NORFOLK, VA (EHOURL)- Old Dominion shifts from an ACC opponent to a team that some college football fans may have never heard of, but no matter who is on the opposite sideline, the Monarchs are insistent that their approach doesn’t change.
Texas A&M-Commerce visits S.B. Ballard Stadium on Saturday as ODU closes out a three-game homestand. The Lions are in their second year of FCS football after transitioning from Division II following the 2021 season, but Ricky Rahne hopes his guys know not to overlook one of their few chances to hit the field for a game.
“You only get 12 guaranteed opportunities for these things,” the head coach said. “Whether you’re playing the New York Giants or the local eighth grade team, whatever. You only get 12 opportunities so you’d better go out there and you’d better prepare.”
“We’re not taking it lightly on them,” added junior cornerback LaMareon James. “They can make history also if they beat us so we’re not taking them lightly.”
Saturday’s opponent is coming off a bye week after falling in its first two contests. Texas A&M-Commerce, which hails from the Southland Conference, has scored a total of 16 points in its first two games, but has shown the ability to protect its quarterback offensively and come up with interceptions on defense. The Lions have allowed just three sacks in their two outings so far and have come away with four picks.
Old Dominion will take the field after having let one slip away this past weekend. After leading Wake Forest, 24-7, in the third quarter, the Demon Deacons charged back with 20 unanswered point to hand the Monarchs a 27-24 loss.
“We love the winning feeling,” James said. “When we won that game against [Louisiana], I feel like that was a great feeling in the locker room for the whole facility. It feels good coming back after a win so we’re definitely ready to get this taste out of our mouth.”
“Obviously the outcome Saturday wasn’t what we wanted,” wide receiver Reymello Murphy added. “It’s just a matter of playing to the standard and what we believe we can play to.”
The Norfolk native James will be looking to follow up a career performance against Wake Forest. The junior cornerback recovered a fumble and took it back 80 yards for a touchdown to give the Monarchs an early 14-0 lead. The third quarter would see him return an interceptions 66 yards for another score, making him just the seventh player in FBS history to take back a fumble and a pick for a TD in a single game. Both James and Ricky Rahne pointed out how the plays were the result of strong overall defensive play, but the Indian River product’s skill is certainly part of the equation.
“That was just one of my goals going into the season,” he said. “I [didn’t want to be known] just as a kick returner. I wanted to show my ability at corner, too, so that was one of my goals going into the season.”
“His ability to make plays has always been there,” Rahne pointed out. “That’s a God-given gift. There’s just some players the ball seems to find and that’s just an innate ability and he certainly has that.”
James earned Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts and now he and his team set their sights on climbing back to .500 entering the bulk of Sun Belt Conference play.
Old Dominion and Texas A&M-Commerce kick off at 3:30 PM on Saturday in the Monarchs’ homecoming game.