On Saturday the Flames held an ODU team averaging 67 points against FCS foes to only two offensive scores. This remarkable defensive effort was due largely in part to the defensive backs, a group that showed a lot of nickel and dime looks to a usually unstoppable passing attack. We caught up with senior cornerback Walt Aikens yesterday to discuss why the defense was so effective, along with how the Flames will tackle the challenges ahead.
Walt is a two time Big South 2nd team honoree and is currently second on the team in tackles. He displays great athletic ability, and can shut down opposing receivers. Against ODU he lead the team with 8 solo tackles, as well as having one tackle for loss. This is what he said of the defensive performance against the Monarchs:
“We had been preparing for them all week, we knew they were going to get yards, we knew what they were going to do. Our thing was to just stick to our game plan and have faith in the people we have out there, and it worked for the most part.”
It was evident that the Flames were very well prepared for the ODU offense, forcing four turnovers, and putting themselves in positions to have even more. Walt made sure to praise Big South Defensive Player of the Week, Kenny Scott for his two interceptions. “They couldn’t have come at better times” he said of his teammate. He also said that “It’s amazing” to play alongside the other defensive backs. “They push me to get better and I push them to get better.” It is definitely of huge benefit to have competition between high caliber players within the team.
After playing such a hard fought game against the Monarchs, Walt told us it will be tough to get by the heartbreaking loss. “I’m not going to lie and say I’ve forgot about it, I’m trying to move on. Everything that could go wrong for us went wrong the last 3 or 4 minutes of the game.”
It wasn’t all negative though, Walt explained that this will be great learning experience for the Flames moving forward. “We’re going to move on and learn from it. We are going to learn how to finish games, that’s the main thing, we have to finish games. We put together a decent game, offense played well, defense played well, we just didn’t finish.”
Up next the Flames will take on undefeated Coastal Carolina. This game will have huge Big South rewards on the line, as the winner will be the favorite to win the conference. “It’s going to be a great matchup” Walt told us, “it has always been a rivalry, but we are just planning to go and prepare to do what we can to beat Coastal.” This could be a very important game for Aikens. He could potentially be matched up with receiving star Matt Hazel, the co-record holder for receptions in a season at CCU and one of the main instruments used to win past games against Liberty. At 6-3, Hazel is very tough to defend, especially in jump ball situations. It will be interesting to see if Walt is up to the task of trying to compromise his abilities.
Heading into Big South Conference play I wanted to see what goals the team had going forward. Aikens used one word to tell me that the Flames not only want to win, but make a statement in the conference. “Dominate.” I also asked about his individual goals for the upcoming match ups, and he had the same response. “Dominate.”
We’d like to thank Walt for his time and wish him the best of luck dominating his senior season.