Old Dominion has been playing competitively for just four seasons, but the Monarch program is already stamping its name all over NCAA records. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Heinicke — who you may remember from his 730-yard passing performance earlier this year — unleashed 497 yards on 32-44 passing and six touchdowns in Old Dominion’s 63-35 win over Coastal Carolina. Heinicke also ran for a pair of scores, writing his names in the annals of history once more.
Old Dominion rolled into Saturday’s contest against the Big South Conference champion Chanticleers, 24-14 winners over MEAC champion Bethune-Cookman in the 1st Round, scoring 46 points per game. Heinicke’s FCS Playoffs record eight touchdown exceeded that mark on their own, without the extra point kicks or Sam Goodwyn’s rushing score tacked on for good measure.
The Monarchs make the move to the FBS an Conference USA next season. League guidelines prevented ODU from winning the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid in the Playoffs, but despite its at-large status, the team is a clear cut favorite to play in Frisco for the title. A national championship would be a fitting cap to Old Dominion’s meteoric football rise.
Its offense against North Dakota State’s stingy defense is a potential semifinal pairing after the Bison rolled.Overall No. 1 seed and defending national champion NDSU was too much for South Dakota State in a 28-3, 2nd Second Round FCS Playoffs romp.
SDSU actually led first in this match-up of Missouri Valley Football Conference members, but Justin Syrovatka’s field goal was all the scoring the Jackrabbits could muster. NDSU allowed 21 total rushing yards, 46 of which came from the nation’s No. 2 rusher, Zach Zenner. That’s 111 yards fewer than his average.
The completely overwhelming Bison defensive effort set up the offense for a deluge in the second quarter. NDSU dropped 21 points in that period, led by quarterback Brock Jensen. He threw for one score and rushed for another.
North Dakota State hosts the nation’s No. 1 leading rusher next week, Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein. The bruiser led the Terriers to an easy 23-7 win over New Hampshire with 248 yards rushing on 22 carries, and all three Wofford touchdowns.
Such an outing was prolific even for Breitenstein, who was averaging 158.3 yards per game. He is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive performer in the FCS. Breitenstein is jockeying against Heinicke, and Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet, whose season ended on Saturday.
The Seawolves fell short of duplicating the baseball program’s deep postseason run, losing at Montana State, 16-10. Maysonet carried 19 times for 83 yards, but was kept out of the end zone. In fact, Stony Brook’s lone touchdown came on quarterback Kyle Essington’s fourth quarter pass to Kevin Norrell.
Stony Brook had fallen behind early on MSU quarterback Denarius McGhee’s first quarter touchdown pass to Tanner Bleskin. That was the Bobcats’ only time in the end zone, as the Seawolves defense held Montana State to three field goals. Still, those were enough to put Stony Brook in a 13-3 hole it couldn’t escape.
Despite its loss, Stony Brook ended the season with a program record 10 wins. The university athletic department is on a decided upswing with football’s consecutive playoff appearances, the basketball team winning the regular season America East title and baseball’s aforementioned College World Series run. The CAA took notice of football and extended an invitation for the Seawolves to join what is regarded as the toughest FCS conference.
Reputations aside, the celebrated CAA has just one team each left in the Playoffs. The Big Sky, Southern and Missouri Valley Football Conferences each have two. SoCon stalwart Appalachian State was trying to make it three for the SoCon, but the Mountaineers could not contain Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown. His five touchdowns elevated the Redbirds to the quarterfinals.
Brown’s four touchdowns in regulation helped Illinois State build two different 11-point advantages in the second half, but the home standing Mountaineers continually whittled away until finally, Andrew Peacock’s pass to Drew Bailey with a little over three minutes remaining forced overtime.
Brown struck for his fifth score on the first play of the extra frame, which Appalachian State answered on Jamal Jackson’s pass to Peacock. But a blocked extra point made the difference for ISU, sending it into the next round to face No. 2 overall seed Eastern Washington on the Inferno.
Eastern Washington’s potent offense got a test from the stout Wagner defense, but the surprise champion of the Northeast Conference could not extend its dream run any further. SMU transfer Kyle Padron regained the starting quarterback job late in the season and led EWU to its Big Sky Conference championship. On Saturday, he threw for 327 yards to pace the Eagle offense against a Seahawk defense that had been given up only 177 yards through the air.
Demetrius Bronson capitalized with two touchdowns, including one in the fourth quarter that extended Eastern Washington’s lead to two scores, thus slamming the door on Wagner.
Wagner won nine straight games before Saturday’s loss, including a 1st victory that notched the NEC its first playoff win since gaining an automatic berth in 2010. The Seahawks’ run gained national attention after Hurricane Sandy hit Wagner’s Staten Island campus. That same week, the Seahawks blasted defending NEC champion and preseason favorite Albany, 30-0.
Saturday’s other winners, Sam Houston State and Georgia Southern, both made deep playoff runs a season ago. The Bearkats played for the national championship, while GSU fell short in the semifinals. Sam Houston State’s goal of returning to Frisco was nearly cut short by Cal Poly, which held the explosive SHSU offense to just 18 points.
The Bearkats’ lone touchdown came on Brian Bell’s 18-yard pass to Keshawn Hill. Cal Poly effectively limited the scoring opportunities of SHSU ball carrying tandem Tim Flanders and Richard Sincere. Both averaged over five yards per carry and combined for 140 yards, but the team’s total 153 yards rushing was 122 below Sam Houston State’s season average.
Poly had its own offensive struggles. The Mustangs were held out of the end zone until 1:34 remaining in the final period, when a gimmick play finally broke the goal line. Wide receiver Ryan Taylor threw a 50-yard score to Willie Tucker, and the ensuing two-point conversion brought Poly within two. But SHSU recovered the onside kick attempt.
The Bearkats face another Big Sky representative at Montana State on Friday night on ESPN2 at 8 ET.
Georgia Southern’s trip to Old Dominion is the featured game on ESPN next Saturday. The Eagles held off a Central Arkansas rally to advance, despite going scoreless in the second half.
Jerick McKinnon provided all the scoring Georgia Southern would need in the first half, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another. McKinnon ran wild for 316 yards in pacing Jeff Monken’s triple option offense.
The Southland Conference champion Bears fell behind 24-6 in the second quarter, but Jackie Hinton’s touchdown rush after three UCA field goals may have left the home team sweating in the final quarter. Central Arkansas reached the Georgia Southern side of the 50-yard line twice in the final stanza, but could get no closer than the 41.
Georgia Southern’s clash with Old Dominion kicks off at noon ET on Saturday.