During Hurricane Irene last year, Old Dominion’s football team escaped to Raleigh, N.C., for a day to continue preparations for its season-opener against Campbell. With Hurricane Sandy raining on Hampton Roads, the Monarchs had contingency plans for a similar junket this week.
ODU coach Bobby Wilder said Saturday that had university president John Broderick ordered campus evacuated, the Monarchs would have bussed to Chapel Hill, N.C., and practiced at the University of North Carolina.
But since Sandy is not expected to slam directly into our region, Wilder expects the Monarchs to stay put.
“Now we’re just going to stay here and slog it out in the rain a little bit,” he said after Saturday’s soggy 31-26 home victory over Delaware.
Other notes and observations from Saturday:
* After allowing 136 points combined to New Hampshire, Richmond and Villanova, ODU has yielded only 46 the past two weeks against Towson and Delaware.
Wilder attributed the improvement to a young defense maturing.
“I feel like our freshmen are getting a lot better,” he said. “I don’t know if you guys noticed, but Caleb Taylor was out there playing every snap, and Malique Johnson’s a true freshman safety. Andrew Everett’s a true freshmen d-end. …
“We’re sticking with them. I told our defensive staff, they’ve got to keep playing because our style of offense puts so much pressure on our defense. We have to play 22 guys. We have to two-platoon. I do think we are getting better. At times it’s frustrating because you do get some miscommunication like happened a couple times out there today.”
Indeed, Delaware had rushes of 42, 37 and 18 yards, plus completions of 50, 25 and 22. But after scoring 14 points in the first 15:45, the Blue Hens managed just 12 in the final 44:15.
Taylor, a redshirt freshman linebacker from Phoebus High and a transfer from Virginia, led ODU (7-1, 4-1 CAA) with 12 tackles. Senior safety Devon Simmons from Denbigh High intercepted a pass with 57 seconds remaining to secure the victory.
* Nursing a 28-26 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs were forced to punt from their own 47. Jonathan Plisco’s kick rolled dead inside the 1.
“That was a turning point in the football game,” Wilder said of the field position. “Jonathan was actually pretty upset about it, because he mishit it, the returner couldn’t get it and the ball rolled. Jon’s such a perfectionist.”
Craig Wilkins’ 10-yard sack of Trent Hurley eventually forced Delaware to punt from its 5. ODU took over at the Blue Hens’ 44 and milked more than four minutes while moving to a Jarod Brown field goal.
A senior from Woodside High, Plisco was first-team All-CAA last season and second-team Associated Press All-American.
* After his first, and likely final, game at ODU, Delaware coach K.C. Keeler is sorry to see the Monarchs leaving the CAA for the Bowl Subdivision’s Conference USA.
“Let me just say, what a great atmosphere,” Keeler said. “Very first-class. Very impressed. It’s a shame (they’re) leaving the league because they really have a great place to play. I already talked to Bobby about coming down and picking (his) brain on the offense. I said, ‘Because we’re not playing you guys. Unless you’re paying us a million dollars, we’re not playing a (FBS) game unless it’s a big pay day.”
* Keeler applauded ODU’s spread offense for not forcing passes deep against a Delaware defense determined to prevent long gains.
“You have to give them a lot of credit for being patient,” Keeler said. “We were trying to not give them the big play. When you watch them on tape, it’s like a track meet. Their wideouts can really run, and I thought they did a great job of being patient, a lot of underneath stuff.”
The Blue Hens are the first team this season to hold ODU’s Taylor Heinicke without a touchdown pass.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one from Saturday’s game on ODU tailback Tyree Lee.