ODU Athletics

Minium: ODU has gotten some tough breaks this season, but defense is the reason Monarchs host Marshall Saturday with a 1-5 record

October 12, 2018
By ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

The Virginian-Pilot’s Ed Miller recently noted that Old Dominion is the nation’s only 1-5 team to have beaten a ranked opponent.

In other words, ODU has the best 1-5 team in the country. And that’s not exactly what the Monarchs want to hang their hats on.

ODU’s sole victory was that unforgettable, 49-35, home triumph over No. 13 Virginia Tech. Yes, the Monarchs played over their heads and with a ton of emotion and the crowd really got them going. But even if they did overperform that evening, it’s difficult to fathom how the same team lost to Charlotte, FIU and East Carolina.

ODU has gotten some bad breaks. Take away one bad call and the Monarchs would have won at ECU. But you can’t blame the football gods for ODU’s 1-5 record. The real culprit here is apparent on the stats sheet.

It’s ODU’s defense.

In spite of having a senior-oriented defense with an All-American end in Oshane Ximines, the Monarchs have surrendered 525 yards per game.

ODU's offense has been humming since quarterback Blake LaRussa came off the bench against Virginia Tech.

Let’s put that in perspective. Out of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, ODU ranks 126th in total defense. ODU also ranks last in Conference USA in rushing, passing and scoring defense.

Coach Bobby Wilder termed his defense’s performance “unacceptable” during his weekly press conference and vowed to get things fixed in practice this week as the Monarchs prepared to host Marshall.

ODU’s offense, meanwhile, has been humming since junior quarterback Blake LaRussa came off the bench against Virginia Tech. LaRussa is fourth in the league in passing at 264 yards per game.

ODU’s offense has played reasonably well. The Monarchs are sixth in conference scoring at 29 points per game. The defense has not.

The second half of the season begins Saturday at home against Marshall (3:30 p.m., Stadium TV), which enters as a 3 ½-point favorite.The Thundering Herd likely will be without starting quarterback Isaiah Green, according to newspaper reports in Huntington, and is 3-2 following a disappointing home loss to Middle Tennessee State.

In other words, this is a winnable game.

The good news for ODU is that four its next six games are at home. Wilder says it seems like the Monarchs have been on the road forever. And indeed, in four of the last six weekends, ODU got on a plane or a bus and headed out of town.

Playing at home – this is ODU’s first home game since the victory over Tech – surely should help.

Conceivably, ODU is still in the race for a bowl bid. The Monarchs must win five of their last six games to go to a bowl.

But I don’t think the Monarchs are looking ahead to the postseason. I suspect all they’re looking for at this point is a victory.

The defense has got to play better for that to happen. We’ll see on Saturday what kind of magic Wilder whipped up in practice.

Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu

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