Chuck Landon: Herd can’t be fooled by ODU’s 1-5 record
NORFOLK, Va. - On any given day ...
That adage is a time-honored concept in athletics.
But perhaps no one has lived up to the premise of any football team can beat any other team on any given day more thoroughly than Old Dominion when it stunned Virginia Tech, 49-35, for the Monarchs’ only win this season.
It makes Old Dominion the quintessential example of the “on any given day” concept.
“Yeah, it’s a weird way to get to 1 and 5,” said Marshall senior guard Jordan Dowrey.
How does an Old Dominion team that got embarrassed by Liberty, defeated by FIU, humbled by Charlotte, edged by East Carolina and out-scored by Florida Atlantic, defeat the then-No. 13 ranked Hokies?
It defies logic.
It also annoys Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder.
“We’re frustrated right now to be 1-5, especially when that one win is over a nationally ranked Virginia Tech team,” said Wilder.
“We know our record should be better at this point. We’re going to turn the page and start the second half of the season with the goal to have an outstanding second half of the season.”
That’s where Marshall comes in.
Old Dominion hopes to begin its turnaround at the expense of Marshall when ODU hosts the Herd at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Foreman Field.
But ODU isn’t fooling anybody at Marshall. That crash you just heard? That was MU throwing Old Dominion’s 1-5 record out the window.
“They prove the ‘on any given day’ premise about as well as anyone ever has,” conceded Dowrey.
“If you’re going to be 1 and 5, you might as well go out and beat a ranked team. If you have the chance.
“But they are much better than 1 and 5. In watching film, they are not what you’d expect a 1 and 5 football team to look like.
“You would never expect them to have that record. It just means the focus and the preparation can’t dip because of a record that doesn’t really reflect who they are.”
And that’s the crux of the matter for a Marshall team that lost two of its last three games.
“Their record really doesn’t show how good they are,” said Marshall defensive back Nazeeh Johnson.
That’s because it doesn’t reflect what redshirt junior quarterback Blake LaRussa has accomplished since coming off the bench in the win over Virginia Tech.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound LaRussa has completerd 90 of 136 passes (.662) for 1,135 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions in the Monarchs last three games.
In fact, he threw 51 passes last week.
“Fifty-one times,” mused Johnson.
“That’s a lot, that’s a lot ... 51. On defense, I feel like if we can eliminate mistakes we can run with this team. Physically, we can run with just about any team. But when it comes to mental, we’ve got to be perfect.”
What makes it even tougher is Johnson is playing two positions in MU’s secondary because of an injury to cornerback Jaylon McClain-Sapp.
“I’m playing safety and nickel, so I barely come off the field,” said Johnson.
“First and second downs I’m at safety. Then, on passing downs I go to nickel. I may be out there for 50 plays, but it’s not going to be the first time and, hopefully, it won’t be the last.”
So, can Marshall beat ODU? To be honest, the game is looking like a tossup.
MU will win, 27-24.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.