Monarch Rally Falls Short


Photo Courtesy of Nicholas Clark, taken from ODU v Buffalo

Originally published September 27, 2021.


The game in Norfolk this weekend was an unforgettable one. It was a tale of two stories in an intense matchup between Old Dominion and Buffalo, as the resiliency that the Monarchs showed in the second half of the game fell short with a score of 34-35. In the first half, Buffalo came on strong. In the second half, the Monarchs fought back.


It was a beautiful and breezy night at S.B. Ballard Stadium. As the Monarch community showed up with a great sense of pride, the many “Hudson Blue” shirts shined through to support the highly anticipated new uniform color. The attendance for the final non-conference matchup came out to be over 18,000.


The game started with the Bulls proceeding with kickoff. As the game started, Buffalo ran the ball while the ODU defense came up to stop on third down. The Monarchs blocked the ensuing punt and started their first drive in a great field position from the 11-yard line. Old Dominion quarterback DJ Mack Jr. and the offense went three and out on the next drive. The field goal attempt was blocked by Buffalo and returned for a touchdown. The score was seven to zero.


After a few minutes of going back and forth, the Monarchs special teams came up with its second blocked punt of the game. They returned it to the 26-yard line as the drive would eventually find the end zone. Sophomore running back Blake Watson rushed the ball in for two yards to make the score even at seven to seven.


The second quarter was extremely different from the first. After a rough go in the first quarter, Buffalo found the end zone on a four yard run to lead fourteen to seven. After a Monarch punt, the Bulls capitalized on a critical 91-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass. Old Dominion’s offense was in trouble during the first half. Buffalo came back down to the field and scored another touchdown on the ground, leading to a score of 28-7. However, the ODU offense had a promising drive in the second half. After Mack Jr. had a burst of 40-yards ending with a fumble, the Bulls defensive side scored one again. This led to a score of 35-7, meaning that the Bulls were 28 points ahead. Was catching up possible?


The Monarchs received the second half kickoff. It was clear that the ODU offense came out of the locker room ready to go, with a performance that was the opposite of what fans saw in the first half. Mack Jr. took over the Monarchs in the second half, with a huge boost of momentum. After scrambling out of the pocket and taking it down the middle of the field, what ODU needed was an early touchdown in the second half. The passing game started to click as Mack Jr. found Javon Harvey and Isaiah Spencer for multiple receptions. This put the Monarchs in better standing. As Mack Jr. scored his second rushing touchdown of the night, the score was getting closer. In the final 15 minutes, the score was 35-21.

Photo Courtesy of Nicholas Clark, taken from ODU v Buffalo


Head Coach, Ricky Rahne, stated in his post-game press conference how he believed that the second half had a different feel because his team was playing better on all cylinders. He stated the “profound change was when we started to execute better in all 11 positions.”


It was going to take a lot for ODU’s football team to come back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter, but it surely was not impossible. The Monarchs clicked on offense and defense in the second half. After a three and out the drive before, the ODU offense put up a solid drive that moved the ball downfield. Freshman running back Jon-Luke Peaker found his way into the endzone, from seven yards out to cut the deficit to a one score ballgame. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, the ODU offense drove down the field and got into the red zone. On a second down, Mack Jr. found his target Isaiah Williams who twisted and turned towards the goal line, but fumbled the ball at the two yard line. The Bulls recovered with 4 minutes to go.


Old Dominion’s defense held the Bulls to a three and out and punt from the endzone, which gave the Monarchs a stronger field position. With three minutes left to go, a tie was possible. Mack Jr. and the running game pushed the Monarchs inside the ten while the Bulls’ defense prevailed, and Tight End, Zack Kunitz made the deficit to one with a leaping grab in the back corner of the endzone on fourth and goal. The celebration after the touchdown cost the Monarchs 15-yards, resulting in a penalty. With just under 20 seconds to go, Senior Kicker, Nick Rice missed the field goal attempt that would have tied the game.

Photo Courtesy of Nicholas Clark, taken from ODU v Buffalo

The ensuing onside kick was unsuccessful for Old Dominion. Buffalo claimed victory and escaped Norfolk with a win. Though a heartbreaking defeat for ODU, there was a remarkable 27 point comeback.


Mack Jr. shared his thoughts about the missed PAT and emphasized that the team is like a brotherhood in his post-game press conference. He stated “Talk him up, it’s the only thing you can do, just talk him up. Motivate him, knowing it’s going to be okay, knowing that we’re gonna get another one, knowing that this isn’t the last one he’s going to kick”. It was a devastating way to lose a football game, but this ODU football team fought back after being almost 30 points down.


Old Dominion falls to one and three in the regular season. The Monarchs will travel to the “Lone Star State” next weekend to play UTEP. No matter what happens in El Paso, ODU fans will continue to bleed blue and demonstrate a great deal of resiliency. Reign On!