ODU football team rallies in final three minutes to stun Virginia Tech, 20-17


NORFOLK, Virginia – Lightning strikes twice.

Strategist Hayden Wolff staged a spectacular Old Dominion rally in the final three minutes, leading the Monarchs on a 74-yard touchdown to give ODU a resilient 20-17 win over Virginia Tech.

The win comes four years after the Monarchs toppled the Hokies, 49-35, at the old Foreman Field in the biggest win in ODU football history.

The win was ODU’s first over a Power 5 school and Tech was ranked 13th nationally. This technical team is rebuilding and ODU has a team of veterans. The Hokies were only 6-point favorites when they were 29-point favorites four years ago.

But beating a program that has won four ACC titles, has the biggest following in the state and played for a national championship was the most consequential victory in coaching. Ricky Rahnat ODU.

The match was seen by a sold-out crowd of 21,944, the largest since 2019 at SB Ballard Stadium, and the crowd was electric. When the match ended, most of the approximately 5,000 ODU students in attendance packed the pitch and celebrated with the players.

“That’s college football,” Rahne said, soaked from a Gatorade bath he received after the game.

“The Monarch Nation came out and supported us tonight in a big way. The entire Hampton Roads area came out and supported us.

“It was a great vibe. I told our guys to come out and soak it up. It was a special night. I know a lot of these kids are going to forget that one day.”

The game corresponded to programs with close ties. Rahne and freshman technical coach Brent Pry were both coordinators at Penn State, and nearly two dozen members of both teams worked together at Penn State or other schools.

Jen Rahne and Amy Pry, wives of the head coaches, stalked just outside SB Ballard Stadium with Fumi Franklin, wife of Penn State coach James Franklin.

The game was where people could see and be seen. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a native of Norfolk, Attorney General Jason Miyares, a native of Virginia Beach, were both present. This was ODU’s first game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill participated in pre-game activities.

Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke, the best player in ODU history, was on the sidelines at ODU. Blake LaRussa, the former quarterback behind ODU’s 2018 win, was there, along with a number of his former teammates.

But the game itself was not clever. Technical quarterback Grant Wells intercepted four passes and ODU scored its first touchdown when a Hokie long snapper attempted a field goal attempt over the incumbent’s head.

The ball bounded 56 yards towards the Tech 25, where the cornerback Robert Kennedy III picked it up and ran for the touchdown.

And for much of the game, Wolff couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean, to use a coaching cliche.

ODU had just 245 offensive yards, and half came in the fourth quarter, while Virginia Tech had 14 penalties.

“There were parts available all night and we just didn’t make them,” Rahne said. “That’s good. It happens sometimes. But in the end, Hayden Wolff makes huge plays.”

Tech led, 17-10, as the Monarchs had only their second sustained drive of the game, going from Tech 48 to 3 before settling for a Ethan Sanchez 20-yard field goal, the second of the game for the rookie from Dallas, Georgia.

Wolff completed a 27-yard pass for Ali Jennings III on this player’s big game to foreshadow what would be a dramatic ending to the game.

Tech was dealing the clock and driving into ODU territory, when the linebacker Ryan Henry intercepted a pass from Wells at ODU 41. A personal foul returned the ball at 26, and with 2:58 left, the Monarchs had to score a touchdown to win.

Wolff found Jennings for 24 yards on the first down, and the crowd was back on their feet.

On the third and sixth, Wolff blasted out of the pocket and was drilled by a Tech linebacker one yard into the first down.

The referees initially ruled he fumbled, but when the replay was shown on the TowneBank scoreboard, the crowd cheered as they knew he was down before he fumbled.

Face fourth and 1, offensive coordinator Kevin Reihner called senior running back Blake Watson to get the first down, and the senior running back passed a linebacker to keep the drive alive.

Watson’s stats — 19 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown — weren’t spectacular, but most of his yards came while trailing Hokies with him.

At third-and-7 of 39, Wolff found Jennings on the left side of the field, one yard away from a touchdown, with a minute to play.

ODU then beat the clock, forcing Tech to burn two timeouts, before Watson got the touchdown on second down.

Tech had 37 seconds to enter the basket area, but The Mareon Jamesthe second from Indian River High School, intercepted Wells on third down for the win.

Wolff said the victory was different from the victory in 2018, in which he celebrated on the field with students during a recruiting trip to ODU.

“It was a big win,” he said. “A lot of people talk about how we shocked the world, that it was a big surprise.

“We don’t see it that way. We know what we went through in the offseason, what we are capable of. We expected to win this game. We believed in it wholeheartedly and we went out and we did it. Have done.

“I know it’s a Power 5 school, but we’re a growing program.”

The defense, Wolff said, won the game.

“Grant Wells is a great quarterback and our defense has intercepted him four times,” he said. “They gave us a chance to win.”

Rahne paid tribute to Reihner for orchestrating the final workout.

At 30, he is one of the youngest offensive coordinators in the country.

“That Coach Rehiner could figure out what was going to work in that last practice, that’s pretty awesome,” Rahne said.

“I know people might not think it was a great game. But I’ve never had a bad win.”

The ODU captains for the season are Zack Kuntz, Nick Saldivéri, R’Tarriun Johnson and BR Hatcher … Defensive tackle Denzel LowryRobert Kennedy security and center xavier black started their first career games… ODU had six players making their NCAA college football debuts: Pierre Kikwata, mario easter, JeCareon Lathan, Tariq Sims, Kris Trinidad and Ethan Sanchez … Quarterback Hayden Wolff started his 11e career game but its first opener of the season… Game sold out with a crowd of 21,944… First sold out for ODU since the 2019 opener against Norfolk State. This 2019 game was the first at Kornblau Field at SB Ballard Stadium… Terry Jones recorded his first career interception late in the first quarter… At Ethan Sanchez’s The 29-yard field goal in the second quarter was the first of his career and launched a 20-yard shot in the fourth quarter… Tobias Harris intercepted on 18e assist of his career and first for Old Dominion … Ali Jennings had five catches for 122 yards, registering his fourth career 100-yard receiving game. Jennings had four receptions for 106 yards in the second half… Old Dominion’s four interceptions tied the school record of four that ODU had in 2009 against Presbyterian… The Mareon James, Terry Jones and Ryan Henry had their first career interceptions… Sophomore Jason Henderson had a career-high 16 tackles, and he was just two shy of TJ Ricks’ school record of 18.


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