HATTIESBURG, Miss. (ODU Sports) – It wasn’t pretty, but on a night when the Old Dominion football team desperately needed to win a game, the Monarchs claimed hard-fought a victory on the road.
The Monarchs rallied in the fourth quarter, ODU’s defense preserved the victory with a late goal line stand, to defeat Southern Miss, 17-13, Saturday night at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
The Monarchs ended the first half of their season at 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. ODU has an open date this week, and then hosts App State on Saturday, Oct. 21. Game time will be announced on Monday.
It was an historic night for ODU linebacker Jason Henderson, who became ODU’s all-time leading tackler, an impressive feat for the junior from Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, considering he did it in 2 ½ seasons.
He passed former ODU linebacker Jordan Young with his 351st career when he was the first to hit Tiaquelin Mims for a five-yard loss at the ODU 14 early in the third quarter. It was a key play, in that it forced the Golden Eagles to kick a field goal.
Henderson finished with 17 tackles, including four solo tackles and a sack.
“He’s earned every single tackle that he’s made,” said ODU head coach Ricky Rahne. “He’s a warrior. He’s played his tail off ever since he got here.”
It was also a big night for the ODU defense. After surrendering 41 points last weekend at Marshall, the Monarchs played their best defensive game of the season, limiting Southern Miss to 276 yards. The defense gave up six points – the only touchdown came on a punt return.
The Monarch defense staged a goal line stand with 3:53 left, stopping the Golden Eagles (1-5, 0-3) half a yard short of the end zone. Henderson made the stop on fourth down.
The victory was huge boost for a team that lost close games against Wake Forest and Marshall in its last two outings. Rahne spoke with emotion following the game.
“I’m just so proud of these guys. I’m so proud of them,” he said.
“It was an unbelievable effort tonight. That goal line stand, that was amazing.
“This league (the Sun Belt) is unbelievable. This is the best Group of Five league in the country.
“So you’ve got to enjoy wins, you’ve got to enjoy them because they are so hard to come by.”
Quarterback Jack Shields failed to complete a pass in four attempts and was replaced in the second quarter by Grant Wilson, who started ODU’s first four games. Wilson completed 8-of-18 passes for 194 yards, and the Monarchs ran for 143 yards.
Kadarius Calloway, a Philadelphia, Mississippi native playing in front of family and friends, rushed 12 times for 93 yards and Keshawn Wicks 10 times for 54 yards and his first career two touchdown game.
Trailing, 13-10, in the fourth quarter, Wilson guided ODU to its first lead of the game.
On second down from the ODU 45, Wilson passed 39 yards to Ahmarian Granger, the sophomore from Norfolk’s Maury High School, to the Southern Miss 16.
Wicks then rushed 16 yards for the touchdown with 11:16 left in the game.
Ethan Sanchez’s extra point gave the Monarchs a 17-13 lead, and meant the Golden Eagles had to have a touchdown.
The Golden Eagles were oh-so-close to scoring on their next possession as they drove from their 25 to the ODU two, where they faced third and goal.
On fourth down, with the Golden Eagles in the Wildcat formation, Henderson hauled down Frank Gore half a yard short of a touchdown.
The Monarchs needed two first downs to run out the clock and got the second first down when Wicks appeared to be tackled short of the first down while sweeping the right side. However, he wiggled away from two would-be tacklers and swept the left end for a nine-yard gain and the clinching first down.
“Games like this show our toughness and our resilience,” Wicks said.
ODU’s offense struggled early-on, and the Golden Eagles took advantage to take a 10-0 lead.
Southern Miss drove 71 yards to the ODU four, where the drive stalled. Andrew Stein then kicked at 21-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 2:26 left in the first quarter.
After holding ODU on downs, Southern Miss then made it 10-0 on a Monarch special teams error.
Mims, the Southern Miss punt returner, fielded a short kick without breaking stride and raced past ODU’s punt receiving team, which had overrun the play, 82 yards for a touchdown.
Wilson then replaced Shields at quarterback, and quickly sparked the Monarchs to their first touchdown.
Wilson lofted a long pass to Kelby Williams for 78 yards, the longest play from scrimmage of the season for the Monarchs. Wicks then carried three yards for a touchdown 36 seconds into the second quarter.
Southern Miss appeared to build the lead back to 10 when Mims took another punt and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. But Rahne protested that Mims appeared to signal for a fair catch, and after watching the replay, game officials agreed and wiped the points off the board.
ODU twice drove deep into Southern Miss territory in the third quarter, but only came away with three points.
Mims muffed a punt at his own 26 and ODU’s Mario Easterly recovered. But four plays later, Wilson was sacked on fourth down at the 18.
On ODU’s next possession, Wilson passed 40 yards to Granger, which gave the Monarchs a first and goal at the five.
Facing fourth and goal at the six, Rahne sent Sanchez to kick a 21-yard field goal, which narrowed the lead to 13-10 with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
From there, ODU’s defense stood tall, and the offense scored just enough points.
“We’ve got to continue to play a lot better at lot of positions on offense,” Rahne said. “But we scored enough points to win.”
Notes: True freshman Mario Thompson made his first career start at linebacker. He is the second true freshman to start a game this season. Devin Roche started at running back against Wake Forest … Grant Wilson and Kelby Williams’ 78-yard second quarter connection is the longest offensive play of the season for ODU … Jason Henderson broke Jordan Young’s career record for tackles. Henderson had 17 tackles and has 358 in his career … He broke the record set by Jordan Young in 2021 … Keshawn Wicks’ two score game was the first of his career … Cornerback Rasheed Reason notched a career-high 10 tackles … Wayne Matthews registered his third career double-digit tackle game with 10 stops … Ahamrian Granger had a career-high 79 receiving yards on catches of 40 and 39 yards … ODU’s three play scoring drive in the third quarter was the Monarchs’ ninth drive of three plays or less this season … For the second time this season ODU did not turn the ball over and are 2-0 in those games.