Start time: Saturday, September 24th, 2:30 p.m. CST
Location: Foreman Field, Norfolk, Virginia
TV: KMYS-CW 35
Streaming: CUSA.tv ($6.95 for 24 hour access)
Betting Line: ODU -3.5, O/U 51.5
All-time Series: ODU leads 1-0
Previous Meeting: ODU won 36-31 in San Antonio
After an awful, no good, disastrous week for C-USA it’s finally time for the conference to kick off league play. Old Dominion and UTSA are both coming off loses to Power Five programs heading into this game hoping to bounce back with a hot start to conference play. The Monarchs won the first meeting between the two programs in San Antonio last season in a close game, a bitter memory that the Roadrunners likely still vividly remember.
Coming in at 1-2, the Monarchs are better than their record shows. With their only win coming against FCS opponent Hampton, ODU drew a tough schedule this season as they traveled to Sun Belt powerhouse Appalachian State and North Carolina State of the ACC. Despite a solid showing from quarterback David Washington, the Monarchs couldn’t muster much of a fight against the Wolfpack in Raleigh as the final score read 49-22.
Offensively ODU looks pretty similar to the team we saw in San Antonio last season. Playmakers David Washington, Ray Lawry, and Zach Pascal all return to ODU’s run-pass option heavy spread attack. The Monarchs’ offense excels at taking advantage of defensive breakdowns but haven’t been able to consistently move the football this season despite some gaudy rushing numbers from Lawry.
A former wide receiver, Washington is a true dual threat that will force a defense to play with a spy over the middle of the field. While he has a strong arm down the field his accuracy leaves a bit to be desired as he’s completing just 54% of his passing attempts this season.
Anchored by two outstanding linebackers, the Monarchs are very sound on defense and should lower the number of points they allow as they begin to face weaker C-USA competition. TJ Ricks returns as Conference USA’s leading tackler in 2015 and he’s performed quite well through the start of 2016 with 19.5 tackles and two pass break ups. For as good as Ricks has been this season he’s been out-shadowed by his platoon mate Anthony Wilson. The senior has 21.5 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks on the year. UTSA needs to be able to block these guys at the second level and pick up their blitzes if they want to be able to move the sticks.
ODU also has some talented players up front as they return massive defensive tackle Rashaard Coward (6’6”, 310) and defensive end Oshane Ximines. Coward is a behemoth force in the middle who already has NFL scouts intrigued by his ability to demand a double team. With Coward drawing blockers’ attention up the middle, Ximines thrives off the edge. Just a sophomore, Ximines ended his freshman campaign with five sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. It’s a safe bet to assume that Ximines will eclipse those numbers with a year of experience and college weight training under his belt.
Confidence must be pumping through the Roadrunner locker room after the Roadrunners came incredibly close to pulling off their first ever win against a Power Five opponent. Quarterback Dalton Sturm played a nearly flawless game as UTSA’s cornerbacks lined up against Arizona States’ five star receivers and dared them to beat them over the top. While the Roadrunners got predictably gassed due to their lack of depth it was huge for the team to put together such a strong three quarters under Frank Wilson’s direction.
Uncharacteristically for the program, the quarterback position is currently the Roadrunners’ strongest position on offense. The highly vaunted wide receiver unit has struggled with securing catches while the offensive line continues to fail to protect its quarterback or create rushing lanes. Despite boasting two good backs in Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes the Roadrunners have been astonishingly bad running the ball, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry.
With three games’ worth of film out on the Roadrunners’ new offense they desperately need to find a way to keep defenses honest by kickstarting the run game. If UTSA is unable to generate a push at the line of scrimmage they may need to resort to screen passes and swing routes to keep the offense balanced.
As the Roadrunners’ offense continues to reinvent itself the defense looks well-oiled in defensive coordinator Pete Golding’s multiple scheme. As previously stated, the Roadrunners played man defense nearly exclusively against Arizona State. Cornerbacks Teddrick McGhee, N’Keal Bailey, and Devron Davis didn’t have much problem matching up with the Sun Devils athletic wide outs.
Freshman middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa has been the star of UTSA’s defense through the season as he’s stated an early case for freshman All-American honors. The former defensive lineman has totaled 31 tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss through three games while bringing pressure on the quarterback on three other occasions. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Last year’s first team freshmen All-American linebackers (Malik Jefferson, Cameron Smith, and Montrel Wilson) totaled 61, 78, and 61 total tackles in their freshmen seasons respectively. Tauaefa is on pace for 124 tackles, six sacks, and nine tackles for loss.
Let’s be real here, anyone that has a strong opinion on how this game will go is probably lying to themselves as Vegas opened the betting line at just one point in favor of Old Dominion. The teams match up really well so it should be an extremely evenly matched game between two teams with miserable kicking games. Hope you like fourth down conversion attempts! I’ll take UTSA to squeak by on another strong showing from Dalton Sturm.
UTSA 31 ODU 24