The Old Dominion University Monarchs (1-4, 0-0) begin conference play this Saturday against The Marshall Thundering Herd (2-3, 0-0). ODU’s record doesn’t tell the more nuanced story of their season so far. They’ll be eager to get back in the win column, coming off two one-score losses in consecutive weeks against Buffalo and UTEP, respectively.
COMING OFF BACK TO BACK CLOSE LOSSES
Two weeks ago, ODU trailed 35-7 at halftime against Buffalo. Quarterback D.J. Mack, a Norfolk native, led The Monarchs on four consecutive touchdown drives to cut the lead to 34-35 in the fourth quarter.
The game was headed to overtime until a celebration penalty after the final touchdown pushed back the potentially game-tying extra point 15 yards. They missed the ensuing extra point, causing their miraculous comeback to fall just short.
Last week, The Monarchs were down 17-0 late in the first half against UTEP before mounting a comeback. ODU rallied to score three straight touchdowns, taking a 21-20 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
UTEP answered with a three-yard touchdown run to go up 28-21. Mack subsequently failed to connect on a fourth-down pass with 30 seconds left, ending their chances for a comeback victory.
MATCHING UP WITH MARSHALL
ODU will face off against Marshall on the road in Huntington, WV, at 2 PM Saturday. Despite their slightly disappointing early season record, they’re still in contention for a Conference Championship. Both teams will be playing their first in-conference game of the season.
This season, Marshall holds teams to 23.6 points per game and is a 20 point favorite against ODU. Still, ODU has an explosive offense that can score with any team in Conference-USA.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The key for ODU on Saturday will be getting off to a solid start. They’ve played like completely different teams in the first and second halves of games this season.
Slow starts have forced them to stage furious comebacks in the second halves of games the last few weeks. They should be in a better winning position if they can come out of the gate with a sense of urgency on offense, as opposed to scoring all of their points in the second half.
In his first year as a starter, Junior quarterback D.J. Mack has thrown for 753 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions through five games this season. He also has 151 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground.
The Norview product played his first two seasons at The University of Central Florida before transferring to ODU.
Sophomore Zach Kuntz, a graduate transfer from Penn State, leads the team in receiving 24 receptions for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He’s coming off a career-high eight catches against UTEP.
Old Dominion will also have an edge in special teams. ODU is tied with Coastal Carolina, leading the nation in blocked punts with four this season.
A win on Saturday can turn ODU’s entire season around. Catch the game at 2:00 PM live on CBS Sports Network.
Justin is a lifelong resident of the Tidewater. He's written for a number of nationally recognized online platforms covering sports and entrepreneurship. He has a passion for local sports, having grown up played high school football in the competitive Peninsula District in the Newport News area. Justin graduated from Virginia State University with a degree in Sports Marketing.