NORFOLK, Va. (ODU Athletics) – While Old Dominion did not sell out a football game this season, the fans who came were loyal and loud and their cheers were heard and appreciated.

“I don’t think the fans realize how much they mean to us, how much they helped us,” said Blake Watson, the ODU running back who rushed for 1,035 yards in just 10 games.

“When games were close, they were always there pulling for us, making noise. They don’t know how much it meant to us to know they were behind us.”

So far, nearly 3,000 tickets have been sold by ODU for the University’s final game of the season in the Myrtle Beach Bowl against the University of Tulsa next Monday, Dec. 20, at 2:30 p.m.

Given that Myrtle Beach is a 5-hour drive from Norfolk, officials would be happier if closer to 5,000 ODU fans were in Brooks Stadium on the campus of Coastal Carolina University.

So would ODU coach Ricky Rahne, who when prodded by Ted Alexander, voice of the Monarchs, Monday night during his weekly coaches’ show, made a plea for more fans to go. 

“I would love to see as many of our fans in that stadium as possible,” he said. 

He said for seniors who remained at ODU through the pandemic and a transition to a new coaching staff deserve as large a turnout as possible.

ODU was 1-11 in 2019 and because of the pandemic, did not play in 2020, Rahne’s first year as head coach. Then, after a 1-6 start this season, they were the leaders who helped ODU rally to win five in a row and land its first bowl bid since 2016.

Center Isaac Weaver, defensive back Joe Joe Headen, placekicker Nick Rice and linebacker Jordan Young all chose to stay. Rahne said they and their other teammates who persevered deserve support in Myrtle Beach.

“Those guys get to be Monarchs one last time,” Rahne said. “I know they’d love to see everyone there. And they deserve everyone’s support given what they’ve gone through and the sacrifices they’ve made.

“They chose to be Monarchs when a lot of people left. And a lot of people did leave under similar circumstances. These guys stayed through it because they wanted to accomplish something like this. I’d love to see everyone there supporting them.

“It’s not a hard drive. It’s before Christmas. This is an awesome opportunity to show the nation what Monarch Nation is all about. 

“This is how you continue to get in bowl games, even better bowl games in the future, by going out there and selling as many tickets as you can and getting as many people down there as well.”