On a rainy night at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Va., the Eastern Michigan University football team fell to the Old Dominion University Monarchs 17-3, Sept. 13. The loss drops the Eagles to 1-2 on the season, while ODU improves to 2-1.
The EMU defense allowed just 10 points as ODU scored on special teams with a 46-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. The 10 points given up is the fewest allowed by an EMU defense since Oct. 22, 2011, when the Eagles defeated Western Michigan University, 14-10. The 17 points allowed overall on the night was the fewest surrendered by Eastern Michigan since a 30-17 victory over the University at Buffalo, Nov. 12, 2011.
Great Ibe (Hanover, Md.-Meade-Concordia) and Pat O'Connor (Chicago, Ill.-Saint Rita) led the Eagles on the defensive side of the ball. Ibe posted a team-high 11 tackles, while O'Connor recorded nine, including three for a loss. Two of the three tackles behind the line of scrimmage for O'Connor were sacks. The EMU defense went through a stretch where it held Old Dominion off the scoreboard for seven possessions, forcing five punts, a fumble and a turnover-on-downs at the goal line.
Rob Bolden (Orchard Lake, Mich.-Orchard Lake St. Mary's-Penn State-LSU) entered the contest at the end of the third quarter to lead the Eagles on its lone scoring drive. Junior Dylan Mulder (Saline, Mich.-Saline) booted a 43-yard field goal, tying the longest of his career. In just over one quarter of play, Bolden was 3-of-6 passing for 16, while rushing the ball 12 times for 31 yards.
On offense, Eastern finished with 215 total yards, including 143 on the ground. Bronson Hill (Grand Rapids, Mich.-Catholic Central) paced the Eagles' rushing attack with 78 yards on 16 carries. Starting quarterback Brogan Roback (Maumee, Ohio-Toledo St. John's Jesuit) led Eastern's passing game by going 9-of-17 for 56 yards.
ODU was led by Gerard Johnson on the ground, who carried the ball 19 times for 85 yards. Ray Lawry added four for 69 yards, including a 55-yard run for the only offensive touchdown of the game. ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 17-of-30 passing attempts for 187 yards. Antonio Vaughn led the Monarchs' receiving corps with 54 yards on two catches, and the ODU speedster also took a punt back 46 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagle defense took the field to begin the ballgame, and it did not take them long to get off the field. Facing third down, Heinicke took a shot deep down field, but the ball was underthrown and picked off by Kevin Johnson (McKeesport, Pa.-McKeesport). The interception was Johnson's first of his career as well as the Eagles' first of the season.
Roback led the EMU offense out on the field, making his first start of the season. Taking over after the turnover, the sophomore quarterback marched the Green and White 34 yards into ODU territory. However, the drive stalled at the 42-yard line, and the punt rolled into the end zone. Following the touchback, the Monarchs went 80 yards in seven plays for the game's first score. After a fourth down conversion on its own sign of the field, Old Dominion found paydirt with a 55-yard run by Ray Lawry. The drive lasted juat 3:24 and gave the home team a 7-0 lead with remaining in the first quarter.
After the ODU touchdown, the first half consisted of a defensive struggle. The Eagles and Monarchs combined for six straight punts until ODU entered the Eastern red zone. However, as the Monarchs entered the coveted territory, Amos Houston (Detroit, Mich.-Loyola) forced ODU's Antonio Vaughn to cough up the football. Linebacker Anthony Zappone (Westlake, Ohio-Westlake) recovered for the Eagles to cap off the second turnover of the game forced by the EMU defense.
Despite the turnover, the Eagles fumbled on their next driving to give the ball back to the Monarchs. Starting in EMU territory, ODU entered the red zone for the second-straight drive, only to be denied by the Eastern defense. Heinicke kept the ball on third-and-goal, scrambling to the pylon as Jason Beck (Indianapolis, Ind.-Aresenal Technical) prevented the ODU quarterback from crossing the goal line. Choosing to go for the touchdown, the Eagles' defense forced Heinicke to throw an incomplete pass on the run. Holding the Monarchs to three punts, a fumble and turnover-on-downs for the final five drives of the first half, Eastern Michigan headed to the locker room trailing by a single touchdown, 7-0.
Roback went 5-of-11 for 48 yards in the first half, completing all of his passes to a different receiver. His longest pass of 31 yards found the hands of David Gibson (Cleveland, Ohio-Solon), who hauled in the first reception of his EMU career. On the ground, Hill led the rushing attack with 36 yards on nine carries. Kris Strange (Pickerington, Ohio-Central) added a 17-yard rush for the first carry of his career, while Darius Jackson (Sparta, Ill.-Sparta) and Ryan Brumfield (Chester Springs, Pa.-Owen J. Robert) tallied four carries apiece.
The seven points allowed in the first half were the fewest EMU has given up in an opening half since Sept. 22, 2012, when the Eagles held then-No. 21 Michigan State University to just three points at intermission.
Old Dominion's offense produced 261 yards in the first half with Heinicke going 11-of-18 for 120 yards through the air. Lawry had four carries for 69 yards, including the 55-yard touchdown run. Aside from a 45 reception by Jonathan Duhart, David Washington led the Monarchs with three catches for 22 yards.
The third quarter was 15 minutes of field position. Following five punts between both teams, Old Dominion found itself with the ball at the EMU 37 yard-line after a holding call brought back a punt return for a touchdown. Six plays and 28 yards later, Ricky Segers converted a 26-yard field goal to increase the ODU lead to double digits, 10-0, with 11 second left in the third quarter.
With the offense kept off the scoreboard, EMU Head Coach Chris Creighton elected to make a change at quarterback, inserting Bolden at the end of the third quarter. The move paid off as Bolden led the Eagles on a 15-play 49-yard drive that ended in Mulder's 43-yard field goal. Bolden kept the ball throughout the drive, rushing eight times for 28 yards while also going 2-for-2 through the air for 12 yards. With 9:13 to go in the ballgame, the Eagles found themselves back within one possession.
The EMU defense forced a three-and-out, but poor field position combined with the offense unable to get a first down, Austin Barnes was forced to punt from the back of the end zone. Fielding the ball at the EMU 46-yard line, Vaughn found a hole down the sideline and remained in bounds to find the open space for the touchdown. The 46-yard punt return increased the margin to 17-3 with 7:28 left on the clock.
Down two touchdowns with not much time left, Bolden tried leading the Eagles to a comeback, but the ODU defense prevented that outcome. In an attempt to make a play, the senior quarterback fumbled to give the ball back to the Monarchs to put the game on ice.
Up next, EMU will play away from "The Factory" for the third-consecutive week when Coach Creighton leads the Eagles into East Lansing, Mich. to battle the nationally-ranked Spartans of Michigan State University. The 10th matchup between the two in-state institutions will kickoff at noon on the Big Ten Network.