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Five Things to Watch For: Old Dominion

Our preview of Virginia Tech vs. Old Dominion for the third game of 2018

Vinny Mihota goes for a tackle behind the line of scrimmage against ODU
John Schneider- Gobbler Country- SB Nation

Hey, look, football is back! Nice. Let’s get right to it.

Game Notes:

#13 (#10) Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (0-3, 0-2 C-USA)

Gametime: 3:30PM

Location: Foreman Field, Norfolk, VA

Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Radio: WBRW 105.3 FM (Blacksburg Local) | Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network

These are currently two teams headed in opposite directions. Old Dominion is completely defeated, having recently lost to UNC-Charlotte, who is coming off a 1-11 season. Tech is 2-0, but against a ludicrously unimpressive Florida State and an FCS team in William and Mary. However, the record isn’t EXACTLY the whole story with Old Dominion, as they had a 17 point lead against FIU before gagging up 21 points straight, and their game against Charlotte was a story of a blocked PAT and two failed two-point conversions. That’s 5 points that would have given them the victory, or three that would have at least taken it to overtime. At some point though, you are what your record says you are.

Their leading stat-getters:

Passing: Steven Williams 41/80, 507yards, 2TD, 2INT, 6.34 YPA.

Rushing: Jeremy Cox 32 attempts, 123 yards, 3.8 avg, 0TDs. Steven Williams 22 attempts, 83 yards, 3.8 avg, 1TD. Lala (Elijah) Davis 10 attempts, 63 yards, 6.3 avg, 2TDs.

Receiving: Jonathan Duhart 17 receptions, 360 yards, 21.2ypc, 3TDs. Isaiah Harper 12 receptions, 78 yards, 6.5ypc, 0TDs.

Notables: ODU’s biggest weapon is Jonathan Duhart, a huge wide out from Midlothian, VA. His other offers included Charlotte, Marshall, Ohio, and Rutgers. A senior, he’s 6’-3”, 210lbs, and is currently the 11th leading receiver in the country, passing big names like Greg Dortch (Wake) and N’Keal Harry (Arizona State). It’s also looking like they’re interested in giving freshman runner Elijah Davis some carries, handing it off to him 10 times last game. Davis is a back from up in Lynchburg, and while he didn’t hold an offer from Tech (his offers were Hampton, Liberty, JMU, and ODU), he had some interest and now it might be his time to shine after Cox hasn’t been that impressive. It’s also notable that Williams currently has the lowest completion percentage (51.3%) of any starting quarterback in the FBS ranks until you get down to Joe Burrow (46.2% (LSU)), Jonathan Banks (48.1% (Tulane)), and Ben Hicks (47.4% (SMU)). If you cut off the number at a minimum of 80 attempts, he’s the worst. Of what ESPN considers ‘Qualified’, he’s 116th.

Defensive/Special Teams statistics:

-53 Point differential, opponents average 36.0 points per game, average 4.4ypa, 12.6ypc, and average 484.3 total yards. Kickers are 3-6 on field goals, and the team has 3 sacks for 17 yards lost while giving up four for 13 yards lost. Old Dominion is also not a second half team; they have been outscored 67-13 in the third and fourth quarters.

Leading defenders: Lawrence Garner 42 tackles (split evenly as assisted/unassisted), 2.0TFL, 2 QB hits. Oshane Ximenes 15 tackles, 5.0TFL, 3 Sacks for 17 yards lost, 1 PA, 2 Forced Fumbles.

Ximenes and Garner are easily the two most statistically impressive members of the ODU defense (the latter is getting draft hype, and putting hats on bodies and blocking those two on the edge and in the middle will be key.

What to Watch For:

1. Good Weather! (Cross your fingers)

For once it seems the Hokies are headed off to the field under mostly sunny skies. There is a small chance of rain down in Norfolk on Saturday, but after being poured on during the Florida State game and the clouds and occasional spitting rain against William and Mary, it would be nice to have a game where the weather isn’t as much of a factor. Hopefully this lets Justin Fuente give Josh Jackson a chance to get some rhythm in the air before the very important game against Duke in Durham.

2. Another kind of Homecoming

A big portion of Tech fans and a lot of players have family in the 757 or are from the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News/Williamsburg/Salem area. This includes Ricky Walker, Hezekiah Grimsley, Jovonn Quillen, Phil Patterson, DeShawn McClease, and many others.

Hopefully playing in front of this crowd will amp up some of the roster more than even Blacksburg would. Secondary thing is that the Hokies agreed to this home-and-home (ostensibly) as a potential showcase game for future recruits in the 757 area (as well as being a cheaper alternative to a long trip). This gives the Hokies a chance to maybe put a flourish on this win if they can run up the score and look impressive in front of major Virginia recruits for the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021.

3. Paring down the Rotation vs. Extra Playing Time

Plenty of players have been in and out of the lineup thanks to playing William and Mary, and because the defense was young in the first place. Seeing players like Dax Hollifield, Rico Kearney, Tyjuan Garbutt, Zion DeBose, and Robert Porcher IV has been great, but this is likely the last game that we’ll see an enhanced roster. Thanks to the ECU game cancellation, this is the last ‘easy’ game on the schedule, but it’s also a tune-up game to get back into ACC play, and Duke is yet again no joke. So in many ways you could justify running starters out there for a long time, but you could also use the time and the new redshirt rule to get in one last key game for depth and experience purposes. It’ll be interesting to see if the Hokies get out front quick and keep pouring it on with the starters or keep substituting.

4. Isolating Playmakers

ODU has a couple of decent players in Duhart, Garner, and Ximenes. Davis might be a revelation, but the jury is still out. But considering Duhart is a huge receiver and Tech has huge corners, it will be an interesting matchup to watch. Depending on what side of the line he uses, Ximenes is likely to see either Christian Darrisaw or Silas Dzansi- both freshmen. Keeping him in check is key number one, and keeping one of the guards with a hat on Garner would be good.

5. Cleaning Up Errors

Can we please quit it with the bad snaps? And the Fumbles? The Hokies have had snapping issues with three lost snaps and several poorly placed snaps that have ruined play timing. Apparently Zachariah Hoyt has had an injured pinky which doesn’t help at all, but obviously the coaches find it to be a concern- and it is. A better team will punish Tech for those kind of mistakes. On top of that, the Hokies have been lucky to only lose one turnover on a fumble while recovering four of them. But that doesn’t count in the fumbles that the team managed not to bungle- two CJ Carroll muffed punts, a fumble out of bounds by Tre Turner, and a fumble each by Sean Savoy and DeShawn McClease. It’s not as bad as the one game crazy anomaly that was the 2016 Tennessee game, but with an extra week to prepare, I expect that plenty of it was spent on ball security drills.

It’ll be good for the Hokies to be back in the news rotation, as they and West Virginia were the big ranked teams to miss last week. Of course the coaching staff and the team is concentrating on this game, but as a fan I can’t help but hope that Ricky Walker is all healed up and no one gets flattened. Let’s go, Hokies!