Pace figures to play a major role in the Old Dominion-Hampton game Saturday, which seems counterintuitive for two no-huddle, pass-first offenses. But ODU wants to play ultra-quick, while the Pirates aim to hold the ball, move the chains and at least limit the Monarchs’ possessions.
ODU ran 106 plays in last week’s 57-23 win against Duquesne. The average college football offense runs approximately 72 plays per game, and ODU routinely gets above 80 plays.
“I’ve never been around a team that’s gone at this tempo,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. “And we feel like we can go faster. We felt like there were a couple times that we weren’t all communicating the same way. The receivers weren’t getting lined up fast enough, or the offensive line was waiting on a call.”
Playing fast limits defensive substitutions and, theoretically, gases a defense as the game progresses. ODU has an efficient, veteran quarterback in Taylor Heinicke running a system that’s been in place for several years.
The Monarchs have a mostly veteran line, though center Josh Mann is just a sophomore, playing his first season at the position in college. The center receives the signal for protections from the sideline and communicates it to his linemates.
Wilder said that Mann, a four-year high school center, grew more comfortable and communicated protections faster as the Duquesne game progressed. He expects the offense to operate more smoothly and efficiently this week.
Hampton, meanwhile, is still installing the Air Raid scheme brought in by new coordinator Earnest Wilson last spring. The Pirates were a bit disjointed on offense last week at Tennessee Tech, particularly in the first half.
ODU attempted more passes (63) versus Duquesne than the Pirates’ total number of plays (59) at Tech. HU established some continuity under quarterback Travis Champion, who relieved starter Najee Tyler. Champion, who played at the end of last season, is more game manager than playmaker. He will start versus ODU.
“Obviously, we want to have a balanced attack,” HU coach Donovan Rose said. “We want to make sure that we have the ball and control the ball for a certain amount of minutes. When ODU gets it, I know they’re going to throw the ball. Unless I’m in a different world, I expect them to throw the ball a lot. We just have to make sure to put ourselves in position and offensively when we get the ball, that we control the clock and control the tempo the way we want it to go.”
The two offenses are similar. Both routinely get five receivers into the pass pattern, at different depths, hoping to stress coverage and get favorable matchups. It’s up to the quarterback to read where the advantages lie.
Heinicke last week was 41 for 63 for for 492 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions, but Wilder essentially described all three as flukes and from proper reads. The Monarchs totaled a school-record 723 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per play.
“I think it’s going to be a throwing fest,” Rose said. “They’ll run to keep us honest, but I know the biggest thing is we need to know where Heinicke is. Try to neutralize and control him. He’s the spark of that offense.”
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