Sep 2, 2022; Norfolk, Virginia, USA;  Virginia Tech Hokies running back Jalen Holston (0) runs the ball during the second quarter against Old Dominion Monarchs defensive tackle Denzel Lowry (45) at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion stuns Virginia Tech with last-minute TD

Stifled all night by the Virginia Tech defense, Old Dominion quarterback Hayden Wolff directed a late touchdown drive as the Monarchs upset the Hokies 20-17 Friday night in Norfolk, Va.

Blake Watson scored on a 1-yard plunge with 33 seconds left as Old Dominion stunned Virginia Tech for the second time at home in the last four years. The Monarchs also ruined the head coaching debut of the Hokies’ Brent Pry, formerly the defensive coordinator at Penn State.

Mistakes haunted Virginia Tech (0-1) throughout as quarterback Grant Wells threw four interceptions. Old Dominion’s other touchdown came on the return of a recovered fumble. The Hokies committed 15 penalties that accounted for 121 yards.

Keshawn King rushed 19 times for 111 yards to lead Virginia Tech. King also scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Wells to give the Hokies a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.

Old Dominion answered with the game’s final 10 points. A costly pass-interference call on a fourth-down play set up a 20-yard field goal by Ethan Sanchez that cut the deficit to 17-13.

Virginia Tech had a chance to wrap it up late, driving into Old Dominion territory, but Ryan Henry picked off a Wells pass with 2:58 left, giving the Monarchs possession at their own 26.

From there, Wolff directed the game-winning drive. He finished 14 of 35 for 165 yards. Ali Jennings III caught five passes for 122 yards.

Jennings had a key 24-yard reception to trigger the winning drive. Then, his 38-yard reception to the 1-yard line set up the game-winning score.

Wells completed 21 of 36 passes for 197 yards and one TD. The transfer from Marshall also scored the game’s first touchdown on an 18-yard run.

The Monarchs’ lone touchdown in the first half came when a Hokies field-goal attempt went awry. A high snap from center sent the ball downfield, triggering a scramble. Robert Kennedy III eventually scooped the ball on the run and scored on a 25-yard return to give Old Dominion a 10-7 lead.

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2022; Charlotte, NC, USA;  Virginia Tech Head Coach Brent Pry talks to the media during the second day of ACC Media Days at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

New coach Brent Pry leads Virginia Tech into Old Dominion

Virginia Tech travels to underdog Old Dominion on Friday night in a battle of teams entering new eras.

While it will be the debut of Tech’s new head coach Brent Pry, who replaces Justin Fuente after six seasons, ODU will play for the first time as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

It also will be a matchup of head coaches who know each other well. Pry, 52, and Ricky Rahne, 41, served under James Franklin at both Vanderbilt and Penn State, where they were dueling coordinators.

Rahne arrived at ODU in 2020. The school was one of just three in the FBS to cancel the season because of the pandemic. Last year after a 1-5 start, ODU rallied to finish the regular season with five wins in six games to capture a berth in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

With 17 starters back, including 10 on offense, and an injection of transfers from Power 5 schools, the Monarchs could surprise despite being picked to finish last in the Sun Belt East after leaving Conference USA.

Pocket passer Hayden Wolff returns at quarterback, backed up by Notre Dame transfer D.J. Mack, who provides a running threat. They will look to a potent receiving duo in tight end Zack Kuntz and wideout Ali Jennings, who combined for 135 catches and 1,758 yards last fall.

“They present problems,” Pry said. “They got a talented offense and they’ve got a quarterback who can throw the ball.”

The cast left over from Tech’s 6-7 team is sparse. The defense could be solid with an experienced secondary and productive linebackers Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale, who have started a combined 55 games.

Marshall transfer Grant Wells, who threw for 34 touchdowns and 22 interceptions the last two seasons, gives Tech a downfield threat. Explosive Malachi Thomas takes over at running back.

“I have a decent idea of what Tech’s going to do because I know what Brent believes in,” Rahne said.

Tech leads the series 2-1, with ODU posting one of its most memorable wins in its short history, 49-35, in Norfolk in 2018.

–Field Level Media

Old Dominion head football coach Ricky Rahne on the sidelines during the game against MTSU on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

20 Mtsu Vold Dominion Football

Report: ODU coach Ricky Rahne agrees to extension

Old Dominion coach Ricky Rahne agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2026, ESPN reported Monday.

Rahne, 41, led the Monarchs to a 6-7 finish and the second bowl berth in program history last season.

Old Dominion started 1-5 before winning five straight games to earn a trip to the Myrtle Beach Bowl, where it lost 30-17 to Tulsa.

Rahne was hired in December 2019 after two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Penn State. ODU canceled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; UAB Blazers players celebrate after defeating the Marshall Thundering Herd for the Conference USA Championship at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Sun Belt-bound schools reach deal with C-USA

Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss have reached a separation agreement with Conference USA to depart for the Sun Belt this year, ESPN reported Tuesday.

The reported deal comes more than a month after C-USA threatened legal action against the schools for failing to give 14 months’ notice before leaving the conference, per league bylaws. The conference filed for arbitration, with the three schools filing for temporary injunctions against arbitration.

The three schools are on the Sun Belt football schedule for 2022. Meanwhile, C-USA will play with 11 members in 2022 and is expected to release a new schedule soon; the three schools were on C-USA’s schedule for 2022, as well.

C-USA’s football schedule had included 14 schools split into divisions of seven. The East Division is losing Marshall and Old Dominion, and the West is losing Southern Miss.

Six other current C-USA institutions — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — will eventually join the American Athletic Conference, but have not expressed intention to make the move in 2022.

Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston will eventually join C-USA.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Sheldon Evans (5) runs the ball and shakes a tackle from Old Dominion Monarchs safety R'Tarriun Johnson (21) during the second quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

C-USA threatens legal action to keep 3 members from leaving early

Conference USA released its 2022 football schedule on Monday, a matrix that included Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion even though the three institutions announced Friday their intention of leaving the conference this summer.

The trio reached an agreement to join the Sun Belt Conference before July 1, 2023. They issued nearly identical statements Friday claiming that C-USA had shown an “unwillingness” to negotiate an earlier exit.

The conference fired back Monday.

“Conference USA intends to conduct the 2022-23 athletic year with the full 14 institution membership intact,” the conference said in a statement. “The C-USA Board of Directors will exhaust all necessary legal actions to ensure all members meet their contractual obligations as defined by and agreed to in the Conference USA Bylaws.”

Marshall interim athletic director Jeff O’Malley tweeted Monday that his department stood by its previous statement despite C-USA including the Thundering Herd on its football schedule.

C-USA’s football schedule includes 14 schools split into divisions of seven. It would be down to 11 teams should the trio depart early, with the West Division losing Marshall and Old Dominion and the East losing Southern Miss.

Six other current member institutions — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — will eventually join the American Athletic Conference, but have not expressed intention to make the move in 2022. Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston will eventually join C-USA.

Sports Illustrated reported that the Sun Belt also had crafted its yet-to-be-released 2022 football schedule with Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion included.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd defensive back Micah Abraham (6) breaks up a pass intended for Old Dominion Monarchs quarterback Stone Smartt (4) during the third quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss, Marshall, ODU to leave C-USA in June

Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion confirmed Friday they are leaving Conference USA at the conclusion of this academic year.

The schools issued nearly identical statements, alluding to a stalemate with C-USA over an exit plan. The three said their conference membership will end effective June 30.

Each school had an agreement to join the Sun Belt Conference before July 1, 2023. Their announcements did not indicate whether their membership will begin with the 2022-23 academic year.

“The University first advised Conference USA in early December 2021 of the University’s plans to terminate its membership in June 2022. Since then, the University has clearly and consistently repeated its intentions to the conference,” read the statement from Southern Miss. “The University has from the outset expressed its desire to work with Conference USA to achieve an amicable separation, including offering to cooperate to ensure that all remaining conference members had complete competitive schedules for those sports in which the University competes. Conference USA has so far refused to discuss any such arrangement with the University.

“The Conference’s unwillingness to discuss the concept of separation this year creates confusion and doubt for all concerned. The remaining members of Conference USA deserve certainty about their schedules as they plan for competition next year. For their sake, the University makes public its intent.”

The Sun Belt will have 16 member schools with the three additions. James Madison also is entering the league, which also will consist of Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Little Rock, Louisiana, UL-Monroe, South Alabama, UTSA, Texas State and Troy.

Conference USA remains in flux. Also departing are Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA, which are heading to the American Athletic Conference. Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston are set to join.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3) is tackled by Old Dominion Monarchs safety Terry Jones during (13) in the 2021 Myrtle Beach Bowl at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa storms past Old Dominion to win Myrtle Beach Bowl

Davis Brin passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns to help Tulsa post a solid 30-17 victory over Old Dominion on Monday afternoon in the Myrtle Beach Bowl at Conway, S.C.

Josh Johnson caught eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown as the Golden Hurricane (7-6) won their fourth consecutive game. Shamari Brooks rushed for 107 yards and a score on 26 carries to move into second place in school history with 3,729 yards, passing Tarrion Adams (3,651 yards from 2005-08).

Ethan Hall also caught a touchdown pass and Zack Long booted three field goals for Tulsa, which outgained Old Dominion 529 to 247 while controlling the contest. The Golden Hurricane had a huge edge in plays (99 to 47) and first downs (35 to 10) while controlling the ball for 39 minutes, 43 seconds.

LaMareon James returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for the first of Old Dominion’s two touchdowns. Hayden Wolff completed 19 of 28 passes for 176 yards and one interception and Blake Watson rushed for 77 yards and a score for the Monarchs (6-7), who had a five-game winning streak halted.

James supplied electricity at the outset by navigating his way down the field for his second kickoff return of the season.

But the Golden Hurricane needed just 1:42 to answer and Brooks capped the seven-play, 74-yard drive by scoring from the 1.

Tulsa moved ahead 14-7 later in the quarter as Brin (22-of-34 passing) tossed a 23-yard scoring pass to Johnson with 4:47 to go.

Old Dominion’s Nick Rice kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:50 left in the second quarter, but Long countered with a 35-yarder with nine seconds remaining to give the Golden Hurricane a 17-10 halftime lead.

Long added field goals of 25 and 32 yards in the third quarter to boost Tulsa’s advantage to 23-10.

The Monarchs threatened early in the fourth quarter as Wolff connected with Ali Jennings III for 30 yards. But Tulsa’s Tyon Davis punched the ball out of Jennings’ grasp inside the 5-yard line, and it rolled into the end zone and out the right side for a touchback.

The Golden Hurricane responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that increased their lead to 30-10. Brin capped it with a 4-yard toss to Hall with 9:04 left in the contest.

Watson scored on a 2-yard run to pull Old Dominion within 13 with 7:15 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys won 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Resilient ODU, Tulsa meet in Myrtle Beach Bowl

When Old Dominion was wallowing with a 1-6 record in mid-October, losing eight or more games seemed much more likely than securing a bowl berth.

But the Monarchs stunningly turned their season around with five straight wins, and their reward is a date with Tulsa on Monday in the Myrtle Beach Bowl in Conway, S.C.

Things looked bleak when Old Dominion was routed 43-20 by Western Kentucky on Oct. 16. But the Monarchs of Conference USA won three games by 14 or more points during their hot streak.

Old Dominion (6-6) now plays in a bowl game for the second time since becoming an FBS program in 2013. The first was a 24-20 win over Eastern Michigan in the 2016 Bahamas Bowl.

“I love our story. I love this season. It’s the most fun season I’ve ever been a part of,” Monarchs coach Ricky Rahne said. “The kids never changed, never blinked. They believed in our coaching staff; our coaching staff believed.”

The Golden Hurricane (6-6) also finished strong to land a bowl berth, winning their last three games by a cumulative 98-54.

Tulsa played a tough schedule that includes road losses to three teams that were in College Football Playoff contention — Cincinnati, Ohio State and Oklahoma State. In the second game of the season, the Golden Hurricane led the Cowboys in the fourth quarter before falling 28-23 in Stillwater.

Tulsa was 1-4 after it was steamrolled 45-10 by Houston on Oct. 1. More than a month later, the 28-20 loss to CFP-bound Cincinnati left the Golden Hurricane with a 3-6 mark — but they rattled off wins over fellow American Athletic Conference foes Tulane, Temple and SMU to earn the bowl invitation.

“We take it one game at a time, and every game that we get to play with each other is something big,” said Tulsa receiver Josh Johnson, who has 75 receptions for 985 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3,622 career yards) needs 30 yards to surpass Tarrion Adams (2005-08) and move into second place in school history.

The defense is led by defensive tackle Jaxon Player, who has 13.5 tackles for loss.

“We worked all year to get here, so why not go out with a bang?” Player said. “We’ve been through a long season. Going 6-6 is rough, but we made it here. I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

The Golden Hurricane, who are 10-12 in bowl games, will try to slow down a trio of strong Old Dominion offensive players.

Running back Blake Watson (1,035 rushing yards) topped 100 on the ground six times, Zack Kuntz (71 catches for 674 yards and five scores) ranks second nationally in catches by a tight end, and receiver Ali Jennings III is eight yards shy of reaching 1,000.

Linebacker Jordan Young has a team-high 83 tackles for the Monarchs, who are now bullish on their abilities.

“We grew in some confidence, I would say,” Rahne said of the late-season stretch. “But in terms of our toughness and ability to compete, no, this team has shown me that from Day 1.”

–Field Level Media

Jul 22, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson speaks to the media during the ACC Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Hartman tosses 3 TDs as Wake Forest defeats Old Dominion

Sam Hartman passed for 184 yards and three touchdowns and Ja’Sir Taylor scored on a 99-yard kickoff return as Wake Forest overwhelmed visiting Old Dominion 42-10 on Friday in the season opener for both teams in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Christian Beal-Smith rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns for Wake Forest (1-0), which opened the season with a win for the sixth time in the past seven years.

Old Dominion, which plays in Conference USA, played its first game since losing its final contest of the 2019 campaign to Charlotte on Nov. 30, 2019, a span of 643 days, after opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19.

Quarterback D.J Mack, a transfer from UCF making his first start for the Monarchs, connected on just 7 of 21 throws for 39 yards with two interceptions as Old Dominion struggled to move the ball consistently. Elijah Davis led the Monarchs’ rushing attack with 69 yards on 12 carries.

Wake Forest took the lead on a 48-yard TD run around left end by Beal-Smith at the 8:57 mark of the first quarter. Old Dominion answered with a 38-yard field goal by Nick Rice at the end of a six-play, 35-yard drive with 28 seconds to play in the quarter.

The Demon Deacons struck again via a 99-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff return by Taylor to push their advantage to 14-3.

The second quarter belonged to Wake. Hartman added to the lead with a 36-yard TD pass to A.T. Perry three minutes into the quarter and then a 2-yard scoring strike to Jaquarii Roberson with 2:45 to play in the half.

Things could have been even worse for the Monarchs (0-1), but they stonewalled Beal-Smith short of the goal line on a 4th-and-1 run on the final snap of the half.

Beal-Smith scored his second TD on a 1-yard plunge with 8:44 to play in the third quarter. Hartman then hit Ke’Shawn Williams with a 4-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth on his final snap of the game.

Old Dominion backup quarterback Hayden Wolff connected with Isaiah Spencer on a 9-yard TD pass with 2:27 to play to cap the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Sep 21, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Old Dominion Monarchs quarterback Stone Smartt (4) scrambles from Virginia Cavaliers defensive tackle Aaron Faumui (94) in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion breaks with C-USA, calls off football season

Old Dominion canceled its fall athletic season on Monday, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

“We concluded that the season — including travel and competition — posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” President John R. Broderick said in a university statement. “I know many on and off campus will be disappointed, but we must prioritize the health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our coaches, staff and fans.”

Old Dominion’s football team becomes the 14th FBS program to announce it won’t play this fall, joining Connecticut and the 12 members of the Mid-American Conference.

The Monarchs are a member of Conference USA, which on Friday announced its board of directors approved a football schedule as well as return-to-play protocols. The first conference game is set for Sept. 12, and schools were given the option to add as many as four nonleague games.

Old Dominion was scheduled to open the season Sept. 4 at Wake Forest.

Conference USA officials didn’t immediately comment Monday on Old Dominion’s move.

But Old Dominion is opting out.

“This is just the right thing to do for everyone involved,” athletic director Wood Selig said. “After making this decision, I already feel a sense of relief.

“We’re not like the NBA. We can’t put our athletes and coaches and fans in a bubble, and we don’t have unlimited resources.”

Selig said he hopes fall sports can be played in the spring, “but first and foremost it has to be safe for everyone involved and would also require NCAA approval.”

First-year football coach Ricky Rahne said he accepts the cancellation of the season.

“My heart aches for our student-athletes,” Rahne said in a statement posted to Twitter. “From the moment our staff was hired, this group of players has been fully invested. I know how diligent each of them has worked in order to have a successful fall season. However, their health and safety is at the utmost importance, and I support the decision.”

He continued: “I am eager to continue to provide an atmosphere of development and a positive student-athlete experience for each of our players.”

The 40-year-old Rahne, most recently Penn State’s offensive coordinator, replaced Bobby Wilder, who resigned in December following a 1-11 season.

–Field Level Media