Monarchs Roll Past Charlotte 56-34, Clinch a Bowl Berth

Photo Courtesy of Nicholas Clark, taken from ODU v CLT

Benjamin Draper , Sports Editor

Originally published November 29, 2021.

 

What a remarkable season finale! The Old Dominion football team hosted C-USA foe Charlotte Miners in a game that had high implications. It was the 71st annual Oyster Bowl, the final game of the season in the Hampton Roads area. Also, the Monarchs came into the game on a four-game winning streak and stood at 5-6 (5-3 C-USA) on the season. They were in need for that sixth win to clinch a bowl berth. ODU had not clinched a bowl berth since their 2016 season, when they went to the Bahamas Bowl.

 

The Monarchs won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Miners drove down the field and stood in the ODU red zone. On second down from the Monarchs 10-yard line, senior cornerback Joe Joe Headen intercepted the ball on the goal line and returned it 89-yards to put the ODU offense in great field position. Sophomore running back Blake Watson found an open lane and got to the 1-yard line before fumbling the ball. Luckily, it was recovered by sophomore offensive lineman Nick Saldeveri in the end zone for the Monarch touchdown. ODU took the early lead 7-0.

 

Later in the first quarter, the ODU offense found its way back into the red zone. Sophomore running back Elijah Davis ran the ball into the end zone from 12-yards out, and extended the lead to 14-0. Early in the second quarter, freshman Quarterback Hayden Wolff found sophomore wide receiver Ali Jennings III for a 46-yard touchdown to make the game 21-0. Charlotte would come back and score a touchdown to make the game 21-7. Wolff and Jennings would connect in the end zone on the next drive for 34-yards to increase their lead to 28-7. The Miners offense responded with another touchdown late in the half, and would go into halftime down 14.

 

Old Dominion’s lead would diminish quickly midway through the third quarter after Charlotte scored 14 consecutive points and tied the game at 28. On the next drive, Wolff and Jennings came up big for ODU once again. They connected on a 51-yard pass that set up a Watson three-yard touchdown run with 2:35 left in the third quarter. The Monarchs had a 35-28 lead.

 

Charlotte then chipped away, as senior kicker Jonathan Cruz kicked 39 and 44-yard field goals, in the last ten minutes of the game to narrow the lead to 35-34. ODU’s offense would come back again, with Wolff throwing a 32-yard pass to Jennings, an 11-yarder to Watson and a 25-yard pass to freshman Jordan Bly that gave ODU a first down at the Charlotte 3. Two plays later, Watson carried two yards for the touchdown to give ODU a 42-34 lead. Wolff and Jennings connected again and put the game all out of reach with 3:49 left when they hooked up on a 36-yard touchdown pass that gave the Monarchs a 49-34 lead.

 

ODU’s defense had a big day as a unit and forced four turnovers. They sealed the game with a fumble recovered by freshman defensive end Deeve Harris and he carried it into the end zone for a touchdown with three minutes left. The Monarchs went on to win the game 56-34 and got the sixth win they needed to potentially seal their second bowl berth in program history.

 

In the post-game presser, Head Coach Ricky Rahne shared his thoughts on why ODU should be awarded a bowl game. “If you’re a human being who likes college football, and you go into that locker room, there is a zero percent chance you’re not sending that team to a bowl game,” Rahne said. “If somebody decides not to send us to a bowl game, then they probably take candy from babies and kick puppies. Because this team has earned it.”

 

The winner of the Melvin T. Blassingham MVP award in the 71st annual Oyster Bowl, was sophomore wide receiver Ali Jennings III, who had a career day for the Monarchs. Jennings caught nine passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Watson rushed the ball 18 times for 106 yards and had two touchdowns. He became the second ODU player ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Young had 11 tackles and finished one short of tying the school record for tackles in a career. He could break the record in a bowl game.

 

Wolff finished the afternoon completing 17 of his 26 passes for three touchdowns and 328 yards. In the post-game presser he expressed that he agrees with Rahne if ODU has earned a bowl bid. “We beat a variety of good teams. FAU, Middle Tennessee and Charlotte. These are teams that have played and competed at the highest level against Power 5 schools. To beat five FBS teams in a row, that’s a hard thing to do, especially after starting 1-6. We’re looking forward to the next one.”

 

The Monarchs finish the season 6-6 (5-3 CUSA) and will find out their postseason destiny on Dec. 5 when ESPN will announce the bowl slate.