Only about 160 miles of Interstate 64 separate the schools, but No. 21 Virginia and visiting Old Dominion will meet for the first time on the gridiron Saturday night in Charlottesville, Va.
The Cavaliers (3-0) enjoy their highest perch in the polls since 2007 and are seeking their first 4-0 start since 2004. The Monarchs (1-1) joined the FBS and Conference USA in 2014 and are searching for their first road win against a Power 5 opponent.
This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of ODU’s biggest victory to date, a 49-35 home upset of then-No. 13 Virginia Tech in Norfolk, Va.
The Monarchs are coming off a bye week after putting another scare into the Hokies on Sept. 7. They got within seven points in the fourth quarter before falling 31-17 in Blacksburg, Va.
Considering Virginia has lost 15 straight meetings to Virginia Tech dating to 2003, Old Dominion’s superior success against the Hokies has captured the Cavs’ attention. UVA should not be looking ahead to its Sept. 28 showdown at No. 7 Notre Dame.
“I know there is intrigue because of the in-state matchup and the game versus Virginia Tech a year ago and this year. I think that’s a fair assessment to say what this game could look like,” said Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall. “That game was close and contested and competitive.”
The Cavaliers are coming off a close and contested 31-24 win over Florida State. Senior Bryce Perkins completed his first 16 passes in the second half and finished 30 of 40 for 295 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Wayne Taulapapa rushed for three scores.
Led by senior linebacker Jordan Mack’s four sacks, Virginia is tied for second nationally with Clemson and Ohio State with 14 sacks. UVA is 16th in the nation in total defense (261.7 yards per game).
“I was really hoping when we scheduled this game three years ago that they wouldn’t be this good, if I’m being 100 percent truthful,” said Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder. “This’ll be a major challenge, but it is exciting to go play at UVA, a program I have tremendous respect for.”
Monarchs junior Stone Smartt completed 16 of 30 passes for 122 yards and rushed for 48 yards and two touchdowns at Virginia Tech. A junior college All-American last year at California’s Riverside City College, he has almost as many rushing attempts (29) as completions (33) this season.
Practicing against the mobile Perkins in spring practice and fall camp prepared Virginia’s defense for the slippery Smartt.
“You identify (defensive) concepts you like and just simply hold on to those, and when appropriate you pull them back out for a quarterback that might be similar (to Perkins),” Mendenhall said. “I think it certainly helps.”
Virginia’s No. 2 quarterback, redshirt freshman Brennan Armstrong, has missed all three games with an undisclosed injury and is day-to-day. Sophomore Lindell Stone and freshman RJ Harvey are the backups.
The injured list for Old Dominion includes wide receiver Frederik Antoine, offensive lineman Jack Miller III and defensive ends O’Shea Jackson and Sam White Jr.
—Field Level Media