Old Dominion falls in season opener at Wake Forest, 42-10
Old Dominion had not played a football game in 643 days and although the Monarchs at times showed flashes of potential, they also showed the effects of the long layoff.
The game marked the head coaching debut of Ricky Rahne, the former Penn State offensive coordinator, who inherited one of the nation’s most inexperienced teams. Nearly half of ODU’s roster is composed of newcomers, and the inexperience showed with a number of unforced errors.
Wake Forest (1-0), meanwhile, is one of the nation’s most veteran teams. The Demon Deacons have played in bowl games the last five seasons and returned 20 of 22 starters from the team that defeated Virginia and Virginia Tech last season.
Norfolk native and Central Florida transfer D.J. Mack Jr. started at quarterback, but the Monarchs did not get their passing game in gear when it mattered. Mack completed 7 of 21 passes before going to the bench early in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt freshman Hayden Wolff took over for Mack, and led the Monarchs on their only touchdown drive, a 55-yard possession capped off by a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Isaiah Spencer with three minutes left.
Wolff completed of 11 of 17 passes for 88 yards, though much of his yardage came against Wake Forest substitutes.
Wake Forest took a 28-3 lead in a first half that was much closer statistically than the score would indicate. The Demon Deacons outgained the Monarchs, 193-130, but took advantage of ODU mistakes, including two interceptions and poor tackling on a kickoff return returned 99 yards for a touchdown, to take the 24-point lead.
ODU drove from its own 25 to the Wake Forest 46 on its second possession, but on fourth down and inches, the Wake Forest line stacked the middle and stopped Blake Watson just short of a first down.
Three plays later, Wake running back Christian Beal-Smith ripped off a 48-yard touchdown run around the left side of ODU’s defense to put the Demon Deacons up, 7-0, six minutes into the game.
ODU’s defense then stepped up, stopping Wake Forest on a fourth-and-one at the ODU 42 when Tre Hawkins III blitzed and caught Justice Ellison for a 2-yard loss.
The Monarchs then drove to the Wake 21, with 31 yards coming on a burst of the middle from Elijah Davis, before being forced to kick a field goal. The Monarchs then scored their first points in 22 months on a 38-yard Nick Rice field goal to trim the Wake lead to 7-3 with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.
That was to be the high water mark for the Monarchs. Two big mistakes over the next three minutes allowed the Demon Deacons to build the lead to 21-3.
Ja’Sir Taylor returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in which ODU’s return team missed tackles.
Then a Mack pass glanced off a receiver’s hand into the hands of Wake’s Traveon Webb at the ODU 47. Four plays later, Sam Hartman passed 36 yards to A.T. Perry for a touchdown and the Demon Deacons led, 21-3, with 12:01 left in the first half.
Wake made it 28-3 when Jaquiri Roberson, the standout wide receiver, made an off-balance, one-handed touchdown reception with 2:45 left.
Wake appeared ready score again when Taylor intercepted a Mack pass and returned it 47 yards to the ODU 7 with 1:09 left.
But ODU’s defense stood firm. On fourth and goal at the half-yard line, when Wake’s Beal-Smith tried to vault over the goal line, he was knocked backward by Monarch freshman Chazz Wallace.
ODU (0-1) plays its first home game in 651 days on Sept. 11 when the Monarchs host Hampton at 7 p.m. at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.