NORFOLK — Bobby Wilder made a fluid, up-and-down motion with his right hand, signaling roller coasters, peaks and valleys, or perhaps channeling his days as a backup dancer on Madonna's early tours.

Old Dominion's coach and chief evangelist preaches process and progress, both of which will be tested this week.

The Monarchs (7-3) come off of their first win against a Football Bowl Subdivision program, a 59-38 decision at Idaho. They face a Campbell program on Saturday that they routinely stuff in a clothes hamper. They close the season one week later with their de facto bowl game, at North Carolina.

In other words, might ODU be ripe for a letdown?

"This is us this year," Wilder said, going full charades. "This is the ebb and flow of who we are."

Wilder pointed out that the Monarchs followed the loss at Pittsburgh, a game in which they were competitive into the fourth quarter, with a desultory 27-24 win against Norfolk State.

"We talk a lot about the planning, the preparation, the execution," Wilder said. "I always remind the players — I try to do this every week — to get them to understand to respect all and fear none. That doesn't matter who we play. We have to keep the focus on Old Dominion right now, even more so when you play a team that you've had success against, a team that the kids can look at and see their record."

Campbell (2-8) was a late replacement for a game against Charlotte, and the Monarchs have outscored the Camels by a combined 155-41 in their three previous wins.

Thus, the task is to fall back on the process and not on the opponent and whatever advantages ODU has entering Saturday's game.

"It's critical from the standpoint, if we're going to keep growing as a program and if we're going to get better and we're going to have any influence over what happens next year in Conference USA, we've got to keep making progress," Wilder said. "Every rep we have on the field is critical, particularly for all these guys that are playing, that this is their first time playing college football. We're trying to get them better all the time, regardless of who we play. That will be our focus this week on what we need to do.

"From my standpoint and the coaching staff's standpoint, that's a challenge — to keep everybody understanding what the goal is each week. We've got to keep getting better because I don't think we're anywhere near where we're capable of being right now. I don't think we're anywhere as good as we can be as a football team, particularly when I see what happened in the first half of (the Idaho) game."

ODU fell behind Idaho 14-0 in the first quarter and allowed 334 yards in the first half of a game that was tied at 31 at halftime. The Monarchs allowed seven points and 171 yards in the second half, and won going away.

Trailing by 14 points and winning by 21, Wilder said, "There's something wrong with that. That's the ebb and flow of this team."

"The excuse could be it's related to the schedule," he said, "but I don't buy it. I think if our focus is on what it needs to be, our improvement, then it shouldn't matter what the name is on the other jersey that we play, it should be about what we're doing. That'll be the challenge."

The first-half defensive performance aside, there was much to like about the Monarchs' performance at Idaho. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for 533 yards and four touchdowns, completing 40 of 56 passes in what Wilder called his best game of the season.

Wilder found the defensive improvement in the second half encouraging, continuing a trend of adjustments and progress as games unfold.

"We're making a lot of growth in that area," he said. "That's going to lead to really good things in the future, because I've always felt like the faster players can comprehend information and anticipate, the faster they can play. There were times when we look really fast on defense on the field, especially when we know what we're doing."

Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637