What Old Dominion fans and students remember pre-pandemic was brought back to S.B. Ballard Stadium on Saturday night in their home opener against the Hampton Pirates. Some may even say it was better than they remember. This was the win that welcomed Ricky Rahne into his new home stadium.
A game that the Monarchs were favored to win gave Ricky Rahne, former Penn State offensive coordinator, his first career win as the team’s second head coach since the start of the program in 2009. He exuded a more tenacious energy that showed throughout the game compared to last week’s out of conference loss to Wake Forest.
“I’d like our team to be the toughest, most physical, most relentless team in the country,” he said. “If people are going to describe us in three words, I’d like those three words to be it.”
With multiple school records broken Saturday night, Rahne will settle into Norfolk with spotlights tied to his name.
Old Dominion’s offense rushed for 358 yards, which was scripted in the way the night unfolded. The Pirates only scored in the third quarter. Along with a new rushing school record surpassing the previous record set in their inaugural season in 2009, the Pirates were held to 187 total yards. This, being a fraction of the total yards that the Monarch’s scored, was equated to a new defensive school record for the fewest number of yards allowed by an ODU team.
Quarterback D.J. Mack Jr. passed for 162 yards, with completions to former Nittany Lion Zach Kuntz and anticipated freshman wide receiver Isiah Paige. The 2020 season was canceled for the Monarchs due to COVID-19 fears, making this their first home win since August 2019.
The student section shaped into a white blur from the direction of the “Whiteout Game” instructed by Rahne. After nearly 2 years of a stadium vacant of fans, the Saturday night game brought back 5,000 students to share the stardom.
The students’ presence didn’t go unnoticed by the team either.
“We get a boost having them there and getting to put a show on for them.” D.J. Mack Jr., a junior transfer from the University of Central Florida said when hearing of the monumental number of students at the game.
Students, fans, and alumni were eager to be back in the stadium as they longed for normalcy. The long and awaited day where Old Dominion football would kick off once again was not a quiet one. Students rarely found seats amongst the student section and were excited for what could be seen as a privilege of having a season.
“This should just be a big party and let this thing [game] spill into Saturday night.” Rahne said.
The away game matchup next Saturday against Liberty will be a new opportunity to focus on scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals in the red zone.
Rahne wanted to see more touchdowns when the team reached the red zone.
“Too many field goals.” Rahne said.
Old Dominion set the tone for the kind of defense necessary for Liberty’s Malik Willis by shutting down the Pirates’ offense in a stark and evident win. The final score was 47-7.
Old Dominion football is back.