Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

ODU; WKU Square Off in ‘Famous Toastery Bowl’ Game Preview

Hilltoppers lead all-time series against the Monarchs 6-1
Old+Dominion+vs+Western+Kentucky+face+off+in+Famous+Toastery+Bowl+
Old Dominion vs Western Kentucky face off in ‘Famous Toastery Bowl’

On Sunday afternoon, it was officially announced that ODU football will be playing against their former Conference USA rival, Western Kentucky, in the Famous Toastery Bowl. The game is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 18 at 2:30 p.m. and will be held at Jerry Richardson Stadium on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. This will be the second bowl game appearance for Old Dominion under the leadership of head coach Ricky Rahne.

WKU and ODU have faced each other seven times in the past as members of Conference USA. WKU has won six of those games, while Old Dominion has won only once. The most recent matchup between the two teams took place during the 2021 season, with WKU winning 43-20 at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Virginia.

In 2021, the Monarchs secured a bowl berth in their final game of the season against Charlotte. They went on to participate in the Myrtle Beach Bowl, where 5,000 ODU fans made the six-hour trip to support their team. It was a great turnout overall.

Dr. Wood Selig, the Director of Athletics at ODU, is expecting a similar turnout in Charlotte. He expressed his excitement for the fans and the program, stating that the trip is easy to get to.

“I’m extremely happy for our fans. It’s a relatively easy five-hour trip. The game time and date are perfect. With a 2:30 game, you can get home that night,” Selig said. “Theoretically, if you wanted to, you could drive up and back the same day, or you can go to Charlotte and spend a night or two. I’m really happy for our football players’ families because this site is perfect for them.”

The Monarchs will be the home team in the bowl game.

 

ODU Quarterback Grant Wilson (Garrett Fletcher (ODU Sideline Media) )

ODU TEAM NOTES

Old Dominion has a 6-6 overall record on the year and a 5-3 record in Sun Belt play, which is known for its tough competition. This year, a record 12 out of 14 teams in the conference were bowl-eligible, including all the teams in the east division. The Monarchs lost to Liberty and fell to 4-6, but they managed to win their final two games against both Sun Belt Georgia Schools, which were must-win games to keep their season alive. They won a close 20-17 game against Georgia Southern with a game-winning field goal from sophomore kicker Ethan Sanchez, which secured their fifth win of the season.

In the season finale at S.B. Ballard Stadium, the Monarchs fell behind 21-0 against Georgia State, but they made a remarkable comeback in the second half and managed to win the game. In the final 1:37 of the fourth quarter, they were down 24-14, but they scored a field goal, got a safety, and then drove down the field to score a touchdown on the final play of the entire season. Junior quarterback Grant Wilson rushed it into the endzone from two yards out to clinch bowl eligibility for the Monarchs as they defeated the Panthers 25-24.

Junior linebacker Jason Henderson had an outstanding season and was named a 2022 All-American. He led the nation in tackles with 170 and earned First-Team All-Sun Belt honors. Although he was snubbed for the Sun Belt Defensive Player of The Year award, he was still a key player for the Monarchs. Sophomore linebacker Wayne Matthews III also had a great season with 121 tackles and was named to the Sun Belt Third Team. Sophomore defensive tackle Denzel Lowry, and junior safeties LaMareon James and Shawn Asbury also earned All-Conference honors.

Junior quarterback Grant Wilson started ten games and had a solid season with 2,026 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran for two touchdowns. Junior running backs Kadarius Calloway and Keshawn Wicks combined for 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Isiah Paige led the Monarchs with 39 receptions, while sophomore wide receiver Reymello Murphy led the team with 495 receiving yards.

Old Dominion overachieved in 2023. They were projected to finish dead last in the Sun Belt east division and not coming close to a postseason berth with as much as two or three wins this season. That was not the case as they defied the odds. With a victory against Western Kentucky, they can end the season on an even higher note.

 

WKU quarterback Austin Reed (Courtesy of WKU Athletics)

WKU TEAM NOTES 

WKU had a successful 2023 regular season, finishing with a 7-5 overall record and a 5-3 mark in Conference USA play. The Hilltoppers secured their bowl eligibility with a 28-23 victory over Sam Houston on Nov. 18 at Houchens-Smith Stadium, followed by a 41-28 win at FIU in the regular-season finale.

After being invited to the 2023 Famous Toastery Bowl, it marks their 10th bowl game in the past 12 seasons. Since the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2012, the Tops have only missed the postseason in 2013 and 2018. This is the fifth consecutive bowl game appearance for WKU in five seasons under head coach Tyson Helton.

On the offensive side, they are led by quarterback Austin Reed, who has been a vital player for the Hilltoppers, throwing for 3,340 yards with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Reed finished the season with the most passing yards in Conference USA. Reed’s No. one target was wide receiver Malachi Corley who finished the year with 75 receptions for 958 yards and 11 touchdowns, which put the junior receiver at second amongst the conference in receiving yards per game but was at the top of the conference in touchdown receptions. 

On the other side of the ball, defensive back Talique Allen leads the team with 51 tackles, while defensive back Kendrick Simmons has a team-best 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

The Hilltoppers entered the season as the co-favorites to win Conference USA, but fell short of expectations this season and now are playing in an early bowl game, which could mean a lack of motivation on the WKU sideline.

 

FAMOUS TOASTERY BOWL KEYS & PREDICTION 

One thing to keep an eye on in this game is how well both teams perform offensively against each other. The Monarchs currently have the second-to-last rank in the Sun Belt Conference in terms of offense. However, they have been successful running the ball this season, ranking 10th in that category. This is mainly due to the efforts of Kadarius Calloway, who has rushed for 606 yards and four touchdowns. The upcoming game against WKU is interesting because of the Hilltoppers’ defense, which is ranked last in Conference USA.

Another thing to point out is how these two teams are heading in opposite directions this season.

Western Kentucky’s offense is not as strong as it was last season, struggling to get ahead in a weak Conference USA this year. They went 3-3 over their final six games and only won one game by double digits, scoring 30 or more points a single time.

On the other hand, Old Dominion played in a much stronger conference (Sun Belt) and held up fairly well. They played tightly against the likes of James Madison and Coastal Carolina, while also beating Sun Belt runner-up Appalachian State.

When I look at this matchup, the difference comes down to the transfer portal and lack of motivation on the Western Kentucky side. As of now, four offensive linemen from Western Kentucky who started this season are in the portal. Old Dominion was 34th in the country in tackles for loss this season which can create a lot of concern for Reed and the WKU offense. On the other side of the ball, Western Kentucky’s defense has misplayed and relies on opposing teams’ turnovers. They are outside the top 100 in defensive success rate but have generated the second most turnovers in the country this season. 

However, Wilson only has eight turnover-worthy plays this season, showing that he is smart with the football and will continue to evolve. I predict he will put together a comprehensive performance and the Monarchs offense will abuse the rushing game successfully and will grab their second bowl win in program history on Dec. 18 in front of an ecstatic ODU crowd that will travel heavily. 

Prediction: Old Dominion 28 – Western Kentucky 17 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor
Benjamin serves as the Sports Editor for Mace and Crown. He is a junior who majors in Communications, more specifically ‘Media Studies’ along with a minor in Sports Management. He is very excited for the opportunity of leading the sports staff at the Mace & Crown. Since he was 4 years old, Benjamin has wanted to pursue a career in sports media as a Broadcaster/Reporter. On the side, he does broadcasting/production for the ODU Esports program and is Sports Director for WODU Studios. After college, Benjamin hopes to land an opportunity in a sports media role at the professional level whether its a media outlet or sports franchise. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments (0)

All Mace & Crown Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *