Eastern Michigan quarterback Reggie Bell was knocked out of the game, giving profiled backup Brogan Roback the opportunity to come through for his team late in the game against Old Dominion. Down by four with 25 seconds to go, Roback had to escape some pressure from his left, his pass was tipped and intercepted by Tim Ward on a crucial 4th and six for the Monarchs to seal the 38-34 victory.
Things got ugly when Ray Lawry got good. The Conference-USA Freshman of the Year last year, the running back had only 60 yards at the end of the first half on 14 carries, but his second half performance was the difference maker for the Monarchs to bounce back after being down 17-10 at the half.
The Eagles had a pair of rushing scores out of senior Darius Jackson in the first quarter and only had one drive in the second quarter to chew off a little over four and a half minutes off the clock. On that drive, redshirt-freshman Shaq Vann was stopped at the goal line on three straight plays for Dylan Mulder to end up hitting an easy 19-yard field goal.
After EMU came out of halftime with a 10-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Bell to Dustin Creel on a screen to his left side, ODU quickly responded on the next drive with Lawry taking a 54-yard rush for a score on their first offensive play of the half.
But before Lawry was able to beat the Eagles, the team started to beat itself with some turnovers.
The very next drive for EMU lasted for two plays. The first was a 3-yard rush by Jackson. The second was a seven yard loss on a sack by Malique Johnson, causing a fumble for the Monarchs to recover just 27 yards away from the end zone. Lawry's number was continued to be called as the team drove in to tie the game up at 24 a piece.
Bell eventually found Creel in the end zone again, but good in-game growth by the freshman Monarch quarterback Shuller Bentley helped them drive down field as Lawry went on to score his third rushing touchdown of the quarter to keep game at a tie. But the defense kept getting the Bell to the ground, enough to have him be taken out just before the fourth quarter rolled around with Roback having to come in and keep the Monarchs from coming back.
"They think it's his jaw," head coach Chris Creighton said after the game. "He got the wind knocked out of him the first time (early in the third quarter), the second time it was something with his jaw."
Early in the fourth quarter, Mulder hit a 52-yard field goal in a 4th and 11 situation to set a new school record. But with the Eagles unable to do anything with the ball on the following drive, Lawry had a fourth touchdown to give them the 4-point lead with a 45-yard run, their go-ahead score of the game that the Monarchs would hold on to.
Before Bell was taken out for the game, he had a pretty good game. He had one interception on a deep pass attempt to Creel, but his two touchdown passes were because he kept going to the 6-foot-2 receiver and was 12-for-18 through the air for 121 yards. He also had 11 carries for 58 yards. Roback stepped in and was 10-for-17 through the air for 71 yards.
Jackson had 184 total yards (117 rushing) with 19 carries and five receptions. Vann had 50 rushing yards in his collegiate debut on 11 carries with a long of 17.
Kevin Davis and Cody Tuttle both made their debuts for the Eagles as well, had a combined five receptions for 46 yards. Davis almost had a touchdown grab on the second-to-last offensive drive for EMU on a deep pass from Roback, but dropped it.
For ODU, Lawry finished with 223 rushing yards on 28 carries with four scores. Bentley was 18-for-32 for 184 yards and one touchdown in the first quarter in his collegiate debut under center.