ODU coach Bobby Wilder must not have read the memo that it was Military Appreciation Day at VMI on Saturday. The visiting Monarchs treated their hosts rather rudely, defeating VMI 42-35 in the season finale for both teams.
The Monarchs, who won the first game in their rejuvenated program less than three months ago, recorded their sixth consecutive victory and finished the year 9-2, just eight points shy of being undefeated.
As frequently has been the case this year, special teams figured largely in ODU's victory Saturday. The Monarchs started the game by recovering an onside kick and moved ahead by 14 points in the third quarter on a fake punt that resulted in a touchdown.
"Our goal this year was to get started in the right way, and now we've won six games in a row," said Wilder, who was treated to his second Gatorade bath of the season. (The first came after the program's initial win over Chowan on Sept. 5.)
"Since the top 16 teams in the FCS will soon be selected for the playoffs and 15 of them are ultimately going to lose, there's a good chance that we could have the longest winning streak in the country starting next year. That puts us in a position to build this program rather nicely."
Monarchs quarterback Thomas DeMarco was the catalyst in Saturday's win. DeMarco completed 16 of 27 passes for 245 yards and two TDs. He also ran the ball 16 times for 55 yards and three more scores.
"We had an excellent game plan from the beginning," DeMarco said, referring to Drew Hareza's onside kick that the Monarchs recovered. "We wanted to put as many points on the board as we could." The Monarchs entered the game averaging 34.3 points per game, but they eclipsed that average early in the third period when James Edwards took the snap as the upback on a fake punt and rambled 45 yards for a touchdown to put his team ahead 35-21.
Second-year VMI coach Sparky Woods saw his squad finish the year 2-9. The Keydets allowed ODU 496 yards of total offense, almost equally split between rushing and passing. The Monarchs' 251 net rushing yards was almost twice what VMI was allowing per game on average, 136.4
"Their nine-win season was very impressive," Woods said. "I thought today they beat us every way they could. Their quarterback is outstanding."
ODU scored several times quickly, including two-play and three-play touchdown drives that consumed less than a minute each, but VMI matched their visitors in that department. In fact, the Keydets repeatedly spotted ODU a touchdown, only to respond with a score themselves three consecutive times, tying the score at 21 midway through the second quarter.
ODU's only 14-point lead of the game came due to the fake punt.
Reid Evans was DeMarco's top receiver, grabbing five catches for 53 yards, while Chris Lovitt had two catches for 56 yards. Mario Crawford carried the ball 15 times for 70 yards for the Monarchs.
VMI rolled up 422 rushing yards, averaging a whopping 7.5 yards per carry, but that was bolstered by several big plays. Howard Abegesah, Zach Collins and Cam Jones broke runs for 46, 71 and 69 yards, respectively, and Abegesah sat out the last 2 1/2 quarters with a sprained ankle. His replacement, Taj Harris, carried the ball 15 times for 41 yards.
OLD DOMINION 42, VMI 35
First quarterODU—Mayers 27 pass from DeMarco (Hareza kick), 11:20. VMI—Itoka 1 run (J.Sexton kick), 8:06. ODU—DeMarco 1 run (Hareza kick), 3:35. VMI—Hughes 4 run (J.Sexton kick), 1:58. Second quarterODU—Evans 4 pass from DeMarco (Hareza kick), 12:56. VMI—Harris 3 run (J.Sexton kick), 8:04. ODU—DeMarco 2 run (Hareza kick), 7:15. Third quarterODU—Edwards 45 run (Hareza kick), 13:09. VMI—Z.Collins 71 run (J.Sexton kick), 12:48. ODU—DeMarco 16 run (Hareza kick), 3:57. Fourth quarterVMI—Hughes 1 run (J.Sexton kick), 13:14. A:8,132.
TEAM STATSVMIODUFirst downs2217Rushes-yards53-25156-422Passing24522Comp-Att-Int16-27-03-10-0Return Yards043Punts-Avg.6-39.04-39.5Fumbles-lost2-11-1Penalties-yards8-8311-80Time of poss32:2027:40
Rushing: Old Dominion, M.Crawford 15-70, DeMarco 16-55, Edwards 1-45, Mayers 6-39, D.Williams 10-34, M.Williams 1-7, Jackson 1-5, Team 3-(minus 4). VMI, Z.Collins 5-103, Abegesah 9-87, Ca.Jones 5-78, Hughes 11-47, Harris 15-41, Talley 3-40, Itoka 5-18, Maypray 3-8. Passing: Old Dominion, DeMarco 16-27-0-245. VMI, Hughes 2-6-0-15, Ca.Jones 1-4-0-7. Receiving: Old Dominion, Evans 5-53, Lovitt 2-56, M.Crawford 2-49, Mayers 2-32, Edwards 1-18, Davis 1-13, Jackson 1-9, D.Williams 1-9, Carrillo 1-6. VMI, Barnson 1-8, Maypray 1-7, M.Scott 1-7.