By: Max Wolpoff
Virginia Tech traveled last Saturday to Foreman Field in Norfolk, Virginia for what was supposed to be their final tune-up game before ACC play. The Hokies were 2-0 and ranked No. 13 by the national polls. Depending on how optimistic you were, they were an outside candidate to make the College Football Playoff.
Old Dominion, who restarted their football program in 2009 after complaints from alumni that the school needed one, entered their sold-out stadium 0-3. The Monarchs joined Conference USA (C-USA) in 2014, and have had the same head coach, Bobby Wilder, since their first game. They beat Eastern Michigan in the 2016 Bahamas Bowl for their only bowl game win in school history. ODU lost to Liberty, Florida International, and UNC -Charlotte prior to this week.
What transpired this past Saturday exemplified why so many love watching sports: Old Dominion scored 28 points in the 4th quarter to overtake their in-state foe and win, 49-35.
Two years earlier, Tech took a social media shot at ODU and said their new scoreboard in the plans for a new stadium was “wishful thinking “ when it showed the Monarchs leading the Hokies in a hypothetical game.
For Virginia Tech, this loss is a major embarrassment. For Old Dominion, this win catapulted them to national stardom for a few hours.
What was supposed to be a showcase game for the Hokies ended up as a huge blemish on their case to the College Football Playoff Committee for consideration to the four-team playoff.
In a conference with the likes of North Texas, Western Kentucky, Rice, and Marshall, Old Dominion will be stuck with one of the anonymous bowls that make up early December before the power-five schools start to play. If they get that far.
For one day, though, junior quarterback Blake LaRussa is a household name for leading the Monarchs offense to 632 total yards. He passed for 495 of those yards and contributed four touchdown passes against a defense that had not allowed this much yardage in the 24-year tenure of defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
For one day, coach Wilder is the most in-demand sports interview in Norfolk. The Monarchs may not make a bowl game at all, but they can enjoy their moment in the sun.
College football is full of these shining examples of why sports are beautiful. While exciting to see Alabama roll to another win over a mismatched opponent, it pales in comparison to watching a team like Old Dominion win a game they were never expected to.
It may be cool next weekend when Penn State and Ohio State meet again, but either team could win that heavyweight bout. The glory of the first four weeks of college football is in watching small schools punch above their weight class and win.
Playoff-favorite Oklahoma got a major scare when Army matched them score-for-score and forced overtime. Boomer Sooner managed to escape with a win, but the Black Knights captivated the college football world with the prospect of ANOTHER unranked team beating a contender.
In this arena, fan allegiance is tribal: my tribe is better than yours, no matter what. From outside the tribe, it is easy to get swept up in the magnificence of an underdog victory. It is easy to cheer for massive chaos and hope for the strangest possible story. Undefeated teams and constant domination are boring. It makes for easier study in hindsight, but less enjoyable in the moment.
Sports are weird. Embrace it.