Old Dominion kicker Nick Rice could break a school record. His coach hopes he doesn’t get a chance.

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A debate rages within Old Dominion’s football program.

Is the impending record that kicker Nick Rice is likely about to break dubious — or to be celebrated?

Second-year coach Ricky Rahne falls in the former camp.

“Quite frankly, I hope he never hits it because I hope we score touchdowns,” Rahne said before heaping praise upon Rice. “I think he is one of the most accurate kickers that I could possibly, possibly imagine.”

Rice, a shaggy-haired senior from St. Petersburg, Florida, kicked a career-high four field goals in Saturday’s 47-7 win over Hampton to move into a tie with Jarod Brown (2010-13) for the school career record of 49.

Rice’s next successful kick will bump Brown and mark the culmination of an effective career.

“It’s a good result of the process that I’ve been through in the past five years that I’ve been here now,” Rice said. “We’ve done all the things right. We’ve practiced hard, and it’s good to have our execution show.”

Rice has led the Monarchs in scoring each of the past three seasons. He’s third on the career list with 238 points. In 92 career PAT attempts, Rice has missed just one. He’s made 49 of 63 career field-goal tries, with a long of 48 yards.

Rahne prefers that Rice rack up his points one at a time.

“He wants to kick extra points,” Rahne said. “But I know when I put him out there for a field goal, I pretty much chalk it up that that one’s going to go through.”

Rice said he’s comfortable from as far out as 56 yards, though his coach isn’t looking for more field goals.

“He’s told me that a few times,” Rice said. “We disagree on that. I like to kick field goals. Obviously, it’s better for the team to score touchdowns, but selfishly, I’ll take all the opportunities I can get.”

A group effort

During the win over Hampton, the Monarchs (1-1) set a school record with 358 rushing yards, shattering the mark of 340 set in 2009 against Georgetown.

Offensive linemen don’t often get credited with records, but ODU’s own this one.

“We take pride in it as a whole, for sure, because this offensive line has been through a lot together,” said sophomore right tackle Nick Saldiveri. “It’s great for us to see the stuff that we’ve been working on really working in-game.”

It wasn’t the only encouraging aspect. Rahne said he saw improvements in offense, defense and special teams, as well as in procedural areas such as substitutions, since a 42-10 season-opening loss at Wake Forest.

Turning good practice habits into a victory, Rahne said, was valuable.

“I ask them to do things that are very, very difficult,” Rahne said. “I ask them to do things that require a lot of discipline. And so, like all of us, when I’m trying to lose weight, I’m eating well and doing all those sort of things, and then all of a sudden, I don’t lose any weight. You don’t get the rewards for it, next thing you know, you’re reaching for the first cookie you can find. I think it was important that our players and coaches were able to reap some rewards from it.”

Camera, action, lights

Saturday’s win came in Rahne’s first game at S.B. Ballard Stadium. Because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, ODU didn’t play in 2020.

Rahne complimented the school’s 5,000 or so students who turned out for the game. But when the stadium’s lights went out before the start of the second half, as they always do, Rahne was taken aback near midfield as he tried to get his personnel ready.

“I was not expecting the light show at halftime, so that kind of caught me off-guard,” Rahne said. “Now I know. Get out of the way.”

Staying home

The Monarchs visit Liberty (2-0) for another non-conference game Saturday.

The Flames feature highly decorated junior quarterback Malik Willis, whose versatility has landed him squarely on the radar of NFL scouts.

Rahne said slowing Willis would require discipline.

“You’ve got to keep him in the pocket as much as possible, knowing that he can extend plays and do those sort of things,” Rahne said. “I’ve really been impressed at the way that he’s thrown the football from within the pocket this year. There’s a reason he’s getting as much hype around being a possible first-round pick as he is. He’s a very, very good player.”

Senior safety Harrell Blackmon has not been as impressed by what he’s seen on film.

“We look at it as an opportunity,” Blackmon said of facing Willis. “He’s a good guy once he’s out of the pocket, but I don’t think he can pass the ball.”

Underdogs again

Liberty is favored by as many as 28 points Saturday, but Rahne said he doesn’t care.

He tries each week to get his players to focus internally, and not to worry about what others say.

“They built a really big city in the desert for those sort of things, and then another one on the ocean up there in Jersey,” Rahne said before offering his opinion on gambling.

“I would never in a million years bet on sports, even if I was allowed to. Those people are pretty good at their jobs, and I think it’s just a crazy thing to do. So I would never, ever do that. It would make me sick to my stomach to lose money on something like that.”

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonline.com

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