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Old Dominion needs signs of life from its passing game to challenge NC State

Could happen. Not super likely, but could happen.

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion’s transition to FBS started well enough thanks to the presence of an experienced and talented quarterback, but two years after he graduated, the Monarchs are still looking for a reliable replacement. ODU went 8-4 as an independent in 2013, slipping to 6-6 as a C-USA member in 2014, and then to 5-7 last year.

The Monarchs return a lot of experience off of that 2015 squad—which NC State beat 38-14—but it remains to be seen if that will help them solve any of that team’s problems. Their start to 2016 does not lend one to optimism

Ye Olde Dominion S&P+ national rank Yds/Play
(national rank)
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 Offense 109 5.3 (90) 4.5 (53) 6.1 (107)
2015 Defense 108 5.7 (75) 4.7 (91) 7.0 (64)

ODU was competent in a few respects on a raw per-play basis, but the advanced metrics, which are schedule-adjusted, were exceedingly unimpressed. With good reason: against teams with a winning record, Old Dominion averaged 4.1 yards per play while allowing 6.4. That is not the ratio of a competitive team.

The concerns about a repeat in 2016 so far are without a rebuttal; the Monarchs breezed past FCS Howard in their opener but got handled 31-7 by a bowl-caliber App State team the following week.

In the loss, quarterback David Washington was 16-34 for 153 yards passing with one interception. Suffice it to say that Washington, who spent most of 2015 behind then-freshman Shuler Bentley, didn’t pass his first test.

If last year’s game between NC State and Old Dominion is an indicator, ODU is going to have to move the ball effectively through the air to have a shot. Yes, the Monarchs have an excellent running back in Ray Lawry, but he managed only 15 yards on 11 carries against the Pack, while the team finished with -3 rushing yards. Lawry finished 2015 with 1,136 rushing yards.

Old Dominion managed only 148 total yards against State, with nearly half of that coming on one long TD.

Washington has an experienced receiving corps around him, including go-to guy Zach Pascal, who fell just shy of 1,000 yards receiving last season. If there’s optimism for ODU’s passing game in 2016, it’s here, though obviously a lot will depend on the maturation of the quarterbacks.

If Washington or Bentley can’t begin to figure things out this season, another losing record is in the Monarchs’ future.