Monarchs Football Drop Royal Rivalry against James Madison 37-3

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Elena Harris

Head coaches Ricky Rahne and Curt Cignetti meet at midfield after the conclusion of the game.

Benjamin Draper and Art Neal

With less than a minute left to play, the JMU defense intercepted backup quarterback Brendan Clark and slammed the door on the Monarchs’ offense to seal a dominating 37-3 score in the first iteration of the ‘Royal Rivalry.’ This was the first time in a decade that Old Dominion and James Madison squared off on the gridiron. 

Earlier this year, both athletic administrations announced their partnership with Towne Bank to create the ‘Royal Rivalry Challenge’ which blessed ODU’s faithful with a stellar rival in the form of the Dukes all year round. The school with the most points earned from victories in each sport gets to hoist the Royal trophy at the end of the year. With the victory over the Monarchs, the Dukes increased their lead in the challenge to 5.5 points to ODU’s 1.5 points.

Junior Tobias Harris looks on in the midst of the Royal Rivalry. (Elena Harris )

The Monarchs’ football team 3-7 (2-4 Sun Belt) have now lost four straight games after their 49-21 upset over Coastal Carolina, who has locked their spot as the east representative in the Sun Belt championship game. On the other end, the Dukes 6-3 (4-2 Sun Belt) ended a three-game losing skid and gained bragging rights over their in-state rival. Old Dominion finished the season at home with a 2-4 record. 

Old Dominion began the game with possession of the football on the 25-yard line. Unfortunately, the Monarchs could not propel themselves out to an early lead and they went three-and-out on their first drive. Following this, the Dukes got their first possession of the game, which they marched down the field to the ODU goal. The JMU running back had the ball, but it slipped out of his hand and there was a mad scramble for possession. 

After being reviewed by officiators, it was deemed that the runner was down and JMU retained possession in the red zone. On the following play, the Dukes were able to score, putting the Monarchs behind 7-0 with 8:11 remaining in the first. The Dukes remained in control for the rest of the quarter with a 7-0 advantage. 

Second-quarter scoring was opened by the Dukes. They scored early in the second with 13:49 remaining, putting the Monarchs in a two-score hole. In response to this, ODU’s offense was able to piece together a promising possession with Wolff stringing together a 23-yard reception to freshman wide receiver Ahmarian Granger. ODU then converts on fourth down with a 12-yard run by running back Blake Watson. This promising string of plays was cut short as a pass to Javon Harvey was deemed not enough for the first down and the Monarchs ended up relinquishing possession to the Dukes around the halfway point of the second quarter.

Sophomore QB Hayden Wolff comes under pressure and tosses the ball to freshman WR Ahmarian Granger. (Elena Harris )

JMU’s next possession started off strong. They were able to come up with two plays of 20+ yards and march right into the red zone. Despite this, the ODU defense stood strong as they forced the field goal crew to come out and kick, making the score 17-0. Following this, the Monarchs found some luck as senior linebacker Steven Williams caught an interception and ran it for a handful of yards before he lost his grip on the ball. The ball was recovered by ODU, leaving them standing in Duke territory in the closing minutes of the half. This drive culminated in a field goal by freshman kicker Ethan Sanchez with 0:05 remaining in the half. 

At halftime, the prospects were grim for the Monarchs. Things did not get any better in the second half. The Dukes scored again with 7:47 remaining in the third, bringing the score to 27-3 thanks to a pick-six from Wolff. Fortunately, the defense helped stop the bleeding to some extent, only giving up a single field goal in the third quarter and bringing the score to 30-3. 

In the fourth quarter, after JMU scored again with 5:47 remaining and made the score 37-3, it was clear that the game was out of reach. Rahne put some new faces on the field to test out their potential. A huge addition was sophomore QB Brendan Clark, a transfer from Notre Dame. Clark did well as he ran for a handful of yards off quarterback sneaks and completed a big reception to sophomore WR Isiah Paige for a 21 yd gain. Despite moments of promise, Clark ended up giving way to an interception with 0:21 remaining, bringing this chapter of the Royal Rivalry to a close with the Dukes besting ODU by 37-3. The Dukes outgained the Monarchs 492 yards to 227. 

Sophomore LB Jason Henderson makes a diving effort against the Dukes’ rusher. (Elena Harris )

After the game, head coach Ricky Rahne shared his thoughts on the result and emphasized that the team needs to continue to battle no matter if there is a postseason or not. 

“I told them that they need to fight. I told them that life is hard. You’re not going to get what you want all of the time,” Rahne stated. “Are they going to pack it in because they don’t have an opportunity to make a bowl game or are they going to fight for each other and for the personal satisfaction of playing well and doing your job?”

Next up for Old Dominion is a pair of road trips that will finish off the 2022 regular season. First, the Monarchs’ will travel down to Boone, N.C. on Nov. 19 to play Appalachian State before taking a trip down to Alabama to face South Alabama in the regular season finale on Nov. 26. The game against the Mountaineers will kick off at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN+.