No one gave the Norfolk State Spartans much of a chance against the fast -paced offense of ODU (5-3). The Spartans (2-6) had been struggling to fill the seats at Dick Price Stadium, only 11,308 were in attendance Saturday afternoon. Most of the fans in the stadium were Old Dominion’s.
NSU, averaging just 13 points per game, should’ve been an easy win for the Monarchs.
After losing its starting quarterback Omari Timmons to injury on the first drive of the game, the Spartans entered an ODU transfer Tyler Clark, who guided the Spartans to a field goal striking first blood.
Taylor Heinicke answered with 17 straight points, including scoring drives of, 3:21, 1:59, and 3:00. Antonio Vaughn and Larry Pinkard caught 20, and 22 yard touchdowns to cap off two of three drives.
A story almost lost in the wave of Norfolk States solid performance and near upset, is Heinicke passing another milestone. No Virginia Division I quarterback ever passed for 10,000 yards in a career. In his first 3 seasons Taylor Heinicke eclipsed the 10,000 yard mark.
Early in the second quarter when he tossed his second touchdown of the game to Pinkard, the aforementioned 22 yard touchdown, he passed the milestone.
Heinicke was solid once again completing 26 of his 44 attempts for 325 yards, and three touchdowns.
His career passing yard total is 10,186.
It was clear that NSU was not going to lie down and let the Monarchs run up the score on them, as it’s done against its 4 other Football Championship Series (FCS) opponents.
ODU came into the game averaging 55 points against FCS teams.
After allowing 17 unanswered points, and switching quarterbacks for the third time, this time inserting Malik Stokes, the Spartans began to take control.
There were 11 minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter when ODU took its 17-3 lead.
Over the next 20 minutes, the Spartans scored 21 straight of its own.
NSU took some Bobby Wilder esque chances during its scoring run.
During an 84 yard drive, that took 8:42 off the clock, the Spartans faked a punt on fourth down to extend the drive.
Stokes capped off the 21-0 run with a 2 yard scamper into the end zone with 14:11 remaining in the game and his team up 24-17.
The two teams, who are separated by four miles, have programs going in different directions.
The Monarchs are the talk of the town, moving into the highest level of competition, having more scholarship players, and recruiting better talent, are selling out every home game.
The Spartans are scrambling to put together a competitive team, also not able to fill its 34,000 seat stadium to capacity.
The first and only prior meeting was in the 2011 FCS playoffs, a game won by ODU 35-18.
“I’m pretty sure they’re sick of hearing of ODU,” Heinicke said. “If I was in Norfolk State’s situation and I kept hearing about the school across town that gets all of the attention and we didn’t, I’d feel the exact same way.”
Wilder said: “You have to give Norfolk State a lot of credit. They played a hell of a game.”
NSU coach Pete Adrian said: “I think everybody in the community thought this was going to be a blowout, and you saw what type of game it was. It went right down to the last play of the ballgame.”
“We had our chances, just as they did, and they capitalized on what they had.”
Just as it did against Liberty three weeks ago, ODU turned the offensive magic on late to escape with another close victory.
Heinicke, Mr. Clutch himself, rallied his troops and drove 72 yards to tie the game at 24, with a 2 yard pass to Pinkard, with just over 7 minutes remaining in the game.
After a blocked field goal, the Monarchs got the ball back, and Jared Brown kicked a game winning 24 yard field goal as time expired.
Wilder shook up his running back depth chart again. This week he decided to give freshman Gerard Johnson most of the carries, Johnson who had just 20 attempts for 69 yards on the season, ran 17 times for 101 yards to help carry the Monarchs.
Next Saturday ODU returns home for a 2:00 pm game vs Rhode Island.