Minium: ODU is a 15-point Underdog, and is Hurting From a Heartbreaking Loss at ECU, but FAU is Hardly Invincible
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
If you play football for Old Dominion University, you’ve already been through the ringer.
You survived the toughest workouts Coach Bobby Wilder ever held over the summer. With 22 seniors, the biggest senior class in ODU’s 10 years of football, you really looked good in preseason practice.
This was supposed to be a great season.
But then you laid a huge egg in your opener, a stunning 52-10 loss at Liberty and then dropped narrow losses to FIU and Charlotte in games you know you should have won.
Then, you turned things around in a big way on Sept. 22, when you won the biggest game in ODU history, upsetting Virginia Tech, 49-35. You played inspired football, and your team was justifiably acclaimed nationwide.
Then last weekend, you showed up to play with the same vigor and emotion that you did against Tech when you traveled to East Carolina. You led by a point safety when Justice Davila appear to seal the deal with an interception with 50 seconds left.
ECU fans began to depart because they saw on the replay board what everyone else saw, that it was an interception.
Alas, the pass had been ruled incomplete. And because it was a close play, the refs in the replay booth had no choice but to confirm the call.
What’s most maddening of all is that the guy who made this call, and others that went againt you in the final minutes, were Conference USA refs. The league’s director of officials says his guys made the wrong call but that’s of very little consolation.
ECU then kicked a late field goal to win the game.
ODU coach Bobby Wilder on the sidelines last Saturday at East Carolina.
I can’t imagine a more frustrating way to lose a game. And I still believe Conference USA owes the 70 ODU players who traveled to Greenville, N.C., an apology.
So now you’re 1-4 and are headed to Boca Raton, Fla., where you take on Florida Atlantic University, the defending Conference USA champion. You’re a 15-point underdog and ESPN gives you a 19.1 percent chance of winning.
Going to a bowl game will be a difficult, uphill slog, even if you upset the Owls.
So do you give up and just pack it in? At this point, many teams would.
I don’t think this team will do that. The Monarchs showed amazing resilience to come back from an 0-3 start and upset Virginia Tech. Imagine the guts it took to come back from a loss at Charlotte and score 49 points on a Bud Foster defense.
My advice is to the Monarchs is to go into the game with the same attitude you did against Tech. It's an old cliche to say take one game at a time. But in this case, don’t think about the rest of the season. Just think about FAU, and how the Owls embarrassed you last season at home, 58-28.
Get a little angry about how the deck was stacked against you last week. Think about how winning would put your season back on track.
There’s still a lot of football to play – this game marks the halfway point in the season – and a lot to play for.
To Win, ODU must slow tailback Devin Singletary
As for keys to this game, there’s only one for ODU – stopping FAU’s Devin Singletary. He’s one of the nation’s best running backs, and he went off last year against ODU, rushing 26 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s averaging 91.1 yards per game and leads the league in scoring with 12 touchdowns for 72 points.
“We had something like 36 missed tackles, and most of them came against Singletary,” Wilder said.
FAU has lost to nationally ranked Oklahoma and Central Florida, and that skews the Owls’ stats a bit. But they also lost their first C-USA game since 2016 when Middle Tennessee converted a two-point conversion with 38 seconds left to claim at 25-24 victory last week in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
FAU (2-3) will be playing with desperation, just like ODU. Another loss likely knocks them out to C-USA championship contention and leaves them also struggling to go to a bowl.
The key for ODU will be its defense, which has played pretty poorly most of the season. The Monarchs are last Conference USA in total defense, allowing 509 yards per game and 26.4 first downs.
FAU’s defense is only slightly better at 459.2, but then, those stats were skewed by road games at UCF and Wisconsin.
FAU’s offense has struggled in part because of inconsistent play at quarterback. This team is very good, but not unbeatable.
FAU Stadium isn’t a particularly difficult place to play, given that the Owls don’t draw that well.
And interesting fact pointed out by my colleague Eric Bohannon: ODU is 2-0 at FAU Stadium.
Lane Kiffin Also Has a Beef With Conference USA refs
FAU coach Lane Kiffin told the Palm Beach Post that he “felt the pain” that Wilder did over what he called “an officiating disaster” in ODU’s game against ECU.
Days after FAU lost to Middle, Kiffin took some shots at the officiating crew that worked his game. There were a lot of controversial calls that went against the Owls, and after reviewing them on film, Kiffin said he protested to league officials.
“It’s unfortunate when, just as coaches have bad games, when officials have bad games,” Kiffin said. “It’s a shame.”
As for Davila’s INT, Kiffin said: “What’s the point of replay if you still get it wrong?”
Wilder will talk to the refs
Wilder says he’s going to talk to the refs before the FAU game, but won’t say a word about Davila.
He says because wide receiver Jonathan Duhart has emerged as the league’s most dangerous receiver (he averages 6.8 receptions for 121.2 yards per game), defensive players have been more aggressive with him.
“They’ve been holding him up at the line,” Wilder said. “Most of the defensive backs are shorter than (the 6-foot-3) Duhart, so they know their best chance is to jam him at the line.
“You can be sure I’ll be talking to them about this before the game and asking them to watch.”
Take good look at FAU Stadium
If you watch ODU-FAU on TV (it’s on Stadium TV, a streaming service, and Facebook), take a good look at FAU Stadium. It is the model for the renovated Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium that will debut in 2019.
If you happen to go to the game, enjoy the surroundings because you’ll have the same type of amenities next season in Norfolk.
The footprint at ODU is smaller, so the stadiums won’t look exactly alike. If ODU could fit FAU Stadium onto the Foreman Field site, officials would love to. But the seats, the stands, the rest rooms and everything else will look much like the new stadium at ODU
You can actually try out those seats on Oct. 13, when ODU hosts Marshall. Mockups of the bleacher and chairback seats in the new stadium are Ballard Stadium between the Atlantic Bay Gameday Building and the stadium's east side (facing Hampton Boulevard).
Give them a try. They're a lot roomier and more comfortable seats than you've experienced for the last ten football seasons.
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