Following a 28-25 loss to No. 16 Coastal Carolina (3-0) last week, UB football (1-2) will head to Norfolk, VA to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs (1-2) at S.B. Ballard Stadium Saturday night.
Despite back-to-back losses, the Bulls are coming off an encouraging performance against reigning Associated Press Coach of the Year Jeremy Chadwell and the Chanticleers. The Bulls pushed the Chants to the brink and nearly handed them their first regular-season loss since November 2019.
By contrast, Old Dominion fell to the Liberty Flames, 45-17, last week. The Monarchs are looking to pick up their second win of the season after not playing at all last year due to COVID-19.
The Monarchs finished 1-11 in 2019 and subsequently fired head coach Bobby Wilder, who was replaced by former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne in 2020.
The Bulls are 13.5-point favorites heading into Saturday’s matchup. Both clubs are looking to pick up their second victory over the season heading into conference play.
Here’s what to expect from Old Dominion Saturday night:
Coach: Ricky Rahne, 1-2, second season at Old Dominion
The Monarchs didn’t play football in 2020, so there isn’t anything to analyze from last season.
Linguist says the coaching staff isn’t focusing as much on the 2019 film as they are this season’s film, as roster turnover and a new coaching staff mean a new look for the Monarchs.
“There is a little bit of a sample size there,” Linguist said at a press conference Tuesday at the Murchie Family Fieldhouse. “You’re not going back and watching like we traditionally would have [for] a full season and where they are up to this point, so maybe you don’t have the 15 or 16 games on somebody as a sample size. But we really go back to the same approach, evaluate their personnel, where are their strengths and where are areas that we feel like we can maybe take advantage of?”
ODU has a number of returning players from its 2019 squad on this year’s team.
Redshirt sophomores Isaiah Spencer and Nigel Fitzgerald return as receiving targets while senior Stone Smartt adds some depth on the outside after making the switch from quarterback to wide receiver during the offseason.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Jordan Young and senior safeties Joe Joe Heading and Harrell Blackmon return as playmakers for the Monarchs.
ODU was near the bottom in the FBS in scoring at 16.2 points per game in 2019, while defensively, they allowed 29.8 points per game that season.
A team that finished 1-11 two years ago, Old Dominion is hoping to make a significant jump in 2021.
With a 1-2 record this season, the Monarchs have faced two superior opponents and one FCS team this season.
ODU dropped games to Wake Forest and Liberty by a combined 60 points but defeated FCS foe Hampton by 40 points in Week Two.
Junior quarterback D.J. Mack has led the Monarchs to mixed results this season, throwing for 335 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Wolff has also seen time under center and has thrown for 140 yards and one touchdown.
Redshirt sophomore running back Elijah Davis and freshman running back Jon-Luke Peaker have split carries for ODU, with Davis rushing for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
Old Dominion has found success with its tight ends in short-yardage situations, as Spencer and redshirt sophomore tight end Zack Kuntz have combined for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
The Monarchs are giving up 31.3 points per game on defense this season, with Young leading the team with 20 tackles.
Junior linebacker Ryan Henry and redshirt junior cornerback Tre Hawkins III are both second on the team with 17 tackles while freshman defensive ends Deeve Harris and Amorie Morrison have combined for five sacks.
The Monarchs are a team looking to build a foundation for the future. But after struggling in 2019 and not playing in 2020, the Virginia school has plenty of ground to make up.
With UB stunningly tied for the top spot in the MAC East with a 1-2 record, the conference is wide open.
A win on the road would establish the Bulls as one of the best teams in the conference and provide some momentum heading into MAC play.
Both teams are coming off losses to superior teams, but UB is the better club in this instance.
The Bulls should walk out of S.B. Ballard Stadium with a win Saturday night and should advance to 2-2 on the season.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.