Same story, same script. FAU battles back for a potential win, only to lose in agonizing fashion. Old Dominion kicker Satchel Ziffer, after missing a 29 yard field goal earlier in the game, eked a 27 yard field goal off the left upright to add to the list of heartbreaking losses suffered by FAU this year. With the win ODU (6-6, 4-4) has a chance for a potential bowl bid. With the loss, FAU (3-9, 2-6) will finish the season wondering what if.
“Its tough,” its real tough,” said senior Braden Lyons on the close loss to finish his career as an Owl.
“Disappointing, ending a season with a loss,” said head coach Charlie Partridge. “We’re close, but we’re not there. The goal at this point is to get there.”
It seemed like FAU was almost there, to finish this game with a win after losing several nail biters earlier this year. On 4th & 10 from the 34 yard line, ODU’s last drive was aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Trey Hendrickson that gave them a first down and put them in field goal range for the game winning score.
“It was a close call,” said Partridge. “Its a judgement call. When I take a look at it on film, if its something we disagree with we’ll send it in to the league office for a ruling.”
Coming into the game FAU was one of the least penalized teams in Conference USA.
“We been pretty good this year in terms of minimizing penalties. In that critical time, they were called,” said Partridge. The game featured 15 penalties between the two teams, eight for ODU, seven for FAU.
Since the game started, the team’s were neck and neck with each other. No team ever had a lead more than seven points.
ODU struck first, getting on the board with a 3 yard TD pass from Taylor Heinicke to Antonio Vaughn. The Monarchs 10 play, 75 yard scoring drive, used two penalties by the Owls to keep their opening drive alive.
FAU was able to respond with their own scoring drive. Tony Moore (pictured above) ran the ball eight times for 47 yards to open the game. Moore capped the drive with a one yard touchdown run to tie it at 7.
“That first drive he was really moving,” said Partridge on Moore. “He played well.” Moore finished the game with 15 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown.
After coming close to breaking punt returns for a score all year, Virginia native and senior, Lucky Whitehead, finally took one to the house. Whitehead reminded ODU players of his speed, taking a 73 yard punt return for a touchdown to give FAU a 14-7 lead to close the first quarter.
“Pretty special,” said Partridge on Whitehead's return. “It was worth the price of admission.”
The scoring continued in the second quarter as Heinicke found Melvin Vaughn from 12 yards out to tie the game at 14. FAU followed suit with an eight play, 79 yard drive, as Warren scored from three yards out on a toss play. ODU answered right back with another long scoring drive to tie it at 21 before the half as Heinicke's two yard touchdown pass to Zach Pascal finished an 11 play, 64 yard drive.
The two teams combined for 475 yards, 22 first downs, and punted just three times in the first half. FAU did most of their damage in first half on the ground, rushing for 153 yards. Meanwhile ODU got theirs through the air, passing for 174 yards.
“We played real dominant in the first half,” said Lyons.
In the second half both offenses would not come close to that production.
After not getting much pressure on Heinicke, defensive coordinator Roc Belantoni decided to bring pressure and it worked. The defense recorded two sacks, forced three punts, and forced one turnover in the second half. Sharrod Neasman’s interception stopped a potential Monarch scoring drive.
FAU’s offense however, failed to capitalize as they too, had problems moving the ball up the field.
“When the second half came, we we’re just a little too meticulous,” said Lyons.
“It wasn’t really them it was us,” said Jaquez Johnson on the offense’s performance. “They used the same basic defense the whole game. Nothing really special.” Johnson finished the game going 9-19 with 133 yards, 81 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown.
Johnson’s rushing touchdown tied the game with 5:14 left in the game but he was unable to see the field again. ODU used the last 5:14 of the game to score the game winning field goal.
“Disappointed in ending the season with a loss for our seniors,” said Partridge. “I’m proud of the way they fought.”