Game recap courtesy of Harry Minium, ODUSports.com
GREENVILLE, NC For three quarters, Old Dominion’s defense kept the Monarchs in the game. Every time they absolutely had to have a stop, the defense came through, and entering the fourth quarter, ODU trailed East Carolina by a single score, 22-14.
But then the Monarch D finally ran out of the gas.
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, tailback Keaton Mitchell burst for an 81-yard touchdown run that gave the Pirates all the momentum they needed. They scored twice more and led, 39-14, before settling for a 39-21 victory before a rain-soaked Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium crowd announced of 36,853.
In the process, ECU (1-1) salved some of the pain from a 21-20 loss to No. 13 North Carolina State last weekend. That was a game the Pirates dominated, but lost because of a blocked punt, blocked extra point and a shanked game-winning field goal attempt.
ODU (1-1) was coming off one of its most significant victories ever, a come-from-behind, 20-17, upset of Virginia Tech last weekend at home.
ECU showed little hangover from their crushing loss. The Pirates played with emotion and played well. Quarterback Holton Ahlers, a fourth-year starter who will break most of ECU’s passing records this season, was superb, completing 25-of-39 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Mitchell rushed 18 times for 160 yards.
ODU quarterback Hayden Wolff played far better than he did in the victory over Virginia Tech, completing 18-of-29 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He threw eight completions to wide receiver Ali Jennings, who had 196 receiving yards and all three touchdowns.
But the Monarchs were unable to mount any sustained drives or get their running game in gear. ODU finished with just 15 rushing yards. Standout running back Blake Watson had just 45 yards on five carries.
“We can’t allow anyone to take Blake Watson out of our offense,” Rahne said.
Trailing, 16-7, after a first half in which the Monarch offense struggled mightily, the Monarchs exploded on the first possession of the second half for 75 yards and a touchdown on just five plays. Wolff completed two passes for 61 yards to Jennings, including an 18-yard TD pass in which Wolff’s head fake caught the ECU defensive backs off guard.
Ethan Sanchez’s PAT trimmed the ECU lead to 16-14.
Midway through the third quarter, ECU went for it on fourth down and inches to go at the ODU 28. Henderson tackled tailback Rahjai Harris short of the first down, ending the scoring threat.
Late in the third quarter, on a drive aided by a pass interference penalty, Harris just nudged the ball across the goal line on a 3-yard shovel pass from Ahlers.
ODU’s Devin Brandt-Epps blocked the extra point, the second blocked extra point of the game for the Monarchs, and ECU led, 22-14.
By the end of the third quarter, the defense had been on the field 71 plays, and that’s when things got away from the Monarchs.
“We got punched in the face,” Henderson said. “We can’t allow that to happen.
“We’ve got to put our pedal to the metal and go full speed.”
Rahne praised ECU and coach Mike Houston, saying the Pirates would have beaten a lot of teams on Saturday.
“I thought they played really well,” he said. “That’s a good team and coach Houston does a great job. He really coached them up for this game.
“Tonight, they were just better than us.”
ODU continues the non-conference portion of its schedule Saturday at Virginia at 2 p.m. in a game to be televised over the ACC Network. ODU then hosts Arkansas State on Sept. 24 in its first Sun Belt Conference game.
Asked what ODU can do to play better in Charlottesville, Henderson said, “Honestly, it’s easy.
“We watch film tomorrow at practice, figure out what we did wrong, fix our assignments and our technique, flush the tape away and then get ready for Virginia.”
Notes: Game captains for ODU were Ali Jennings, Javon Harvey and Robert Kennedy III … Jason Henderson blocked a first quarter extra point, it was the second blocked extra point of his career … The Hayden Wolff to Ali Jennings III touchdown pass was the first TD pass of the season for the ODU offense … The 44-yarder from Wolff to Jennings two plays prior is the longest play of the season so far … Alonzo Ford’s second quarter sack was the first full sack of his career … Ryan Henry’s first half sack was the first of his career … Ali Jennings’ 100-yard receiving game was the fifth of his career and second-straight to begin the 2022 campaign … Jennings caught eight passes for 196 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns. His 196 yards is the second most in his career … Jordan Bly’s six catches for 67 yards was a career-high … Freshman Ahmarian Granger caught his first career pass in the third quarter … Sophomore Devin Brandt-Epps recorded his first career sack in the third quarter … For the second time in the Ricky Rahne era, ODU blocked two kicks in a game. ODU blocked two punts last season against Buffalo … Jason Henry notched his second-straight double-digit tackle game with 14 stops.