ODU Athletics

Minium: ODU's Bryan Stinespring is no Longer With Virginia Tech, But is Still Amped to Beat the University of Virginia

September 19, 2019
By ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

Bryan Stinespring grew up in rural Clifton Forge, a small community in the western part of Virginia where the local populace was split, 50-50, every time Virginia and Virginia Tech squared off in football.

He’s seen the rivalry up close for more than four decades – he’s been attending Virginia-Virginia Tech football games since he was 10 years old. And in his 23 seasons as a full-time football coach at Virginia Tech, the Hokies won 19 games.

Stinespring is now coaching at Old Dominion University, which plays its first game against U.Va. at Scott Stadium Saturday night. And although this is Stinespring’s first year on ODU’s staff, he says he wants to win this game as much as he wanted beat U.Va. while with the Hokies.

“This is not a rivalry game for ODU, but it’s a big game for this program,” he said. “Playing a top 20 program on the road is a tremendous opportunity for us.

“And I feel the same intensity that I felt in the previous 23 years of going against them.”

Bryan Stinespring on his first day at work at ODU last winter. 

That’s not because he has an intense dislike for U.Va. He spent a lot of time in Charlottesville as a teenager when he attended James Madison and thinks highly of The University, as U.Va. likes to be known, as well as coach Bronco Mendenhall’s football program.

“But you don’t completely dismiss 26 of the last 29 years of your life,” said Stinespring, who left Tech when head coach Frank Beamer retired in 2015. “Playing the University of Virginia will always be important to me.”

And for the Monarchs.

The game is being televised in prime time by ESPN2. Every recruit that ODU is after will watch the game. A game much closer than the 30-point spread would likely help ODU’s reputation. ODU stunned then 13th-ranked Virginia Tech a year ago, 49-35, in Norfolk. Another similar upset for the second year in a row would again bring ODU reams of national publicity.

It's the first of a three-game series with U.Va. that brings the Cavaliers to Norfolk next season.

Stinespring isn’t alone among the ODU team who’ve played U.Va. before.

Wide receiver Eric Kumah and tight end Chris Cunningham both transferred to ODU from Virginia Tech and as Kumah says, they are unbeaten against the Cavs. Virginia Tech has won the last 15 games in a row against the Cavaliers.

U.Va. was the better team last season, but a streak of major mistakes, including a fumble in overtime, allowed the Hokies to win.

“It’s a little different now that I’m at Old Dominion,” Cunningham said. “Regardless of who we play, it’s still football. And it’s an important game.”

Kumah says ODU can win.

Eric Kumah's clutch grab against Norfolk State allowed the Monarchs to rally past the Spartans. 

“I’ve told everyone on the team that I’ve never lost to them before,” Kumah said. “I want to finish my college career undefeated against them.”

ODU (1-1) had a bye week last week, but played well in a 31-17 loss at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7. 

“Virginia is very good,” Kumah said. “They’ve got good players all around. But if we listen to our coaches and execute like we should, I think we’ll win.”

Asked if ODU is underrated, Kumah said: “We’ve very underestimated. We had a few slips in that Tech game that if we hadn’t made, we’d be undefeated.

“But there’s no room for excuses. Virginia Tech won and we lost. And we need to play much better to win at Virginia.”

ODU matched up pretty well against Virginia Tech, but has some matchup issues against U.Va.

The Cavs’ defensive line is much more seasoned than Tech’s, and ODU will be challenged to block the U.Va. defensive ends.

Quarterback Bryce Perkins has a great throwing arm, but his speed and moves while carrying the football can turn a blown play into a touchdown.

“They’ve got a quarterback who is a difference maker,” Stinespring said. “He really makes their offense go. He is really impactful.

“We have to play better than we did against Virginia Tech. But we approached that game with confidence and played with confidence and that was a great sign.

“After the game, a lot of us felt good about how they handled themselves in that environment. So much written about ODU beating them last season in Norfolk. Tech was ready to play ODU.

“There’s no way you feel good about a loss, but we were proud of the way we played.”

Stinespring has bought into Wilder’s philosophy of “focusing on the process of winning,” which means that as long as you’re working hard and improving each week, the victories will eventually come.

“The way our guys have practiced this week, they are dialed in," Stinespring said. "They’re focused on the process.

"If we do that the rest of the season, this team could win some football games.”

Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu

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