WF Demon Deacons vs ODU Monarchs
Wake Forest 27 – Old Dominion 24
Weather: Sunny, 74, Ticket $22 Seatgeek, Parking $100
Getting better with age, by Tree
NOTE: This is an update to the original review. The comments feed off the previous review, so if you need more detail, read further below for more details from the previous review
Nothing really new to add about the location, but with some more context. Norfolk is a military town but also part of the larger Hampton Roads area. Combined with Virginia Beach, Newport News and Williamsburg, there’s more than enough to keep you interested for a long weekend. Virginia Beach has a nice boardwalk, think of it as a slightly more classy version of the Jersey shore. Exploring historical Williamsburg can easily take a day and there are several very nice state parks in the area. You can fly into D.C. but that’s at least a three and half hour drive. Richmond and Norfolk are much closer airports but your flight options are less.
On my first visit, I was unable to tailgate. For this trip, I sprung for tickets in the Brown Lot. You have to buy a whole year’s worth ($100) and I questioned the ODU Marketing department to see if it was worth it. They said the really good tailgating is at the front of the stadium but that this lot has decent tailgating too. Happily, I can vouch that Brown lot was good – not too crowded but still enough tailgating to make it feel like a college game. Whether I can get anyone to buy my extra parking passes on StubHub is yet to be seen. The folks in the Brown Lot were generous to a fault and before I knew it, I was eating a steak sandwich with a beer and a shot of fireball. I had so much fun with that group I was a little late in checking the lots next to the stadium. It is about a 10 minute walk to the stadium from the Brown lot.
I got to the stadium a half hour before kick and the lot was still rocking. Well, that is a bit of an oversell, much like the ODU Marketing department. It is good tailgating but not Power 5 Tailgating. It also felt a bit corporate. Access to the lot is expensive and I saw a lot of business tents. Still, the people I met were friendly. However, for my money, I would prefer the Brown lot for tailgating.
Instead of building a new stadium, the Monarchs refurbished the existing one heavily. I was a little disappointed when I heard that because the mock ups I saw of the new stadium were fabulous. However, it is hard to argue with the economics of the re-do. The new version of the stadium created a bigger stadium that is still small for FBS. However, it works to ODU’s favor as the fan base does manage to fill up the stadium. The stadium has standard seats with backs, but as a bonus the lower level bleachers have metal seat backs. I paid ~$20 on Seatgeek for a thirty yard line, lower level. I was also in the back which gave me much needed shade. Do not underestimate the Virginia sun in early September. Other than that, I would guess any seat in the stadium will give you a good view. They have a new scoreboard. There’s only one so consider that when buying seats. The concessions were efficient if fairly standard.
When I asked folks if ODU had any traditions, I got mostly blank stares. They did mention that they do the “Ice Cream and Cake” dance. And, sure enough, in the third quarter the fans, lead by the end zone student section busted out the dance. I don’t know if it is a tradition, but the Navy Leap Frog parachute team dropped in with the game ball to start the game. You will hear the occasional slogan “Monarchs Reign On.” While there are some “bits” performed during halftime, there were less of them then I usually see at smaller schools. One indicator that it is a small school was the fact that the Women’s Soccer team was working the concession stands as a fundraiser. The fan attire was pretty standard although there were some blue and white striped overalls in the student section.
ODU was a 14 point underdog coming into this game – call it ACC bias. The Monarchs, however, came to play. They stormed out to a 17 point lead. First they hit a 68 yard bomb, then a 80 yard scoop and score and finished with a field goal. It wasn’t like Wake wasn’t moving the ball. They just squandered opportunities with miscues and errors. So, despite the big lead at the half, I wasn’t sure ODU would be able to hold on.
Whatever the halftime speech was for the Demon Deacons, it worked. Wake came out and drove down for an immediate score. ODU then went three and out, and I thought “Uh-Oh”. However, the Monarchs defense had one more answer. LaMareon James, the same dude who had the first half scoop and score, took an interception 66 yards to the house. It would be the last hurrah for ODU. After that it was all Wake Forest. They eventually went ahead with a touchdown mid-fourth quarter. It was the classic problem of depth for the Monarchs. Well, that, and some really bad play by Wake Forest in the first half. Nonetheless, it was a very entertaining game.
Prior to the game, I was regretting buying the parking pass. I couldn’t get anyone to go to the game with me so I had figured I spent $100 to sit in an empty lot. Thankfully, the ODU fans in the “lower” priced Brown lot were great. Within five minutes of parking, I was having a great time. It immediately changed my mood and impression of the ODU experience. I went from “blah” to “yah” in a hurry. I would not classify ODU as must see, but I would not avoid it, especially if your team is visiting. You can make a nice long weekend out of the visit with all the stuff there is to do in the area. As for the game day experience, tailgating is “reasonable”, the ticket prices are fair with after market sellers, and ODU’s program has been pretty good since moving up to the FBS. Reign on Monarchs, reign on.
Original Game Review:
Howard Bisons vs ODU Monarchs 76
Final Score: Bisons 19 Monarchs 76
Weather: Warm, 70’s, Ticket and Parking: Free
“Off to a great start” by Tree
Old Dominion is making the move to FBS in 2014, so it made sense to grab a game on the way back from the Va. Tech vs. ECU game in Greenville, N.C. The stadium is small but nice. Or at least it is nice from the luxury boxes, which is where my son Trent and I were thanks to my buddy hooking us up. After baking in the sun at ECU, the cool and comfortable confines of the box were a welcome respite. The cold long necks and hot wings weren’t too bad either. It was only the second time my son had been to a box at a stadium and he was quite impressed. It was a little unusual for the box to be on the end zone. We were close enough to the action that they were still great seats. The current stadium is small enough that there is not a bad seat in the house except, perhaps, on the Howard bench. There was an organized tailgating area that seemed to have had a fair number of participants. The concessions appeared to be okay although I was frustrated that I did not get a souvenir cup. I hit a stand after the game and they said they only give them to the employees. I am not sure that is true given that I saw a couple of folks leaving the game with a cup. It is ODU’s loss as they will not get to be displayed on my cup wall of fame.
When the Monarchs go to the FBS, it will be in a new stadium. Supposedly it will be on the water which should make for an outstanding venue. I cannot say I recognized any specific traditions for the fans. They did have a strange contest. Instead of having someone kick a field goal for a prize, the contestant had to catch a jugs machine simulated punt. It struck those of us watching as an incredibly simple contest.
ODU is in the middle of a nice neighborhood in Norfolk and it was not the easiest route to navigate. The problem was exacerbated by our being about a half hour late. By the time we got to the stadium, all the signage and traffic support police were gone. We ended up parking in the neighborhood several blocks away. But to be honest, the walk to the stadium felt good after being in the car for three hours.
This was more than a blowout, it was a beating. At one point, I thought someone was going to call the cops to arrest ODU for assault and battery. As I mentioned, we were late and had to walk to the stadium. It seemed every block would bring a touchdown update on my son’s phone. It went something like this. As we’re parking, “hey ODU has already scored.” Start walking to the stadium, “ODU just scored again. Hey that Tudor looks pretty nice. Whoops ODU scores again.” By the time we got to our seats the score was already 28 – 3. ODU had been on the losing end of FBS road games at ECU and Maryland, and they took the opportunity to celebrate the start of their last FCS team by opening a can of whoop ass on Howard. Actually, it was more like a barrel of whoop ass. By halftime it was 49 – 10. ODU ran a high powered offense and despite the rout, it was still an entertaining track meet. I felt bad for Howard, but having been a college bench warmer myself, I knew not to expect the ODU second and third string to let up.
The fact that ODU had just restarted their program in 2009 and was instantly competitive after a 70 plus year layoff amazed me. Perhaps, their start in the FBS will be much rockier. But, if my visit was any indicator, Conference USA members had better be ready buckle their chin straps when visiting the Monarchs.