Old Dominion Monarchs (1-7, 0-4 C-USA) vs FIU Panthers (4-4, 2-3 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 2nd, 12:00 PM
TV: ESPN Plus (Play-By-Play: A.J. Ricketts/Analyst: Kenny Kelly)
Radio: WAXY 790 The Ticket Miami (Play-By-Play: Josh White)/ESPN Radio 94.1 FM Norfolk (Play by Play: Ted Alexander/Analyst: Andy Mashaw/Sideline: Doug Ripley)
Location: Riccardo Silva Stadium, University Park, FL
Betting Line: O/U 49 FIU -17.5
All-Time Series Record: ODU leads 3-2 (FIU won last meeting 28-20 in 2018)
FIU returns home to Riccardo Silva Stadium after a disappointing rout at the hands of Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro last Saturday. The Panthers’ run defense struggles showed in the 50-17 loss to the Blue Raiders, as the team allowed 471 yards on the ground in the defeat, which included three 100-yard rushers for MTSU.
Offensively, Butch Davis’ team was able to move the ball in the first half before two turnovers, poor execution and a torrential downpour limited FIU to an anemic 35 total yards in the final two quarters. Now, sitting with a 4-4 record entering November, the team that began the season with C-USA title aspirations are fighting for their bowl lives.
Saturday’s game against a struggling ODU team should put the Panthers at 5-4 - but as the season has shown, nothing is a certainty.
Quarterback James Morgan will look to put the putrid performance from the offense in the second half of last week’s game behind him, however, despite the Monarchs’ 1-7 record, they enter the game with C-USA sixth-ranked pass defense.
For FIU to win, Morgan will need to help his defense by limiting the number of three-and-out drives. The Panthers had five three-play drives that ended in punts, in addition to three offensive turnovers and a turnover on downs.
Look for the duo Anthony Jones and Napoleon Maxwell to touch the ball early, in an effort to keep the the offense in manageable third-down conversion situations. Jones, a fifth-year senior and the sixth-year senior in Maxwell will be playing their final games at Riccardo Silva Stadium.
Welcoming ODU’s offense to town will be a welcome relief for Jeff Copp and Jerod Kruse’s defense, specifically a rushing attack that ranks last in C-USA and 124th in the nation, averaging 92.1 yards per game on the ground.
Expect the defense to force the Monarchs into multiple third-and-long situations, which should allow pass-rushers Alexy Jean-Baptiste and Chris Whittaker to get after the quarterback.
Old Dominion heads to Miami looking to snap a seven-game losing streak and are potentially playing for the future of head coach Bobby Wilder. Entering the season, the major question mark was the quarterback position, with Wilder announcing that the QB competition could extend into the season until one player establishes themselves.
For the first five games of the season, that player was 6-5, 225-pound JUCO transfer Stone Smartt. The Sacramento, California native has thrown for 830 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions on the season, before giving way to Michigan State transfer Messiah deWeaver for the last three contests.
However, the offensive woes have continued, as deWeaver has completed just 43.3 percent of his passes for 316 yards in his three starts. Now, it appears that it could be either of the two or true freshman Hayden Wolff that could see extensive playing time on Saturday.
Regardless of who has started - the numbers speak for themselves.
ODU is in the bottom third of FBS football in all major offensive categories and they haven’t been able to protect either signal-caller, allowing 38 sacks which slot them 129th out of 130 FBS teams.
Defensively, the Monarchs have performed more than admirably, given the circumstances that they’re in during most games.
ODU has the fourth-ranked run defense in C-USA (134.1) and they’re third in interceptions with eight. Look for standout linebacker Lawrence Garner (73 tackles, one sack) to lead the way and try to force FIU into third-and-long passing situations. Defensive end Keion White has been a pleasant surprise after switching from tight end in the offseason. His 11 tackles for loss puts him fifth among C-USA defensive players and is more than capable of pressuring James Morgan.
3 Keys to Victory
- Stop the run: For better or worse, it’s been a tale of two stories with FIU’s run defense. In games that they’ve had the superior talent - they’ve performed well. When it’s been an even playing field - the floodgates have opened. ODU’s leading rusher is Kesean Strong, who has a meager 260 yards on the ground.
- Establish the line of scrimmage: The overall consensus coming from the FIU side of things after the MTSU debacle was that they were physically outplayed, especially in the second half. The same can be said for the Tulane and Western Kentucky losses.
- Don’t beat themselves: The losses for FIU have been stomach-churning and not just because of the final score, but they way they’ve managed to beat themselves. Protect the football and don’t commit timely unforced errors or penalties.
- Limit turnovers: If you look the games that ODU has been competitive in, there’s a fair argument that can be made that had they protected the football, they may have won. Especially against a talented FIU secondary, it’s key that they win the turnover battle.
- Pressure Morgan: James Morgan can be one of the deadliest passers in C-USA when given time. Players like Keion White have to find a way to at least pressure FIU’s signal-caller, to have a chance.
- Win Special Teams: FIU’s Tommy Heatherly is arguably the best punter in C-USA this season and punt returner Maurice Alexander is one of the best in the nation. Scoring points is hard enough for ODU this year - don’t compound it by allowing Alexander to break one loose.
FIU returns home for senior day after a game they would like to forget against MTSU. Expect the Panthers to play motivated - by last week’s debacle and the need to get to bowl eligibility. ODU’s quarterback struggles are too much to overcome, especially against a ball-hawking FIU secondary.
Final Score: FIU 38, ODU 10