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Old Dominion Holds off Eastern Michigan, 24-20, for Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Victory
By Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Communications
Dec 24, 2016 - 1:22:09 AM

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Photo: Demetrius Francis / TheBahamasWeekly.com
History was made Friday afternoon at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium when Old Dominion held off Eastern Michigan, 24-20, in third installment of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.

“I just want to say how excited we are to win the game, but number two how grateful we are for how we were treated this week by everybody associated with the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – all the wonderful people we met,” ODU head coach Bobby Wilder said. “This was a life-changing experience. We made memories to last a lifetime, and to win the game makes it that much more special.”

Led by offensive player of the game running back Ray Lawry and his 133 rushing yards, the Monarchs (10-3), making the programs first-ever bowl appearance, will leave the Bahamas with their first bowl trophy. Quarterback David Washington added 188 passing yards and three touchdowns under a hot Nassau, Bahamas, sun.

“He’s really good, obviously tough to tackle,” EMU head coach Chris Creighton said of Lawry. “We’ve become a pretty good tackling team, and I think today, he had a lot to do with several missed tackles. Their running game obviously didn’t trip today.”

Eastern Michigan (7-6) quarterback Brogan Roback did all he could to keep his team in the game, throwing for 300 yards and two second-half touchdowns, but it was not enough to help the Eagles to a title in their first bowl game in 29 years.

Photo: Demetrius Francis / TheBahamasWeekly.com
Eastern Michigan dominated time of possession, holding the ball 32:30 to the Monarchs’ 27:30, and converted on a season-high 13 third-downs, but it was the Old Dominion defense that made one final stand late in the fourth quarter.

ODU senior linebacker T.J. Ricks was named Defensive Player of the Game after finishing with nine tackles, including one for a loss.

“The defense… we just came to the sideline and talked to each other and just told each other to trust each other,” Ricks said of the entire ODU defensive performance. “You’re our 1/11th on the field. If one guy does his job and everybody else does their job, we’ll be good on defense.”

Through the first 30 minutes, Old Dominion was the only team able to put points on the board, holding a 10-0 lead at the half. It was the eighth time this season the Monarch led a game the half.

The Monarchs got on the board first when Brad Davis connected on a 34-yard field goal to go up 3-0 with 7:43 remaining in the first quarter. The 16-play, 58-yard drive appeared to stall at midfield when the Monarchs faced a fourth and two. Coach Wilder dialed up a fake punt, calling a direct snap to running back Jeremy Cox, who drove the ball three yards for the first down.

Photo: Demetrius Francis / TheBahamasWeekly.com

Old Dominion extended its lead to 10-0 behind a 47-yard touchdown pass from David Washington to Zach Pascal. The six-play 80-yard drive began with Anthony Wilson picking off Brogan Robuck in the end zone and took just 2:23.

Unlike the first half, both team’s offenses came out of the locker rooms on fire. Each team found in the end zone in the first five minutes of action.

After receiving the kickoff to start the second half, Robuck put the Eagles on the board, driving his team 76 yards in three minutes, capped off by a five-yard strike to wide receiver Sergio Bailey to cut the Old Dominion lead to 10-7.

It didn’t take long for the Monarchs to respond, as Washington found Travis Fulgham downfield for a 31-yard touchdown with no defender in sight to push the Monarchs lead to 17-7 with 9:50 remaining in the third quarter.

Like their first touchdown of the second half, Robuck found Johnnie Nipalau for a five-yard touchdown, capitalizing on another quick drive to move within three points of the Monarchs, 17-14, with 7:25 left in the third.

A 24-yard field goal by Eastern Michigan’s Paul Fricano with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter tied the score at 17-17.

Opening the fourth quarter, Washington drove Old Dominion 72 yards in two minutes to put the Monarchs back on top, 24-17, after hitting Jonathan Duhart on a five-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for his third passing score of the game.

For the second time on the day, the Eagles’ Fricano connected on a field goal, this one from 19 yards out, to cut the Monarchs lead to 24-20 with 9:08 remaining.

The Eagles had a chance late, driving the ball to midfield but couldn’t get any closer, punting the ball back to Old Dominion, who ran out the final 5:21 of the game.

“This is the most memorable season I’ve been a part of and it’s got a lot more to do with stuff away from football than it does on the field,” Wilder said. “This is a special group.”

Linebacker Kyle Rachwell led the Eagles defense with eight tackles.

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Photo: Demetrius Francis / TheBahamasWeekly.com

Photos: Demetrius Francis / TheBahamasWeekly.com

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