As expected, it was 59 degrees under a cloudless autumn sky when Old Dominion and Norfolk State kicked off Saturday afternoon at Dick Price Stadium.
The forecast was spot-on. The anticipated turnout was not.
Just 11,308 gathered in the 30,000-seat venue as ODU survived for a 27-24 win over its crosstown rival. The relatively sparse crowd, much like the thin final margin, was a surprise by any measure.
Reasoning that NSU's fan base tends to buy walk-up tickets rather than purchase in advance, athletic director Marty Miller said in the days leading up to the game that good weather likely would equal a packed house.
He got one, but not the other.
"I'm not disappointed in the crowd, although I hoped we'd have closer to 20,000," Miller said through a school spokesman after the game, declining to speculate as to why the showing was barely half that size. "I thought it was a decent turnout."
The last time the teams met, in the 2011 FCS playoffs at ODU, they quickly sold out then-19,818-seat Foreman Field.
On Saturday, there were premium seats galore. A section of reserved seating behind ODU's sideline was sparsely populated, and an unofficial count in the second quarter found about 50 fans dotting the seats behind the east end zone.
In four games this season, the Spartans have drawn an average of 7,410 fans. Their highest total before Saturday - a day on which they saw their record fall to 2-6 - came a week earlier, when a loss to Hampton drew 8,525.
Linebacker Marcell Coke said NSU needs to put a better product on the field to fill the stadium.
"For the most part, we've gotten used to not having a big crowd," Coke said. "There's no way around it: We've been struggling. Nobody wants to come see a loser."
Fans of the Monarchs, who improved to 5-3, didn't exactly make the 4-mile trip in droves. Despite selling out all 33 home games in the program's 41?2 seasons, ODU returned about 300 of its allotted 2,000 tickets.
About 5,000 fans traveled to ODU's opener at East Carolina, and about 2,000 went to Maryland on Sept. 7.
Athletic director Wood Selig said this week he anticipates taking as many as 5,000 to North Carolina on Nov. 23.
Add those trips to six ODU home games this season - including four in a row recently - and the tailgating tab skyrockets.
NSU, which charges $25 for reserved seating for most home games, raised the price to $35 for the ODU game and this Saturday's homecoming contest against Florida A&M.
"It's just whether or not the fans want to come see it," said ODU coach Bobby Wilder, who wouldn't allow his players to speak about the crowd. "I understand there was a significant cost involved to come see this football game. I certainly respect, whether it's when we play at home or when we travel, an expense to go see a football game. We're just appreciative of all those fans that were behind us on our sideline, because it got pretty loud."
There was a crescendo at the end. ODU's Jarod Brown kicked a 24-yard field goal to break a tie as time expired, a play probably worth the price of admission to many Monarchs fans.
It capped a thriller that was closer than most predicted.
"The ones that didn't come missed a good game," Spartans coach Pete Adrian said.
David Hall, 757-446-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org