The Virginia Tech Hokies invaded Foreman Field to face head coach Bobby Wilder and the Old Dominion Monarchs. VPI’s staff and coaches have spent a lot of time recruiting out of the Tidewater area, but this was the first time they brought the team to Norfolk! The Monarchs turned heads during the 2016 season, almost winning Conference USA while finding victory in their bowl game. Last season was a step back, for the program, and this year found the Monarchs still searching for their first victory. ODU’s road smoothed out when they earned their program’s biggest win against the Fighting Gobblers, 35-49.
Virginia Tech spent the first half largely looking sloppy and pedestrian. They were often ineffective on offense and Jackson was sacked three times In the first quarter alone. Steven Peoples ripped off an 87 yard touchdown run to put the Hokies up early, but the Monarchs were quick to retort. ODU replaced starting signal caller, Steven Williams, with back up Blake LaRussa after their initial drive was a lackluster three and out. LaRussa looked sharp passing and regularly carried the team down the field with his arm. VT allowed a first quarter score when Jonathan Duhart beat Caleb Farley for a 14-yard touchdown. Halfway through the second quarter the rust seemed to fall away after a stout three and out by the Hokies defense was followed by a solid offensive drive that was punctuated by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Jackson to Sean Savoy. The sloppiness returned when a facemask penalty by Devon Hunter kept the Monarchs alive on a third and long that set up a missed 37-yard field goal attempt. The grace period was short lived and Jackson threw his first interception of the season. A surgical LaRussa translated that turnover into a gutsy and aggressive touchdown drive. The Hokies looked confused in coverage and self-destructed with penalties during the first half and entered the break tied with ODU, 14-14.
Virginia Tech started the second half at their 15-yard line. The Hokies showed some life when Jackson kept their opening drive alive using his legs, setting up Steven Peoples for the go ahead touchdown. VPI’s defense also answered the mail, pressuring LaRussa and forcing a Monarch three-and-out. Unfortunately, the solid start did not last. The troubles on defense returned and LaRussa scored a rushing TD to tie the game. The Hokie offensive performance sine wave continued and Josh Jackson fell completely flat in the passing game... until he hit Damon Hazelton for a 72-yard touchdown to close out the third quarter. ODU immediately went back to the well that was WR Travis Fulgham when LaRussa hit him for a 25-yard touchdown. On the ensuing drive Josh Jackson was helped off the field after a 19-yard scramble and an apparent left leg injury. Hokie backup QB Ryan Willis entered the game but was unable to keep the drive alive. As Josh Jackson was being carted from the sideline for X-rays the Hokies seemed to be losing control with their third unsportsmanlike conduct call which set up a Jeremy Cox 15-yard TD to put ODU up 35-28.
With Willis at the helm the Hokies quickly marched into the Monarch’s red zone where he hit Chris Cunningham for a 13-yard touchdown on fourth and three. Old Dominion returned to their passing game and Duhart caught his third TD of the night. The Hokies made their way back to Monarch territory, but were unable to find pay dirt, turning over on downs after failing to convert a fourth and four. The Monarchs found life in their run game when Cox added insult to injury with a 40-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach with seconds left on the clock.
The Hokies have a lot of introspection to do, and the secondary has a lot of laps to run.
- The Hokies secondary looked putrid, allowing 495 yards in the air.
- Six separate ODU WRs had at least one reception for 20+ yards.
- The secondary looked completely confused and often seemed to be watching what was happening rather than being involved.
- The running attack was stout. Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease both had solid games.
- Willis looked good, which might be important depending on how Josh Jackson’s injury plays out.
- The Hokies were undisciplined, committing multiple big penalties. Several unsportsmanlike conduct calls helped the Monarchs march down the field.
- This was ODU’s first win over a Power Five conference team.