Selling a football game doesn’t happen often at Old Dominion. When it does, there’s a tough opponent in town. In this case, it was a big regional rival, the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The promise of another upset like the Monarchs in 2018 drew people in droves and filled a new SB Ballard stadium. ODU was playing its first game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference after a few years as an independent.
Upset in Norfolk!
A divided house
On Thursday night’s Backyard Brawl, visiting West Virginia drew a ton of fans. But I’ve never seen such fan dominance away from home as in this game; The Virginia Tech faithful matched the local Old Dominion fans equally.
In most cases, they made their presence known. Hokie fans were disruptive during big downs and between games, unlike home fans. In big moments, ODU fans were loud, but too often there was dead air between plays and big downs.
Somehow, Virginia Tech got their hands on half of the entire end zone bleacher section.
Before moving into the stadium, ODU hosts a fan party on campus right next to the stadium (at the mall? Quad?). The group puts on a show, ODU’s formidable mascot, Big Blue, mingles, and the football team makes its grand entrance. It’s pretty much like marching band schools of this size so if you’re heading to Norfolk check it out.
ODU football doesn’t offer much in the way of lore, although they do offer an original and notable one. Coming out of halftime, the crowd sings “Ice Cream and Cake” with a coordinated dance. You will also be able to see a light show with new LED stadium lights.
Old Dominion 20, Virginia Tech 17
This game was downright wonky. New Hokies starting QB Grant Wells threw four (4!!!) interceptions, the snapper to the basket sent one 40 yards over the incumbent’s head (who was picked up and scored by ODU) and the second half was an abundance of penalties.
The Monarchs had a grand total of two practices in the red zone – one of which ended with a 17-10 field goal and the other with the game-winning touchdown. Otherwise, the offense was ineffective.
Both QBs finished with abysmal stat lines and consistently missed opportunities. Receivers dropped wide-opening touchdowns. There were far more late game penalties than any game should ever have had.
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To top it off, the coaches in the Virginia Tech press box got stuck in the stadium elevator, extending the halftime by a full 13 minutes.
Just the way I like it.
Game Day Notes
Stadium:B. The old SB Ballard Stadium had unique curved stands. These have since disappeared and almost a whole new stadium stands in its place. Sometimes high school aluminum brackets don’t work in middle school, but it works here. A nice stadium, although quite indescribable.
Tradition:D-. Fans do an eccentric dance as they leave half-time and ODU has a rich history of football in the 1930s and 1940s. Between then and 2018, however, there isn’t much to tell.
Atmosphere: C+. When ODU was rolling, the stadium was noisy. However, between rooms, the student section was almost non-existent and far from disruptive.
Tailgating: C+. ODU is definitely not LSU. It’s a smaller football presence, so what can you expect? Tailgating all around the stadium was solid and a few parking lots had revelers. It is more or less that.
Fans: B+. Fans absolutely showed up, including almost 10,000 ODU students. They were nice and friendly, although the lulls between rooms were a downside.
Extracurricular activities:C. There are a few restaurants and shops around campus, but I don’t consider Norfolk a destination city. Maybe I’m wrong or I just don’t know enough people who are excited to visit.
Road to CFB is an ongoing series that follows the journey to see a game at every FBS college football stadium. Follow the journey here.
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