Old Dominion dominated offensively last season, producing the top FCS passing offense (393 ypg) led by quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The aerial attack helped the Monarchs rank first in scoring offense, averaging 45.15 points per game, and total offense, averaging 548 yards per game. Heinicke set multiple NCAA passing records during his sophomore season and will be relied on to do even more this season. The receivers responsible for the passing dominance were Antonio Vaughan (60 receptions, 7 touchdowns; pictured right), Blair Roberts (56 receptions, 7 touchdowns) and Larry Pinkard (55 receptions, 7 touchdowns). That talented trio returns for the Monarchs and high expectations surround them as they take on better competition. The rushing offense featured running back Tyree Lee, who also returns in 2013 after gaining 864 yards on the ground in 2012. Overall, the rushing attack ranked 55th nationally, averaging 154 yards per game. Lee still holds value in the pass-oriented offense after scoring eight touchdowns in 2012. The offense returns nine starters, providing a solid base for its first year at the FBS level.
Defensively, the Monarchs struggled both defending the pass and the run in 2012. The pass defense ranked 74th in the FCS, allowing 222 yards per game, while the rush defense ranked 100th in giving up 197 yards per contest. Six defensive starters return for the 2013 season, including a pair of stout linebackers in Caleb Taylor and John Darr. Taylor was second on the team in tackles with 87 and first on the team with 13.5 tackles for loss. Darr ranked third on the Monarch defense with 75 tackles along with 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The linebacker duo will be relied on to improve the defensive effort from a dismal 2012 season. The Monarchs could be dangerous team if the defense can somehow match the production of the high-powered offense.
Historic Context: Old Dominion plays their contests at Foreman Field in Norfolk, Va. The Tar Heels and Monarchs will play for the first time ever in what amounts to a bowl-like opportunity for ODU at Kenan Stadium. The Monarchs don't play enough FBS opponents to qualify for bowl eligibility in 2013.
"Our biggest goal this year is to win some FBS games. We really want to make a statement that we belong in FBS and that we intend to compete for the Conference USA championship next season."—Wilder
"The way we're looking at it is that we're playing five bowl games this year. We're playing five playoff games. We're playing five teams we've never played before. We open the season with a bowl game and close the season with a bowl game." – Wilder
Notable Matchups: The Monarchs play three ACC teams in 2013 – Maryland on Sept. 7, Pittsburgh on Oct. 19 and UNC on Nov. 23. Old Dominion faces future conference foes East Carolina to open the season and UNC Charlotte on Nov. 16.