Selling out a football game doesn’t happen often at Old Dominion. When it does, there’s a big-time opponent in town. In this instance, it was a big time regional rival, the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The promise of another upset like the Monarchs pulled off in 2018 brought people out in droves and filled up a new-look S. B. Ballard Stadium. ODU was playing their first game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference after a few years as an independent.
Upset In Norfolk!
Old Dominion Game Day: A House Divided
In last night’s Backyard Brawl, visiting West Virginia brought a ton of fans. But never have I seen such away fan dominance as I have in this game; Virginia Tech faithful matched Old Dominion home fans evenly.
In most cases, they made their presence more known. Hokie fans were disruptive on big downs and in between plays, unlike the home fans. In big moments, ODU fans were loud, but there was dead air between plays and on big downs far too often.
Somehow, Virginia Tech got their hands on half the entire end zone bleacher section.
Before settling into the stadium, ODU puts on a fan fest on campus just next to the stadium (at the mall? quad?). The band puts on a show, ODU’s terrific mascot Big Blue mingles, and the football team makes their grand entrance. This is about as fanfare-ish schools this size get, so if you’re headed to Norfolk, check this out.
ODU football doesn’t offer terribly much in terms of traditions, though they do offer one quirky one of note. Heading out of halftime, the crowd chants along to “Ice Cream and Cake” complete with a coordinated dance. You’ll also get to see a light show with new LED stadium lights.
Old Dominion 20, Virginia Tech 17
This game was flat-out wonky. New Hokies starting QB Grant Wells threw four (4!!!) interceptions, the field goal snapper sent one 40 yards over the head of the holder (which was scooped and scored by ODU) and the second half was penalties galore.
The Monarchs had a grand total of two red zone drives– one of which ended in a field goal down 17-10 and the other the game-winning touchdown. Otherwise, the offense was ineffective.
Both QBs finished with abysmal stat lines and consistently missed opportunities. Receivers dropped wide-open touchdowns. There were far more delay of game penalties than any game should ever have.
To top it off, the Virginia Tech press box coaches got stuck in the stadium elevator, extending halftime for 13 entire minutes.
Just how I like it.
Old Dominion Game Day Grades
Stadium: B. The old S. B. Ballard Stadium had unique curved stands. Those are since gone and nearly a brand-new stadium stands in its place. Sometimes the high school aluminum stands don’t work in college, but it works here. A pretty nice stadium, albeit fairly nondescript.
Tradition: D-. The fans do a quirky dance coming out of halftime and ODU has a rich football history in the 1930s and 1940s. Between then and 2018, though, there’s not much to write home about.
Atmosphere: C+. When ODU was rolling, the stadium was loud. However, in between plays, the student section was almost nonexistent and far from disruptive.
Tailgating: C+. ODU certainly isn’t LSU. It’s a smaller football presence, so what can you expect? The tailgating right around the stadium was solid, and a couple parking lots had partiers. That’s about it.
Fans: B+. The fans absolutely showed up including close to 10,000 ODU students. They were kind and friendly, although the lulls between plays was a minus.
Extracurriculars: C. There’s some restaurants and stores around campus, but I don’t view Norfolk as a destination city. Maybe I’m wrong, or just don’t know enough people who are excited about visiting.