ODU has Herd’s respect

October 10, 2018

Marshall's Malik Gant (29) and Jaylon McClain-Sapp (7) celebrate a stop of EKU on third down on Sept. 8 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — When Marshall University safety Malik Gant was asked about Old Dominion University and its 1-5 football record, his eyebrow raised and his eyes got big.

Gant and the rest of the Thundering Herd saw first-hand in video study that records don’t tell the story of the Monarchs.

“Most definitely,” Gant said. “We watched film this morning and you think, ‘1-5? How are they 1-5?’ Especially watching the Virginia Tech game, just watching that game, you’d think their record was opposite at 5-1 instead of 1-5 because of the talent on the offensive side.”

Marshall (3-2, 1-1 Conference USA) and ODU (1-5, 0-3) meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia.

Gant’s sentiment was the same as all Marshall players who

showed up to Monday’s interview session. The Monarchs have loads of talent on each side of the football and are capable of big things.

Just how big? Well, that one ‘W’ in the win column was a 49-35 win against Virginia Tech that was ranked No. 13 at the time.

In that game Old Dominion switched quarterbacks, going with Blake LaRussa, who proceeded to throw for 495 yards in the upset. With LaRussa at the helm in the last three games, the Monarchs have put up 117 points and 1,135 passing yards.

Even though Old Dominion lost its last two contests to East Carolina and Florida Atlantic, Marshall’s has a tall task as the Thundering Herd goes on the road to meet the Monarchs.

“You can’t look at their record and base anything off of that because they’ve been in every single game, they beat Virginia Tech,” Marshall defensive end Ryan Bee said. “They are a team that can beat anybody. ... We have to lock in and take it as a big game, which is exactly what it is.”

Old Dominion’s offense isn’t the only part of the team that has been solid, either.

The Monarchs also feature one of the nation’s leading quarterback sack artists in defensive end Oshane Ximines, who has 7.5 sacks in six games. Ximines has been a thorn in the Herd’s side for years and Marshall is well-aware of what he brings to the table. In the last two years against Marshall he made seven tackles, of which four were tackles for loss and three were sacks.

Ximines prides himself on living in the opponent’s backfield.

“He’s a really good player,” Marshall offensive lineman Jordan Dowrey said. “He’s fast, he’s long and he’s strong. That’s a really tough combination to deal with. It’s not just him. They have other D-ends, D-linemen that are really good. The combination of that means we have to protect better than we did last week.”

The Monarchs are C-USA’s version of a wild-card.

Old Dominion looked dreadful in an early-season blowout against Liberty and a loss to Charlotte, but looked unstoppable, at times, in the win over Virginia Tech and even in last week’s loss to Florida Atlantic.

In the last three games, ODU has looked every bit like the formidable opponent that was expected with a veteran group returning for 2018.

Marshall players know they need to be at their best.

“Anybody can get beat at any time, so we’ve got to be ready for this one,” Herd defensive back Nazeeh Johnson said.

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