It's apparent that Taylor Heinicke is far more comfortable in the choreographed chaos of a football game than in front of a room full of stationary reporters and microphones.
Unfortunately for Heinicke, there was no avoiding the rush of questions or passing downfield to teammates. Such is the case when you set national records in one of the wildest games anyone has ever seen and receive interview requests from Bigfoot media around the country.
Asked if he enjoyed the kind of attention he's receiving, Heinicke sheepishly replied, "Honestly, I don't, not at all. I would much rather be at home right now, eating some chips and watching some TV, rather than being here in front of all these cameras. It's kind of nerve-wracking, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts."
Heinicke and the ODU offense broke a slew of records in Saturday's 64-61 win against New Hampshire, a nearly four-hour affair that left everyone exhausted and grasping for descriptions.
"Here it is, almost 48 hours after he did it, and I'm still at a loss for words, in terms of being able to quantify exactly what he did," ODU coach
A few numbers: Heinicke set Division I records for passing yards in a game (730) and total offense (791), eclipsing marks set by former Houston quarterback David Klingler (716 and 732, respectively) against Arizona State in 1990.
Heinicke threw for 480 yards in the second half, 293 in the fourth quarter alone, both of which were
"I haven't seen anything like that," Wilder said. "I watched the video back when Houston was chucking it around, run-and-shoot, and Klingler throwing it. It's one thing to do it when you're just piling up stats, and a lot of times Houston used to just pile up stats. But this one, every throw was, the game was on the line. He didn't have a throw in that game that wasn't important. Every one of them counted, every one of them was big, every one of them we needed it."
All of that landed his game highlights on
"After the game, people asked, did you see yourself on ESPN?" Heinicke said. "I was like, naw. So I was sitting there watching ESPN and it never came up. Finally, I started watching NBC and at the halftime of the
Heinicke's humility and sense of wonder endear him to coaches and teammates, who routinely say that there's nothing in his off-the-field demeanor or approach that suggest he's a record-setting quarterback for a top-10 team. That was evident again in Sunday's team meeting.
"He thanked the O-line, the receivers, the coaches," Wilder said. "I think he thanked the guy who served popcorn at the stadium. He's a pretty genuine kid. He's a pretty humble kid. He doesn't look upon that performance Saturday as, he did that all by himself. I've been around some quarterbacks and seen some in the past that might have thought they invented the game after that performance, but that's not him."
Heinicke prefers to lead by example, but went a bit out of character Saturday. The Monarchs were getting run out at home by New Hampshire, trailing 30-10 in the first half and 47-24 early in the third quarter.
As Heinicke put it, he started "getting in people's butts" about the magnitude of the game, the importance of defending home turf, beating a quality opponent, the ramifications for a team that must continue to win because it cannot win the CAA title and automatic playoff berth.
He even approached the defense in the third quarter and said: Give us one stop. The Monarchs were down by 16 at the time. He told the defense that he and the offense were going to score on every possession. The defense needed to make a couple of stops, to get the offense the ball, to get the crowd back into the game, to lift them past New Hampshire.
Indeed, the Monarchs scored on their last six possessions, with the shortest drive 74 yards on the game-winning field goal and three touchdown drives of at least 89 yards.
Heinicke made a believer of New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, whose teams have been to the FCS playoffs eight consecutive years and who has coached his share of top-shelf quarterbacks. McDonnell praised not only his accuracy, but his improvisation and his ability to make plays.
Three plays, McDonnell cited. In the second quarter, on fourth-and-inches at the UNH 15, Heinicke was hemmed in, rolled right and lofted a pass left to an open Antonio Vaughan for a 15-yard touchdown. Later in the period, on first-and-goal from the 9, he moved to his left and found himself facing a UNH linebacker, who he feinted with a ball fake and then dove for the pylon and a touchdown.
Midway through the third quarter, on fourth-and-three from his own 46, Heinicke avoided a heavy pass rush and scrambled 11 yards for a first down, extending a drive that resulted in a touchdown and cut the deficit to 47-31.
"If they keep him healthy, they've got a great chance to win," McDonnell said.
Wilder said after Saturday's game, and he repeated Monday, that while 730 passing yards is a phenomenal number, he believes that Heinicke is capable of plenty of remarkable games. He averages 480.3 yards passing per game, a number inflated by some lesser competition early in the season but validated by a performance against the No. 18 team in the nation in New Hampshire.