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Opponent Preview - Old Dominion

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The Pack will travel to Old Dominion in week three for some reason

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Schedule & Results

Hampton W 41-28
@ NC State L 34-46
Eastern Michigan W 17-3
@ Rice W 45-42
Middle Tennessee L 28-41
Marshall L 14-56
@ UTEP L 35-42
@ Western Kentucky L 51-66
@ Vanderbilt L 28-42
FIU W 38-35
Louisiana Tech W 30-27
@ FAU W 31-28

Overview

Could somebody please explain to me why it was a good idea to go to Old Dominion? I don’t understand it, but whatever, on with the preview.

Old Dominion’s long term outlook as a football program is actually pretty darn good. It would be hard to argue against their first season as an FBS member being a success. The Monarchs were .500 in conference and overall, and ended the season on a three game winning streak. They will look to continue the path they are on in 2015, and hopefully qualify for a bowl game in their first year of eligibility.

All programs must replace great players, and the Monarchs of Old Dominion will face that challenge this year at the quarterback spot. Four year starter and greatest player in Old Dominion history Taylor Heinicke graduated as a Walter Payton Award winner and thrower of nearly 15,000 yards in his career. He was the face of the program, and when people thought of Old Dominion Football, they thought of Heinicke. That will be impossible for ODU to replace, but they are setup well to replace a large chunk of the production Heinicke was responsible for. Redshirt Freshman Shuler Bentley will most likely be the signal caller that the Pack will see in week three. Much like Heinicke in college, Bentley was a touchdown throwing machine in high school, breaking the South Carolina state record his senior year with seventy-one touchdown passes. A lot of the weapons that ODU used to gash the Pack’s defense last year in Raleigh are back for the 2015 campaign. Ray Lawry, the running back that scored three times and broke approximately eighty million tackles in Raleigh last year, will be the main ball carrier for Bobby Wilder’s Monarchs. Last year’s C-USA freshman of the year is joined by youthful backs Vincent Lowe and Jeremy Cox in a backfield that has some real potential. If State wants to avoid another embarrassing defensive performance against the Monarchs this year, they will need to do a better job tackling these backs.  Shuler Bentley will also have almost the entire receiving corps form last year to throw to. Zach Pascal, David Washington, Melvin Vaughn, and Marquise Little will make up the starting lineup of ODU’s four wideout set. All four were significant contributors last season. Leading receiver Antonio Vaughn graduated, but he was the only notable loss and shouldn’t be a huge problem to replace. Other than All-C-USA center Josh Mann departing, the offensive line also returns most everyone and should have plenty of depth. The outlook for the Monarchs offense is surprisingly good despite the loss of the great Heinicke.

Old Dominion had a ton of success against the Pack’s defense last season, but State also had its way against an ODU defense that struggled to stop pretty much everyone. Aside from the 17-3 win against Eastern Michigan, the Monarchs failed to hold even one single team under twenty-seven points, while giving up more than 450 yards per game. The defense was young, and should improve in 2015, but will likely still have its struggles. Poncho Barwell, Aquante Thorton, and Fellonte Misher are all players that I wanted to put in this preview because their names are awesome. Barwell was the sack leader last season and is back to anchor the defensive line from the end spot. Barwell is the only senior on a line that should have multiple freshman in the rotation though. Junior College transfer Shadow Williams should help the linebackers, as he teams up with junior TJ Ricks and senior Martez Simpson in an effort to replace last year’s leading tackler D.J. Simon. Fellonte Misher is the lone returning starter in the secondary, but they have some decent young prospects like C-USA All-Freshman Christian Byrum. They will definitely need to see the thirty-eight points per game number decrease this year if they want to see an improvement in record. It is noteworthy that the defense held the last three teams they played to under that thirty-eight number, and won all three games.

The Pack’s defense is obviously better now than they were week two last year. If they can tackle well and stifle the ODU offense, they should be able to take care of business. If not, then Wolfpack Nation might be sweating this one out again.

Previous weeks:

Eastern Kentucky

Troy