Monarchs Defeat Norfolk State, 24-21 in Season Opener
NORFOLK, Va. - Quarterback Stone Smartt's 31-yard pass to Eric Kumah in the final minutes set up a La La Davis game-winning touchdown as Old Dominion rallied past Norfolk State (0-1), 24-21, Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 21,944 at the new Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
Old Dominion (1-0) jumped out to an early lead behind touchdown runs from Kesean Strong and Smartt, which gave the Monarchs a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. The Spartans answered in the second quarter with a 57-yard Da'Kendall James touchdown. ODU led at the half, 14-6.
Nick Rice opened the second half with a 26-yard field goal to expand the Monarch lead. The Spartans responded with back-to-back touchdowns to take a 21-17 lead with 5:56 remaining.
Smartt handed the ball to Davis, whose touchdown run gave the Monarchs a 24-21 lead with 3:21 remaining.
The Spartans final drive ended with an interception by ODU's Lance Boykin, which clinched the Monarchs first victory in the new stadium. ODU did a $67.5 million renovation in that last nine months in which the two sets of sideline seats were demolished and replaced with two decks of seating on both sides.
Smartt, in his first career start as a Monarch, finished with 158 passing yards and completed 17-of-23 passes. Davis led the ODU ground game with 62 yards. Monarch newcomer Kumah finished with four receptions for 65 yards.
Defensively, Marcus Haynes and Juwan Ross picked up key sacks on the Spartan quarterback. Lawrence Garner and Geronda Hall led the team with eight tackles.
The Monarchs travel to Virginia Tech on September 7 at 12 p.m. The Monarchs upset the No. 13 ranked Hokies last season, 49-35.
Notes: Steven Williams caught a 15 yard pass on the first drive of the game for his first career catch … Eric Kumah caught a 12 yard pass on the first drive for his first catch as a Monarch … Kaleb Ford-Dement recorded his first career interception … Justinn Richardson forced the first fumble of his career … ODU had five first-time starters on both offense and defense, including quarterback Stone Smartt, wide receiver Jake Herslow, center Diego Cervantes, right guard Cameron Muller and right tackle Nick Saldiveri; on defense Keion White, Juwan Ross, Marcus Haynes, Kaleb Ford-Dement and Calvin Brewton ... That does not include Eric Kumah and Chris Cummingham, Virginia Tech grad transfers who are first time ODU starters, or Steven Williams, who started for the first time as a wide receiver ... Along with Smartt, and Ford-Dement, ODU had four other players make their FBS debuts, including Ryan Henry, Cory Jackson, R'Tarriun Johnson and Tyre Bobby ... ODU allowed 268 yards of total offense, the lowest total offense allowed by ODU last season was 288 against VMI ... Geronda Hall had a career-high eight tackles, while Juwan Ross had a career-best 2.5 tackles for loss.
Bobby Wilder Press Conference Quotes
Well, let me just start off by saying I’m really excited to get the win tonight. You know, we didn’t get a win last year until the fourth game against Virginia Tech, so I’m glad to start off the season 1-0. I told the players in the locker room, you know, they were disappointed in the performance and I had to remind them that we won a football game tonight and we’re 1-0. I also talked to the players about, I’ve been coaching for 32 years and the most improvement you see is from week one to week two. With five new starters on offense, three of them in the offensive line, five new starters on defense, I anticipated there’d be some tough moments tonight.
I love the way we started the game, we were up 14-0 and Kaleb Ford-Dement gets the interception, we’re in their territory and we’ve got a chance, at that point, to really put some separation between us and them at 21 to nothing, but we don’t score, we miss the field goal, and then at 14 to nothing is when I felt the momentum shift. Norfolk State had a hundred yards of offense in the first half and 60 of them came in one play. We had a missed assignment, they were in an under route, they ran a three-by-one, three went vertical, two came under and the linebacker just missed his assignment on that, and they hit a huge play and got back in the game at 14-6.
With a young football team with not a lot of new starters, you’re going to have those momentum plays, and we need to respond to them. Other than that one play in the first half, I thought our defense was outstanding. They played hard, they played physical. In the second half, we came out, we got the field goal to go up 17-6 and then made a couple mistakes on offense. We had the interception on the reverse pass with Steven Williams, I wished on that one if he didn’t like it, he had just tucked it and gone. He tried to force it down field to Herslow and that was a big pick that led to a touchdown. Then the only mistake that Stone Smartt made today, we were in a three-by-one and they doubled Kumah into the boundary, they played a cloud coverage with a corner safety over top and we had the tight end Chris Cunningham running wide open down the middle. He got to it late, he tried to throw the ball late down the field, which is a cardinal rule in a quarterback, you never throw it late down the field, and that was his one mistake and they took the lead at that point. And at that point, down 21-17, that’s when you really find out what you’re made of. A little under six minutes to go in the game and this football team responded at that point. Stone led the offense on a 70-yard touchdown drive, he ran the ball, he threw the ball, had a big completion to Eric Kumah.
You guys all saw it tonight, Eric played good in this game. We didn’t play him a lot, he played about 30 snaps because he’s still coming back from the injury, but what a huge play made on our sideline. Not only to catch the ball, but break a tackle, get 30 yards after the catch, and we went in and scored on the Lala Davis touchdown, and then our defense responded with the Lance Boykin interception. From being up 14-0 with a chance to go up three touchdowns to being down with six minutes to go, I’m really pleased with that as a head coach. As a head coach, you like to see your team respond to adversity. Obviously, you want to do it with a win, but at some point, you need to see a young football team respond to adversity, and I told them in the locker room that I was proud of how they responded.
I also want to give a lot of credit to Latrell Scott and Norfolk State. They played hard, they played good football. The quarterback, Juwan Carter, is a good player, and I hope they win the rest of their games this year. I’m pulling for them to do well.