Saturday, September 23, 2017, the Monarchs of Old Dominion University made a first trip West on I64 and then south on I81 to play their very first football game against the Virginia Tech Hokies. As we noted before, ODU is a relative baby in college football. Their program was abandoned back in World War II, and never restarted as the university became independent of William and Mary. Somehow they arrived at a plan to build a club team into an FBS caliber football program, and they pulled it off in a decade. That’s pretty amazing considering that there are many other college programs much older that are still languishing or existing in the lower divisions. So, with that in mind, and only one losing season out of 10 in the books, plus a 10 win season last year, and a bowl win in the Bahamas Bowl, it was obvious that taking ODU as some sort of push over “scrimmage opponent” was not a very good idea.
Justin Fuente didn’t. He did seem to put together another instructional offensive game plan of very limited plays and patterns being called. There may be some player participation level in the supposed “slow” starts for the last three contests, but I mostly see that the opponents come loaded for bear while the Hokies showed up with very specific game plans designed to test and challenge the offense.
Saturday was almost a perfect day for football. Frankly, the temperature was ten degrees too hot at about 85 on the field. By 1:30, and the start of the show, those of us on the sidelines were getting a bit toasty. There was a saving breeze blowing from south southwest to north northwest for most of the game, though.
The warmups were relatively calm, but there wasn’t a lot of joking around and jawing. The players were all concentrating on whatever players concentrate on while they were stretching, passing, catching, or walking from station to station. Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds seemed purposeful and quiet enough through the process. Both were pure concentration.
Although in taking random snaps of folks this one looked a bit like Andrew trying out his “Icky Shuffle” moves.
All kidding aside though the time for the opening ceremony came, and there was a scream and gasp from the crowd as an unexpected flyover on Military Appreciation Day was performed by an element of F-22 Raptors from Langley Air Force Base. It was quite loud, and complimented the Lane Stadium ethos quiet well.
The run out on to the field had some timing issues, there was some late flag grabbing and I was a bit concerned that maybe the flags would be spelling OKIHES there for a second, but everything got sorted out. The picture of Terrell Edmunds with the Lunch Pail is priceless. No one other then Terrell manages that “all business” look, other than Tremaine, but he does it from higher altitude.
The opening kickoff was something that is becoming pretty routine for Joey Slye. The ball nearly landed in the band.
One thing that no one predicted, was the quality of a 17 year-old starting QB Steven Williams for ODU who would annoy and avoid the rush all day. Though the defense got pressure, 14 managed to stay on his feet, and even make some excellent plays out of disasters. He’s going to be something special for the Monarchs.
The defense eventually managed a stop because even though Williams got some passes off, ODU couldn’t run much of anywhere. #LPD controlled the line of scrimmage, and dominated the box. If they couldn’t quite get to Williams before the ball got out, the Hokie DBs got the situations stopped soon enough.
The next series of Tech plays didn’t look particularly inspired. In fact they looked much like the playbook, page 1, play 1, then 2, then 3, sort of deal. Nothing fancy happened, it was basic play calling requiring the players to execute well. Josh Jackson clicked off audibles, handed the ball off crisply, and move the team a bit.
Travon McMillian got the first RB touches of the game. He was sure handed, often seen with two gloved hands on the ball at all times. Travon also made good cuts, and had balance and vision.
Of course nothing in the current Hokie offensive arsenal would be complete without Cam Phillips showing up for duty.
During the 2nd Hokie possession, or third, it was hot and my mind was fogging... There was this amazing trip down the field for young Mr. Phillips. One that displayed why he’s a serious yards-after-catch threat.
It was a great sequence and a real indicator of how much of a game breaker Phillips is. There were other receivers, though, including an accidental TD by Steven Peoples on a cooperating wheel route and a deflection off of Cam. That one Fuente wasn’t happy with at all. It was a “we got a way with it but it was careless” sorts of events. But catches like Henri Murphy, going up for one are things to salt away for future reference.
Or this one from Chris Cunningham, over the middle.
Of course there were scoring plays. The first touchdown of the day by Steven Peoples came in the 2nd quarter.
Then came the touchdown, maybe by Josh Jackson. Followed by the touchdown, yes by none other than Steven Peoples on the one yard plunge.
But the pile eventually moved for Steven Peoples.
I unfortunately missed the Cam to Peoples deflection because as in inevitably seems to happen I was moving as fast as you can behind the benches, south, to get set up for the scoring play. Missed it again.
But I did get this one, which was the final score of the game and ended the starting lineup’s work day. C.J. Carrol made a great catch laying out to get the ball about 8 yards in the end zone under the goal posts to salt away the win.
So, we’ll leave you with some shots of the presser after the game. My aching feet and parched throat needed the press conference more than I’d like to admit.
And of course it wouldn’t be a View from the Sidelines if there wasn’t a shot of our favorite Bird.
Next week is Clemson, and the next piece is the Preview... No Love Lost on my part... none.