The Deacs are on the road for the first time this season to take on an Old Dominion team that has looked much improved this season. The Monarchs played Virginia Tech tough in their first game and beat Louisiana last week—that win broke a 7-game losing streak that dated back to October 15th, 2022, so ODU could have a little momentum on their hands. Being on the road makes any game tougher, so let’s check out the keys to taking down Old Dominion on their home turf.
The Deep Ball
Last week, it was the deep ball for Wake Forest; this week, it’s stopping the deep ball from Old Dominion. From the small sample of what I have seen from Old Dominion this season, it really seems like the Monarchs are going to do one of two things on every play: run or throw it deep. In their win against Louisiana last week, Fordham transfer Grant Wilson completed 13 passes for 247 yards and 4 touchdowns—those 4 touchdowns were passes of 30 yards, 36 yards, 61 yards, and 37 yards. The biggest threat in the passing attack so far this season has been sophomore Reymello Murphy, who has caught 3 passes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Old Dominion likes to use 4 wide receiver sets that stretch across the entire length of the field, very similar to what Tennessee used last season to help make them the nation’s best offense.
You can see in the formation above, Old Dominion has 2 wide receivers on either side of the ball, lined up all the way outside the numbers. The purpose of that is to stretch the defense across the entire field, giving them a ton of open space to work in and making it more difficult for the safeties to help over the top—that allows the Monarchs to get a lot of 1-on-1 matchups down the field. Like Wake Forest, Old Dominion will play the numbers—if the safeties stay back to help out in coverage, they run the ball. When the safeties start creeping up to help in run support, the Monarchs are looking to hit a home run ball. If the Wake Forest DBs can consistently win 1-on-1 matchups down the field, it will allow the safeties to play up closer to the line and slow down a ground game that ran for over 200 yards against Virginia Tech in the first game of the season. We saw AJ Swann and Vanderbilt hit some really nice deep passes against the secondary last weekend, so it will be interesting to see how the defense responds against the Monarchs.
Old Dominion QB Grant Wilson is not exactly what you would call an elite runner—he’s not going to break many tackles (because he usually slides before anyone can tackle him) nor does he have breakaway speed. What he is, however, is effective. With the defense stretched across the field due to the aforementioned wide splits, the quarterback becomes much more of a weapon in the running game, as there often just aren’t many defenders nearby if he is able to break contain. The Monarchs also use a lot of read option concepts in their running game (to gain yet another numbers advantage on the field), which allows Wilson a lot of running room if the defense is caught cheating on the give. He is currently second on the team in rushing with 84 yards on 25 carries and is responsible for the Monarchs’ only rushing touchdown so far this season.
Against the Hokies, Wilson ran the ball 19 times for 81 yards and extended several drives on third down just by breaking contain and picking up the yards with his legs. The Deacs will want to be sure that they always have someone accounting for Wilson in the run game and that they are disciplined in their rush lanes on pass plays. If Wilson sees open space in front of him, he will take off.
Be prepared for the Tempo
Old Dominion uses an up-tempo offense much like Wake Forest. They don’t always snap the ball immediately, but they line up as quickly as possible after each play. If they catch the defense trying to sub or just not ready to play, they will snap the ball quickly and get a free touchdown. In their two games this season, they have scored at least 2 touchdowns that I have seen by simply snapping the ball while the defense wasn’t paying attention—once against VT and once against Louisiana. Giving away free points by not being ready to play when the other team snaps the ball is not a great way to go about winning games. The Deacs will need to be hyper focused and get the defensive call in quickly after every play.
You may note that all 3 keys pertain to the defense this week. That is because the ODU defense is currently giving up 33 points and 411 yards per game, making them one of the worst in the country so far this season. It’s a small sample size, but I feel like the Deacs should have no trouble scoring points on Saturday.