BLACKSBURG, Va. — As excitement builds for a potential battle of unbeatens at the end of the month, No. 13 Virginia Tech is even more conscious of the importance of Saturday’s home game against Old Dominion.
Of course, everyone wants to talk about the Hokies’ home contest against No. 2 Clemson on Sept. 30. ABC has tabbed the contest — a rematch of last year’s ACC championship game that the Tigers narrowly won 42-35 — for its 8 p.m. ET national telecast.
But before Tech can set its sights on that game, there’s business to take care of this weekend at Lane Stadium.
Old Dominion vs Virginia Tech Live
For the matchup of unbeatens to happen as anticipated, Tech (3-0) must get past ODU (2-1), and Clemson must beat visiting Boston College. The Hokies and Tigers are big favorites this weekend, but they’ll both be guarded against the possibility of upsets.
“(We’re) really focusing on the next step that’s in front of us,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.
The Hokies and Monarchs face off for the first time. This is the first of 13 scheduled meetings over the next 16 years.
ODU, which began play in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2014 as a member of Conference USA, has enjoyed much success under head coach Bobby Wilder. Wilder led the Monarchs to six winning seasons between 2009-16, and coached them to their first-ever bowl victory last season at the Bahamas Bowl.
While the program has grown significantly under Wilder’s tutelage, it still has major ground to gain in its quest to join college football’s elite.
After losing to visiting North Carolina 53-23 on Saturday at Foreman Field, ODU’s record against Power 5 conference teams dropped to 0-8. While ODU has played difficult road games in recent years against North Carolina State and North Carolina, it’s anticipating a different kind of road challenge at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies are the first ranked team the Monarchs have faced in their four seasons in the FBS.
“We’ve played some really good ones, but I think Virginia Tech is by far the best team we’ve ever played,” Wilder said. “This will be a monumental task on Saturday but one we’ll be excited for.”
Tech is coming off a resounding 64-17 road win over East Carolina on Saturday. The Hokies trailed 17-7 in the first quarter before unleashing a staggering run of 57 straight points.
It was the Hokies’ third-highest scoring output in a game since 1987 and the second-most ever against a team from the FBS. Their 675 total yards matched a single-game school record.
After yielding 205 yards and 17 points in the first quarter, Tech buckled down and held the Pirates to 77 yards and no points in the final three quarters.
The Hokies won despite the absence of starting cornerback Adonis Alexander, who was suspended for not living up to the team’s standards, according to Fuente. The coach did not say early this week whether Alexander, who is still practicing with the team, will be available for Saturday’s game.
“We will continue to evaluate that throughout the week and see kind of how it goes,” Fuente said.
The Monarchs allowed 511 total yards to North Carolina in Saturday’s loss. While their defense had trouble slowing the Tar Heels’ multitude of playmakers, their undermanned offense couldn’t seem to get anything going either.
With his offense struggling, Wilder decided to pull the redshirt off 17-year old freshman quarterback Steven Williams Jr., who came in and completed 9 of 20 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilder said Williams, a 6-foot-4 lefty, won the job moving forward.
“I just felt like the energy lifted up on our sideline,” Wilder said. “It felt like everybody rallied around him.”
Williams will be tasked with leading an ODU offense that is dealing with a multitude of injuries to critical players. For the second straight week, the Monarchs will be without four offensive starters.
ODU’s top receiver, Jonathan Duhart, is out for the season with a foot injury, and top running back Ray Lawry is expected to miss significant time with a torn hamstring. Tight end Melvin Vaughan and right tackle Chad Hendricks have missed time with knee injuries but could return for the Conference USA opener against Florida Atlantic on Oct. 7.
For Virginia Tech, redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has gone above and beyond expectations through his first three games, with a 64.7 completion percentage, 829 yards, eight touchdowns on no interceptions.
He passed for a career-high 372 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes at East Carolina on Saturday. It was the highest single-game yardage output by a Virginia Tech freshman and the fifth-highest output by any Tech quarterback since 1987. Jackson became the first quarterback to win his first three starts since Logan Thomas in 2011.
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