Fans of the home team were likely hoping for a better outcome in the Old Dominion Monarchs’ conference opener. It was the visiting Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, however, who left Norfolk on Saturday with their second straight victory.
WKU held the Monarchs to only 55 yards on the ground, ODU’s lowest such total of the season. OSU QB Stone Smartt also threw for just 105 yards, his lowest total of the year, and an interception.
The Tops’ Gaej Walker ran for 114 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown marking his third game with more than 100 rushing yards this season.
Western Kentucky gained 320 total yards on the day with ODU picking up just 160. WKU also won the time of possession battle 33:23 to 26:37. The WKU defense forced one interception by Ta’Corian Darden while the Monarchs forced two turnovers (a fumble recovery, and an interception).
Old Dominion forced both of those turnovers early in the game. In the second quarter, they capitalized on the fumble recovery in WKU territory with a 24-yard field goal by Nick Rice. These would be ODU’s only points of the night.
WKU followed up ODU’s field goal with one of their own on their next drive. It would be a 31-yarder by Cory Munson.
Darden picked off Smartt on the following drive in Monarch territory to set up a touchdown drive for WKU. Walker capped it with a one-yard touchdown run.
Munson would miss a 51-yard kick just before the end of the first half, but connect on a 20-yarder on his team’s first possession of the second half.
Nick Rice soon missed a 51-yarder of his own with about 5:31 remaining in the third quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, Ty Storey would lead the Tops on an 11-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that would end with 12-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Simon.
Munson would miss one more 31-yard field goal before the end of the game.
While the Monarchs showed constant improvement prior to tonight, 1-4 is about where many C-USA observers expected ODU to be at this point in the year. WKU has surprised most of that group, however, with a 3-2 record. There’s also a certain level of irony to the fact that WKU’s defense is performing so well with an offensive minded coach like Helton leading the club. DeAngelo Malone sacked Smartt three times in this game bringing his season total to seven.
For ODU, it’s clear adjustments need to be made, namely in pass blocking. The Monarchs have now given up a league-worst 19 sacks on the season.
The Tops return home next Saturday (October 12th) to face Army at 7 PM ET. Old Dominion are on the road that same day against Marshall at 2:30 PM ET.