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Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

How easy will it be for football to topple the Monarchs?

A look at Old Dominion, Wake Forest’s Week 3 opponent
Will Zimmerman
Wake Forest takes on Old Dominion in September 2021. In that matchup, the Demon Deacons defeated the Monarchs 42-10.

Yes, reader, your Wake Forest Demon Deacons travel to Norfolk, Va., this Saturday to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs at S.B. Ballard Stadium at noon. The Demon Deacons look to continue their momentum against a middling Sun Belt squad that has shown in the past, it can beat ACC peer programs. Trap game? Maybe. Let’s take a look.

The Old Dominion Monarchs at a Glance

The Monarchs sit at a passable 1-1, with a 36-17 loss in their opener to Virginia Tech and a 38-31 win against Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 2. The Monarchs now look to defend their home turf and upset 2-0 Wake Forest. 

Old Dominion is led by third-year head coach Ricky Rahne, who landed the job in 2020 after several years as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Penn State. Rahne’s best season was his first actual season in 2021 (Old Dominion canceled their 2020 season due to COVID), where the Monarchs went 6-7 and earned a Myrtle Beach Bowl berth. Included in that 2021 season was a 42-10 blowout at the hands of yours truly, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. However, Old Dominion followed up their 2021 season with a 3-9 record in 2022, though they did notch a surprising upset over Virginia Tech and beat down a good Coastal Carolina University squad. Rahne’s seat is slightly warm, but not too hot considering Old Dominion is a difficult job.

In the booth for the Monarchs are coordinators Kevin Decker and Blake Seiler. Decker is in his first year as Old Dominion’s offensive coordinator. Last year, he was the OC at Fordham, where his offense posted video game-like numbers. The ridiculous 609 yards-per-game and 49.5 points per game led the FCS and stacked up as the second-best offense in FCS history. 

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Seiler enters his fourth year in Norfolk. His defenses thrive in the redzone and rushing the passer, where they are 12th-best and 32nd-best in the country, respectively. Seiler likes to get aggressive, blitzing defenders from every which way he can.

It all starts up front for the Monarchs, with Fordham transfer quarterback Grant Wilson. The Old Dominion signal caller has posted a season statline of 26-44 (59%) on passing attempts, 341 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6:1, as well as a 69.2 QBR, which places him at 42nd in the country. 

However, looking at the game log, there is a huge disparity in performance between the levels of competition he’s faced this year. In the opener in Blacksburg, Wilson completed just 13 of his 25 passes for a measly 94 yards, two touchdown passes and an interception. Wilson was also sacked a whopping five times. Wilson had a day against Louisiana-Lafayette in week two, throwing four 30-plus yard touchdown passes, completing 13 of19 passing attempts — good for 247 yards — to go with a rushing touchdown. So, with Wake Forest’s more talented squad (Wake Forest ranks 70th in terms of team talent according to 247 Sports, Louisiana-Lafayette ranks 96th, while Old Dominion sits at 122), it should be more difficult for Wilson to repeat his week two performance.

Joining Wilson in the backfield is junior running back Keshawn Wicks, who has put up 176 rushing yards on 31 carries, a more than respectable average of 5.7 yards per carry. Wicks has no rushing touchdowns. The only Old Dominion rushing score has come from a Wilson three-yard scamper against ULL. Backing up Wicks is Obie Sanni, with 15 carries for 51 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per carry.

The Monarchs’ receiving core has been far more productive on the contrary. Five different Old Dominion receivers have caught a touchdown. The statistical leader in the group is sophomore Reymello Murphy. Murphy had a quiet night at Virginia Tech but proved to be a threat against the Ragin’ Cajuns, grabbing two receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. A receiver with a higher volume of receptions is slot receiver Isiah Paige, who has 51 yards off of five catches but no touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Monarchs have given up 33.5 points per game, putting them in the bottom 20 of all FBS college football teams. They also allow 413 yards per game, again placing them in the cellar of defenses. Most of the damage came through the air, with 274 passing yards per game thrown against the Monarchs. Their run defense is more middle of the pack, allowing 141 rushing yards per game. Also of note, the Monarchs have yet to record a single takeaway this year.

Get ready to hear Jason Henderson’s name. The junior linebacker and leader of the Old Dominion defense ranks tied for fourth in the country in terms of total tackles with a whopping 28 tackles through two weeks — an extremely productive number. In fact, Henderson led the entire country last year with an incredible 179 total tackles, landing All-Sun Belt and third team All-American honors last year.

Keys to the Game

  • Get pressure on Grant Wilson. 

The junior quarterback can be lethal if given time to throw, as shown by his four-passing -touchdown performance last week against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Monarchs run a lot of play-action deep shots that take time to develop, so getting a continuous pass rush through the day should limit the damage done on long throws to Old Dominion playmakers like Reymello Murphy. Virginia Tech racked up five sacks on Wilson in week one, and as a result, the Old Dominion passing attack was severely limited.

  • Get the ground game going.

Against Elon, the Demon Deacons rushing attack failed to even register 100 yards. While Wake Forest scored 37 points, the offensive performance seemed lackadaisical. The offense completely flipped the script against Vanderbilt, rumbling for 288 rushing yards, powered by great days from Demond Claiborne and Tate Carney. The devastating run game pulled Vanderbilt’s linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage, and allowed passes over the top. Furthermore, offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero’s slow mesh scheme needs a respected run game to open up deep shots on post routes and go routes. A gashing run game should open up the rest of the offense for Mitch Griffis to attack the Monarch’s porous defense.

Final Prediction

Wake Forest starts a little slow, but leads 20-10 at half. In the second half, a stout defensive performance and an offensive explosion lift the Demon Deacons to a 44-17 win. Receivers Jahmal Banks and Ke’shawn Williams should have big days, and Malik Mustapha will register another interception to make it a good day for both the offense and defense.2

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  • K

    KatinkaSep 20, 2023 at 2:04 pm

    Great article