Micah Rose | Sports Editor
In September, ODU celebrated what will go down as one of the greatest moments in our history. For fans, students and players alike, as the timer hit zero, Foreman Field and the campus erupted into pure bliss. With only a 1.8 percent predicted win by ESPN, ODU went the distance and defeated Virginia Tech 49-35. Students stormed the field as players and coaches celebrated the greatest college football underdog story in recent years.
Virginia Tech players and fans were left stunned. This was not the outcome anyone could have foreseen.
Before the game, ODU was 0-3 and ranked much lower than Tech. The night that followed was filled with celebrations, some burned couches and most of all, lots of ODU pride.
Blake LaRussa spoke about the historic win against Virginia Tech, who was ranked 13th nationally, that left the college football world stun.
Little was known about LaRussa before the Tech game, he was put into the game after the second drive and had not seen much field time before then. The rest is history as he led the team with 495-yards passing, four TD performance to a victory fans, players and students will hold dear for a lifetime.
After the Tech game, he was named National Player of the Week, as well as Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Week. Since the big win, LaRussa has gained attention from the media. I was lucky enough to get some time after a Wednesday practice to get to know our quarterback who has worked his way up to becoming an NCAA player.
Growing up, LaRussa was frequently told he was too short for his position. At 5’10,” 185 pounds, this quarterback was written off by many coaches.
The journey he said was long but with his strong faith, love for the game and his support system, he continued to put in the work and ignore the noise.
LaRussa is a Hampton Roads native. As far as how it feels to go from being a fan of the program to calling the shots in the biggest game of his career, LaRussa said “It’s just awesome, I love it here. I attended games from the beginning. I remember the days with Thomas DeMarco (ODU’s first quarterback from 2009-2011).”
During his high school career, LaRussa threw for over 8,000 yards while attending Grassfield High and Bishop Sullivan. “It was my dream to play for a Division One team,” he said.
Once LaRussa graduated he decided to try out for ODU’s program. His dream came true in 2015 after a walk-on where ODU’s quarterback's coach, Ron Whitcomb, saw potential in the young quarterback. LaRussa redshirted the same year and eventually earned a scholarship after playing sporadically throughout the next few seasons.
Now as a senior, LaRussa has found himself to be ODU’s knight in shining honor, a hero for the ODU community. He will forever be engraved in a part of ODU’s football history.
When asked whether the 1.8 percent predictions affected the team before going into this game, LaRussa spoke about the motivation the team feels for being the underdogs. “We like seeing that, we chuckle at it because we just see the game differently. We believed we could do it,” he said.
The plan was simple he said, “Take shots when we can and let our athletes Jonathan Duhart, Travis Fulgham, Jeremy Cox and among other guys go play football. They all did an amazing job.”
This game was a constant battle from both teams but It was evident from the beginning who truly wanted this game more. Wearing their hearts on their sleeves and with a passionate crowd in the stands, this night turned out to be a great one for an underdog story.
As the night grew darker and the time clock winded down to the last final minutes, it became clear ODU was going to be victorious. The defining moment for LaRussa was the touchdown catch by Jonathan Duhart which brought the score to 35-48. The stands were wild. The local bars were flowing with students glued to the TVs shouting and cheering.
“All the students were getting ready to rush the field. Security was trying to keep it under control but once the game was over, we all started to jump the fence and football players ran to the student section. It was wild, ” Carter Johnson, an ODU senior, said.
Once the score was final, the field was illuminated by all of the cameras, from the media and fans trying to capture this moment. LaRussa, who had taken some hard physical hits and even got a black eye during the game was swarmed by reporters trying to get his reaction.
LaRussa said the moments after the game felt like a whirlwind. Once the players made it back into the locker room it was filled with high emotions. Some were celebrating while others were still processing the experience.
President Broderick drove to the game after having to deal with some personal family matters and spoke to the players after the game. His speech was emotionally charged as he spoke about his appreciation for this team and what they had just accomplished. LaRussa said, “It was all crazy but afterward it eventually sunk it. This team will always remember this.”
Celebrations did not stop after the game. The streets on 42nd and Monarch Way were flooded. Whether you were a student, alumni or simply a Monarch fan, this victory was felt by many.
Johnson, who lives on 42nd St., said the streets were in chaos after the game was over. Hundreds of people lined the streets through the early hours of the morning. ODU was ready to celebrate the night away. The scene that unfolded after the game resembled a scene out of the movie “Project X,” with couches being burned, fire trucks, police, lots of sirens and hundreds of proud fans.
When asking fans about the lasting impact and legacy this game will have on them, Keyan Gant, a senior at ODU said it was a night he will never forget. He will definitely tell his children about this game and will cherish this for the rest of his life.
With family and friends in the crowd, LaRussa who was physically and mentally worn after the game celebrated at his house in Chesapeake with some buddies.
While reflecting on his favorite memories from the many years of playing football, LaRussa agreed with a spread of 29 points and odds at only 1.8 percent, beating Tech has been one of the greatest moments of his life.
This is LaRussa’s last season at ODU, as he is graduating in May. He spoke about a wide range of options for his future endeavors which range from ministry work to coaching football.
Though the past few weeks have been a whirlwind for LaRussa with this new found fame, he remains humble. He is thankful for his experience here at ODU and excited for the rest of the season.
ODU sports is not defined by our record, we are defined by the resilience strength and passion we show when it really matters. Beating Virginia Tech has cemented its place in ODU’s history of sports.