On November, 16th the Charlotte 49ers travel to Norfolk, Virginia for the most anticipated contest on their inaugural schedule. The game against Old Dominion will be one of many firsts. The game will be the first match-up of these future Conference USA members and it will also mark Charlotte’s first ever, nationally televised football game. The Monarchs, at this point, will be returning home from a cross country trip to Idaho and could be on upset alert.
Old Dominion Monarchs
November 16, 2013
Foreman Field, Norfolk, VA
Last year: 11-2 (7-1 CAA)
Head coach: Bobby Wilder (seventh season)
The Monarchs are coming off of a season that saw them win the CAA title and a berth in the FCS playoffs. Old Dominion advanced all the way to the Quarterfinals before being eliminated by future Sun Belt member Georgia Southern. (You can watch an abbreviated replay of the game: here). Bobby Wilder is entering his seventh season at Old Dominion but only the fifth season of competition. Wilder, the former Maine Offensive Coordinator, has led what many believe to be the best start-up program in recent history with an overall record of 38-10. This will be the Monarchs’ last season in FCS as they will become a full member of Conference USA in 2014.
Offensively, the Monarchs are a well oiled machine. Led by Walter Payton Award winner Taylor Heinicke, the Monarchs averaged more than 45 points per contest last season. Heinicke put up video game numbers to the tune of 55 total touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. Also returning will be leading rusher and Junior running back Tyree Lee who accumulated over 800 yards on the ground and scored 8 touchdowns. While they lost their leading receiver Nick Mayers to graduation, there will be plenty of receivers returning to catch passes from Heinicke. Antonio Vaughan, Blair Roberts, and Larry Pinkard all return and each recorded over 700 yards receiving last season.
The defense last season was the Achilles’ heel for the Monarchs. Old Dominion gave up over 30 points a game last season, which includes the 49 points it gave up in their season-ending defeat to Georgia Southern. Linebacker Craig Wilkins, the university’s all-time leader in tackles, sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions (tied), is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks and his presence will be missed. The defense will have their work cut out for them to improve last year’s numbers. ODU, which has never faced an FBS opponent, will face 5 such opponents this coming season–including ACC members UNC Chapel Hill, Pittsburgh and Maryland.
The Monarchs won’t be eligible for the FCS playoffs this coming season as they will be transitioning to the FBS ranks, but they will get their chances to prove themselves. Their first opportunity will come the opening weekend of the season. Old Dominion travels to East Carolina to face the Pirates under the lights of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Even if ODU doesn’t leave Greenville with an upset victory, putting up a fight against the Pirates will be enough to show that the Monarchs are well on their way to being an FBS team.