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Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

ODU Football’s Miraculous Effort Clinches Bowl Game with 25-24 Victory Against Georgia State

Monarchs will learn their bowl destination on ESPN Bowl Show on Sunday, Dec. 3
Head+coach+Ricky+Rahne+celebrates+the+victory+with+his+team+in+the+locker+room.+
Garrett Fletcher, ODU Sideline Media
Head coach Ricky Rahne celebrates the victory with his team in the locker room.

In the final 1:37 of the Old Dominion Football season, the Monarchs 6-6 (5-3 Sun Belt) performed a miraculous comeback from a 24-14 deficit. They kicked a field goal, got a safety, and scored a game-winning touchdown on the season’s final play, beating Georgia State 6-6 (3-5 Sun Belt) with a score of 25-24.

Old Dominion’s football history may have seen bigger, more important victories, but few, if any, came with the kind of grit, determination, and courage that the Monarchs displayed on Saturday night.

It was a nippy Saturday afternoon, with around 15,700 fans in attendance to celebrate Senior Day. Eight seniors took the field and greeted their head coach Ricky Rahne and shared a moment with their families right before kickoff in their final game at S.B. Ballard Stadium. 

Shawn Asbury II and Wayne Matthews III bring down the Georgia State ball carrier. (Garrett Fletcher, ODU Sideline Media )

Georgia State opened up the afternoon with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 16-yard rushing touchdown from quarterback Darren Grainger. On the ensuing kickoff, Georgia State’s Jeremiah Johnson leveled junior cornerback LaMareon James on a kickoff return with a helmet-to-helmet hit. He was on the turf for about 15 minutes, attended by half a dozen medical and training personnel.

A targeting penalty was called, and then reversed after the replay. While the Monarch coaches and players were enraged that the call was overturned, their primary concern was James’ condition.

Later in the first half, junior linebacker Jason Henderson, the All-American who leads the nation in tackles, went out with a leg injury and was also a notable blow to the Monarch defense.

The Panthers capitalized on offensive opportunities and scored multiple times to take a commanding 21-0 lead. In the second quarter, quarterback Grainger threw touchdown passes to Ahmon Green on consecutive drives. 

The first was a deep 29-yard pass down the middle to wide receiver Green, while the second was an 11-yard pass up the middle. The Monarchs struggled to keep up in the first half and went into halftime trailing 21-0.

At halftime, Rahne walked around the locker room and talked to each player individually. He asked them to look him in the eye and tell him they were going to win the game. He reminded them of one of their core values and character. 

“A man of higher character is a man of his word, right? You guys told me you were going to win this game. So now you’ve got to go be men of your word.” 

The team responded positively in the second half. 

In the second half, ODU’s defense played well without Henderson and James. ODU trimmed the lead to 21-14 with some big plays from sophomore wide receiver Reymello Murphy and sophomore running back Obie Sanni. Wilson found Murphy for a 31-yard touchdown reception in the latter part of the third quarter.

To begin the fourth quarter, the Monarchs struck again as Sanni broke free up the right side and took it to the house for 67 yards to cut the deficit to 21-14. After another Old Dominion stop defensively, the Panthers defense intercepted Wilson off a deflected pass and wound up kicking a 22-yard field goal that extended their lead back to 24-14.

Obie Sanni finds open space and is off to the races for the endzone! (Garrett Fletcher, ODU Sideline Media )

ODU appeared to be in hot water when junior quarterback Grant Wilson was sacked on fourth down with 6:09 remaining, and the Panthers were still ahead by 10. However, ODU’s defense forced a three-and-out when they needed it most. With 4:37 left, the Monarchs began their comeback, driving deep into Georgia State territory.

With third and goal at the two, the Monarchs appeared to score on a toss run from Wilson to sophomore offensive lineman Chris Adams. Adams fell into the end zone, but the TD was wiped off the board by a face mask penalty against Adams.

After Wilson was sacked on the ensuing play, Rahne sent the field goal unit quickly onto the field, and sophomore kicker Ethan Sanchez kicked a 37-yarder to trim the lead to 24-17 with 1:37 left. Georgia State was penalized for offsides on the kickoff, and then Sanchez squibbed the ball to the Georgia State 10.

On first down, Monarchs junior safety Tahj Ra-El tackled Grainger at the six. On the next play, Grainger was forced to leap to snag a high snap and was tackled in the end zone by junior safeties Shawn Asbury and Terry Jones for a safety that narrowed the margin to 24-19 with 1:17 left.

Junior wide receiver Isiah Paige then gave the Monarchs good field position by returning the kickoff to the Georgia State 49-yard line. On first and ten, Wilson tossed a bullet to Murphy, who was hauled down 43 yards later at the six-yard line.

After three plays, ODU faced a fourth and goal at the two. Rahne let the clock run down to two seconds before calling a timeout. Offensive coordinator Kevin Decker then signaled to Wilson that the game was in his hands. Wilson saw an open lane to the left and threw himself into the end zone and scored easily, causing ODU players and fans to run onto the field to celebrate with their winning quarterback.

With Henderson and James out, ODU’s defense overcame adversity and dominated the second half, in which the Monarchs outgained Georgia State 269-70 in total yards.

Sanni’s 67-yard touchdown run was the longest run of his career and first career touchdown as a Monarch. Wilson completed 15-33 (45 percent) of his passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and interception thrown, while rushing for 42 yards as well in a gritty performance to push his team into the postseason. 

James underwent a battery of tests at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and was released from the hospital in time to celebrate with his teammates on the field at the end of the game.

That table didn’t last a chance… ODU celebrates its miraculous victory in fitting fashion! (Garrett Fletcher, ODU Sideline Media )

The 21-point come-from-behind win is the third largest in ODU history, trailing only ODU’s 23-point comeback in 2012 against New Hampshire and 28-point comeback over North Texas in 2018. The victory made ODU bowl-eligible for the second time in three seasons under Rahne.

After the game, Wilson acknowledged the senior class and how important it was to send them out on a high note with more football to be played. 

“The seniors, they’ve worked so hard for this program,” Wilson said. “It was awesome to send them out here with a victory at home and to extend the season for them. We get 20 more days with these guys. A lot of people who don’t play football don’t understand how close we are. It’s really a family.”

Next up for Old Dominion is the waiting game. As 12 teams of the 14 from the Sun Belt Conference clinching a bowl game, it is impossible to predict where ODU will play in a bowl game. ODU won’t find out its bowl destination until Sunday, Dec. 3, when ESPN makes its bowl announcements live on their networks.

“I have no idea what bowl we’re going to, but we’re going to a bowl game,” Rahne said. 

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About the Contributor
Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor
Benjamin serves as the Sports Editor for Mace and Crown. He is a junior who majors in Communications, more specifically ‘Media Studies’ along with a minor in Sports Management. He is very excited for the opportunity of leading the sports staff at the Mace & Crown. Since he was 4 years old, Benjamin has wanted to pursue a career in sports media as a Broadcaster/Reporter. On the side, he does broadcasting/production for the ODU Esports program and is Sports Director for WODU Studios. After college, Benjamin hopes to land an opportunity in a sports media role at the professional level whether its a media outlet or sports franchise. You can reach him at [email protected]

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