Taylor Heinicke may not be a name you recognize now, but on Saturday he torched a record while Old Dominion staged a comeback for the college football ages, rallying to upend Colonial Athletic Association counterpart New Hampshire 64-61. If you didn’t see it, take heart — you’re probably not alone. But you should be aware now of how it came to fruition, because the circumstances were as wild as the final score.
CAA stalwart UNH pulled ahead 54-38 on Andy Vailas’ 67-yard scoring scamper out of shotgun. The ODU defense couldn’t muster a stop, digging an increasingly deeper hole for the prolific offense. The Monarchs trailed by 17 and 16 intermittently for most of the afternoon.
Now, rare is it that a defense’s praises are sung when surrendering 61 points. But after Vailas scored, ODU started making the stops it needed. Quarterback Heinicke went to work, throwing two of his five touchdowns passes in a raucous fourth quarter wherein the Monarchs scored 26 points. Heinicke also passed on a pair of two-point conversions. And his final yardage? 730.
For emphasis, allow me to reiterate: Taylor Heinicke passed for 730 yards. His output set the NCAA Division I record, and was just shy of Division III quarterback Sam Durley’s 736-yard, overall record set in Week 1. Heinicke attempted an almost equally astounding 79 passes, connecting on 55.
The Monarchs are not eligible for an automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs, penance for moving to the Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA next season. At-large bids are difficult to come by for FCS programs ineligible for automatic bids, a hill that former Great West, Big South before earning its berth and currently Pioneer League members were largely unsuccessful climbing. Therefore, every Monarch win is critical.
The heights this ODU program has reached in just its fourth year of existence are astounding. Bobby Wilder has laid a blueprint for building a program, stringing together winning seasons every year since the Monarchs first kicked off in 2009. They reached and won a game in the 2011 NCAA Playoffs, should return this year, and could fit in as an immediate contender with C-USA employing the explosive offense it does.
Prior to Saturday’s game, the Monarchs were averaging over 57 points per game.