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Pitt Football vs. Old Dominion Preview

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old dominion
OCTOBER 19, 2013 - TBA
Buy Season Tickets - 2013 Pitt Football

Founded 1930
Location Norfolk, VA
Nickname Monarchs
Mascot Big Blue

By RJ Sepich

Series History
The Panthers and Monarchs will meet for the first time in 2013.

2012-13 Old Dominion Season Review
Head Coach: Bobby Wilder (4th season)
2012-13 Record: 11-2 (7-1 Colonial Athletic Conference)
Pitt Bullet Recorded most wins in a season during the program's four-year history
Pitt Bullet Won CAA regular season title and advanced to FCS quarterfinals
Pitt Bullet Finished with No. 6 ranking in the final FCS Coaches and AP Polls

Notable Team Stats:
Pitt Bullet Led FCS in total offense (548.2 yards/game) and scoring offense (45.2 points/game)
Pitt Bullet Also led FCS in passing offense (393.9 yards/game)
Pitt Bullet Finished in FCS top five of passing efficiency, first downs and third-down conversions
Pitt Bullet Defense allowed 30.5 points per game, but created 23 turnovers

The Wilder File
Bobby Wilder hasn't just taken Old Dominion from a school without a football program to a perennial Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national championship contender in a few short years. He's made it look easy. After leaving his alma mater Maine, where he played as a quarterback and served as an assistant coach for 17 years, to become the first Old Dominion football coach since 1941, Wilder had two years to recruit players and prepare the revived program for life at the Division I level. Six years later, offensive guru Wilder is the man behind the most successful start-up FCS program in history, compiling an astounding 38-10 coaching record while leading the Monarchs to back-to-back FCS playoff berths and top 10 finishes in the polls. With Wilder under contract through the 2021 season, Old Dominion selling out its renovated 20,000-plus seat stadium for almost every home game and the Monarchs set to begin Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) play in Conference USA in 2014, the program should continue its remarkably rapid growth over the next several years.

Taking a look at the Monarchs
As the program prepares to transition to the FBS in 2014, Old Dominion will view the Oct. 19 matchup with Pitt as a huge opportunity to prove it can compete at the highest level of college football. Let's look at what Coach Wilder and the Monarchs have coming back from their FCS quarterfinalist team of 2012:

1. Pass, pass and pass some more - Coming off a season in which he broke numerous FCS passing records and won the Walter Payton Award as the Best Player in the FCS, star junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke is undoubtedly the leader on the field for Old Dominion. Heinicke and the Monarchs love to put the ball in the air, proven by the quarterback's ridiculous 5,076 total passing yards and 45 passing attempts per game last season. Three of Heinicke's top four targets return, so ODU should be primed for another explosive year in the offensive passing game.

2. Running game also packs a punch - Leading rusher Tyree Lee (864 yards) returns for his junior season as the Monarchs' starting tailback. While Old Dominion's offense revolves around the passing game, it certainly isn't a one-dimensional attack. Monarch ball carriers posted 2,007 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground last season, with the shifty Heinicke also a threat to scramble for yardage when passing plays break down.

1. Opportunistic defense concedes points - For as impressive as the ODU offense was last season, its defense struggled just as much at times, which ended up costing the team a chance at an FCS national championship. After conceding 420 yards per game and 30.5 points per game, Coach Wilder knows his defensive unit has some room for improvement. However, the Monarchs did intercept 15 passes and recover eight fumbles in 2012, so the opportunistic group can cause problems for offenses that don't take care of the ball.

Keys to Victory
1. Don't underestimate the Monarchs - Having already faced teams like Florida State and Virginia Tech by this point in the season, Pitt can't allow itself to view Old Dominion as a lesser opponent. The Panthers need to remember what happened the last time they faced an FCS opponent, the disappointing defeat against Youngstown State in the 2012 season opener. The Monarchs will certainly be fired up and excited to face an FBS opponent at Heinz Field, and Pitt must match that enthusiasm and come ready to play from the opening kickoff.

2. Get to Heinicke - There's no denying that Old Dominion's quarterback had a sensational season in 2012. But Heinicke did throw 14 interceptions last season, which shows that he can be mistake-prone. If Aaron Donald and the rest of the Pitt defensive line can put pressure on Heinicke and get the passing lanes of the 6-foot-1 signal caller, the Monarch passing attack could be in for a rough day. However, if the Panthers can't get in the ODU backfield, the reigning FCS Player of the Year has the ability to likewise make it a long day for the Pitt secondary.

2. Control the ball on offense - Perhaps the best way to ensure that Old Dominion's star quarterback doesn't have a big day would be to keep him off the field as much as possible. The Monarch defense struggled to hold opponents off the scoreboard for much of last season, and Pitt must take advantage of that fact when it has the football. Establishing the running game, dominating the line of scrimmage, sustaining long drives on offense and winning the time-of-possession battle will all be crucial for Coach Paul Chryst's team.

Check back for a preview of Pitt's Week Seven Opponent, Navy.

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