Both teams came into the Thomas Robinson National Stadium in Nassau with a lot to play for.
Eastern Michigan was in the postseason for the first time since the 1987 California Bowl, coming off of a (largely) unexpected season, which saw the Eagles go 7-5 (4-4 MAC) just a year after rumors swirled the program could be facing a shutdown.
Old Dominion was playing in its first bowl in program history, after the program went dormant for 69 years. ODU was in the Colonial Athletic Conference starting in 2009 and has made plenty of noise in Conference USA since entering in 2014, nearly advancing to the championship game this season on the strength of a 9-3 (7-1) record.
The Monarchs ultimately came out on top by a final score of 24-20 thanks to the efforts of Bahamas Bowl MVP Ray Lawrey (133 yards rushing on 23 carries.) Lawrey was especially effective on the final and ultimately game-sealing drive, helping ODU run out the clock and deprive EMU of any chance of a comeback.
David Washington also had a banner day for the Monarchs, completing 11-of-20 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns, all caught by different receivers.
The targets were spread around the board; no receiver had more than three receptions for ODU, with Jonathan Duhart (3 rec., 45 yards, one touchdown) leading the way. Zach Pascal (2 rec., 53 yards, one touchdown) led the Monarchs in yards thanks to a 47-yard touchdown and Travis Fulgham also contributed with a 31-yard receiving touhdown on his only catch of the day.
For Eastern, Brogan Roback led the way with 300 yards passing on 26-of-40 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Other than the badly-timed interception, Roback largely showed poise throughout the game, getting away from sure sacks at least three times during play.
Blake Banham led the Eagles on the ground with 13 carries and 63 yards, while Breck Turner contributed 48 yards on eight carries, including a huge 30-yard run that set up EMU for a scoring drive.
Dieuly Aristilde led all receivers in the game with 80 yards on seven receptions, while Eddie Daugherty (6 rec., 72 yards) and Sergio Bailey III (5 rec., 69 yards, one touchdown) also led the Eagles passing attack. John Niupalau also reeled in a score for EMU with a five-yard reception.
The game was marked with troubling calls for EMU, as the Eagles threw an interception on a possession started by a turnover in the first quarter, burned timeouts at questionable times (including two called timeouts within 1:30 of each other early in the second half) and then fell victim to an obscure rule change that denied them the opportunity to kick a field goal to end the half.
Regardless, the Eagles played the Monarchs tight after being shut out in the first half, scoring all 20 of their points in the second half and holding ODU to only 14 points in the second half.
EMU finishes a dream season at 7-6 (4-4 MAC) while Old Dominion finishes 10-3 (7-1 CUSA) to become the 19th team in FBS to reach 10 wins this season.