Old Dominion lands the biggest win in school history and found their QB too
Entering 2018, ODU’s biggest question mark was the same as the 2017 season. What will they get out of their quarterbacks? This season, it appeared that the answer was Steven Williams. But three games into the season Williams wasn’t getting it done, as he struggled with accuracy and decision making. Unable to generate much momentum against Virginia Tech in the opening quarter, Bobby Wilder decided to switch to Blake LaRussa, who many thought would be the answer at QB in 2017 before ultimately losing his job to Steven Williams.
The switch to Blake LaRussa, a former walk-on, was a stroke of genius by Bobby Wilder. LaRussa was 30-of-49 with 495 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 19 yards and a touchdown in the upset win over Virginia Tech. LaRussa, a Virginia Beach native, engineered seven scoring drives and immediately provided a spark for the offense. Jeremy Cox ran the ball with authority, finishing the game with 130 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Fulgham and Jonathan Duhart each finished with nine catches and over 100 yards of receiving with four combined touchdowns. Duhart and Fulgham always had the potential to have games like this, and were finally given the ability to showcase their skill on the big stage.
Blake LaRussa was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week for his performance and should be ODU’s starting QB going forward. He’s the first C-USA player to earn the recognition since Louisiana Tech WR Carlos Henderson did in 2016 and is the first ever ODU player to receive the accolade.
At 1-3, with losses to Liberty, FIU and Charlotte, the Monarchs had too much talent to continue to underperform at this level and finally had a breakthrough. No one expected for ODU to put it all together against the Hookies but as the cliche goes, that’s why we play the games. Already 0-2 in conference play, it’s probably too late for ODU to make a run for the division title, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t qualify for a bowl game now that they have their quarterback.
North Texas enters conference play as the favorite to win Conference USA
While ODU was in the midst of pulling off the biggest upset in Week 4, on the opposite side of the state North Texas dominated Liberty to close non-conference play at 4-0. The Mean Green’s biggest competitors for the conference title have proven to be inconsistent while UNT has proven to be flawless.
North Texas is the only team in C-USA that’s undefeated and stands as the conference’s only shot at sending a representative to the New Year’s Six after FAU, Marshall and Louisiana Tech failed to earn a marquee win this past weekend. UNT will begin conference play at home against a Louisiana Tech team that gave LSU a tough game before fading down the stretch. North Texas has opened as a seven point favorite over the Bulldogs. Last season UNT pulled off an upset, as they beat Tech on the road, 24-23.
Brad Lambert’s time as Charlotte’s head coach is just about over
After winning their conference opener for the first time since joining C-USA, the 2-1 49ers were off to their best start during Brad Lambert’s time as head coach. The win over Old Dominion appeared to be a signal that the program was turning the corner. With a road game against a struggling UMass team, the 49ers had a golden opportunity to move to 3-1.
Entering the game I mentioned in Choosing C-USA that UMass had struggled to stop the run all season and that the 49ers should be in great shape to earn the victory if they establish the running game. Charlotte ran the ball 41 times for 81 yards in a 49-31 loss to UMass. The game wasn’t even that close, as UMass scored 28 straight points halfway through the first quarter.
With a 2-2 record, Charlotte jumps back into conference play with a road game against UAB. The Blazers have won eight straight games at home and are one more win away from breaking a school record for consecutive victories at Legion Field. Brad Lambert needs to win at least five games this season to prove he should still be kept as the head coach.
If Charlotte is to reach that mark, it’ll be the most wins they’ve ever had with Lambert as the head coach since joining the FBS. Judging from what we’ve seen so far, it feels like that goal won’t be met. Charlotte hasn’t won a road game since beating Southern Miss in 2016 and their remaining road games are UAB, Middle Tennessee, Tennessee, Marshall and FAU. With home games against WKU, Southern Miss and FIU, Brad Lambert will need to win all three if he is to have any hope of returning as Charlotte’s head coach in 2018.