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Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Old Dominion Monarchs

The Monarchs

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the Virginia Cavaliers’ third contest of the 2022 football season, the Old Dominion Monarchs come to Charlottesville for the second time ever for what will be a must-win for the Wahoos as they hope to build towards Coastal Division contention. In its own right, ODU is entering its first season in the Sunbelt Conference with a big step up which should propel the program forward in the long run.

2021 Recap

Record: 6-7

Postseason: Myrtle Beach Bowl, 30-17 loss vs. Tulsa

While a 6-7 record doesn’t scream success, the Monarchs reached bowl eligibility for the first time in five years in 2021. After a completely canceled 2020 campaign, ODU got back on track in 2021 with an inconsistent yet eventually resurgent season.

The Monarchs started the year 1-6 with their lone win coming against Hampton and losses to Wake Forest, Liberty, and Buffalo along with Conference USA opponents UTEP, Marshall, and Western Kentucky University. But, after ODU’s bye week, everything changed for Ricky Rahne’s squad as the Monarchs proceeded to rattle off five straight wins in Conference USA to clinch bowl eligibility.

In 2021 ODU’s two quarterbacks Hayden Wolff and D.J. Mack Jr. both saw snaps early in the season as they rotated back and forth between contests. But it was Wolff’s rise as a passer in the back half of the season that propelled the Monarchs to those five straight wins. On the season he threw for 1,933 yards, 10 touchdowns, and seven interceptions on a 62.8% (159-253) completion rate. Meanwhile, the more frequent runner in Mack Jr. threw for 859 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions on a 51.5% (86-167) completion rate to go with six rushing touchdowns and 154 yards on the ground.

Running back Blake Watson has an impressive 1,112 yard season with eight touchdowns while his backfield teammate Elijah Davis added 562 yards and six scores. The ODU receivers were led by Ali Jennings who caught 62 balls for 1066 yards and five touchdowns while his partner in crime Zach Kuntz brought in 73 receptions, 692 yards, and another five TD’s.

The 2021 Monarch defense held opposing offenses to just 134.2 rushing yards per game and only 12 total rushing touchdowns as the linebackers and defensive line anchored things on that side of the ball. The secondary was less successful as team’s that had good passing attacks gave ODU trouble as the Monarchs’ opponents threw for 250 yards per contest and scored 28 times through the air.

2022 Preview

Key returners: QB Hayden Wolff, RB Blake Watson, WR Ali Jennings, DE Marcus Haynes, CB Tre Hawkins, LB Ryan Henry

Key departures: OC Dave Patenaude, DL Sokoyo McDuffie, LB Jordan Young, C Isaac Weaver, CB Roger Cray

With Wolff returning for his sophomore season, expectations will be raised for the young gunslinger as the ODU offense returns 10 starters from the 2021 season. He’s got plenty of weapons around him and an offensive line that should be capable enough to protect him and establish a good running game with both Watson and Davis back for another season.

Granted, the offense is in a bit of limbo right now as offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude somewhat randomly resigned last week, leaving the team without an OC with the season only a few weeks away.

The ODU defense is more of an unknown. In linebacker Ryan Henry, cornerback Tre Hawkins, and defensive end Marcus Haynes the Monarchs have a few solid guys that can make plays. The question will be how ODU can contain opposing passing attacks both via stronger play from the secondary and/or additional pressure from the pass rush.

Series History

All time record vs. ODU: 1-0

Last meeting: 9/21/19 — 28-17, Virginia

When these two teams kicked off against each other for the first time three years ago, the Monarchs pulled out to an early 10-0 lead before Bryce Perkins and the Wahoo offense got going. On the game, Perkins threw for 175 yards and a score on 15/24 passing along with 1r carries for 35 yards. Wayne Taulapapa added another score on the ground, Joe Reed caught Perkins’ TD pass, and linebacker Zane Zandier came up with a pick-six to pull the ‘Hoos away.