or 2 overall seed, with home games all the way to the title game. At 10-1, they are a high seed, earn a bye and probably a couple of home games.
At 9-2, the Monarchs make the playoffs. Perhaps they earn a bye and likely one home game. At 8-3, he said, it's a toss-up whether they make the playoffs and they'd be looking at road games throughout.
Coaches often are loath to talk about postseason, Wilder included, but he said he does so on occasion because this is such an unusual season. The Monarchs are not eligible for the CAA title and must earn an at-large bid. For the next two years, the program is in a transition period to the Football Bowl Subdivision and ineligible for championships and bowls.
"It's unusual because normally I'm not talking to them about postseason during the season," Wilder said. "I didn't do that last year. It was just kind of a week-to-week thing. But one thing I'm trying to do with this team, and I feel like they're very mature in terms of realizing, is that this is the last opportunity for a lot of our kids, in three classes, to win something."
"Sure, it's each week, but we've got to have the mindset where we've got to try to compete and win every single game to put ourselves in a good position."
Wilder conceded that big-picture and long-term discussions could contribute to players pressing and attempting to do too much. He said the seniors and upperclassmen made more mistakes than the youngsters in the past two games.
He said the staff must continue to emphasize the players doing their jobs, and the players must keep it simple, regardless of the pressure or potential ramifications.