CHARLOTTESVILLE — One may assume that Virginia’s football team will be forewarned when Cavaliers pay their first visit to Old Dominion in November 2020.
The teams had not met at any venue before the Monarchs came to Scott Stadium on Saturday night and immediately threw a scare into the Cavaliers and a crowd of mostly UVa fans announced at 44,573.
Virginia (4-0) pulled away late for a 28-17 victory, but the Monarchs (1-2) had led 17-0 at one stage and didn’t surrender the lead until the fourth quarter.
“Our players are extremely disappointed,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. “We were up 17-0 on the road against a [top 25] team. We were a four-touchdown underdog.
“They feel like they should have won the game.”
The Monarchs’ Keion White blocked a field-goal attempt and finished with 3 ½ tackles for loss, including a sack.
“I felt like he was the best player on the field for either team,” Wilder said.
Apparently, that wasn’t a unanimous decision as 247 Sports announced that 6-foot-7 UVa outside linebacker Charles Snowden was its national defensive player of the week after notching 15 tackles, including two sacks and 3 ½ tackles for loss.
“I think we were the only school that recruited him or offered him a scholarship to play football,” UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Snowden. “Players weren’t racing to join our program when we arrived, and he fit all the measurable.
“But, more importantly, he’s an amazing, amazing person. It’s who he is that has helped him play the way he does.”
If the Cavaliers, who on Sunday moved up to 18th in both the AP and coaches’ top 25 polls, seemed disjointed to begin the game, it may have had something to do with the absence of first-team center Olusegun Oluwatimi, a transfer from the Air Force Academy who had started the first three games of the season. Mendenhall said after the game Oluwatimi was out due to a hand injury.
“I didn’t get a practice snap,” said Dillon Reinkensmeyer, who had started UVa’s first three games at tackle. “It’s a little nerve-wracking if I’m being completely honest. They told me on Thursday I might have to play center.”
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Reinkensmeyer had started for UVa at center 21 times in the previous two seasons.
“I think that we took ODU lightly and we didn’t prepare as if we were playing some huge team,” Reinkensmeyer said.
“They’re a tough team and were a good matchup. We were beating ourselves. We weren’t focused or locked in enough.”
After jumping out to their early lead, the Monarchs had the lead as late as the fourth quarter, when they faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 29 with just over 11 minutes to play. Wilder elected to go for a first down.
ODU quarterback Stone Smartt was sacked by UVa safety Joey Blount and the Cavaliers took possession. UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins immediately completed a 22-yard pass over the middle to tight end Tanner Cowley. Wayne Taulapapa scored one play later to give UVa its first lead.
Old Dominion never came close to scoring again after that.
“We told the team coming into this that we were going for it,” said Wilder, reminding media that ODU had taken a 17-0 lead after converting a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter.
“We came here to win and that is how we played today.”
Mendenhall had not anticipated a sluggish start for the Cavaliers.
“I looked for signs all week, so it caught me off guard,” he said. “Even though Old Dominion had a bye [over the previous weekend], it wasn’t some radically new plan that we saw.
“Obviously, we didn’t execute [ our game plan] with the urgency and precision that we needed to. That’s to their credit as well.”