MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (ODU SPORTS/WAVY) – The Old Dominion football team wanted much more. The Monarchs came to the Myrtle Beach Bowl to claim a championship trophy and end a remarkable season with a winning record.

But stymied by a large and powerful Tulsa defense, the Monarchs fell to the Golden Hurricane, 30-17, before a crowd of 6,557 at Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium.

The loss ended a memorable, turnaround season for the Monarchs (6-7), who lost six of their first seven games. ODU was 1-11 in 2019 and didn’t play in 2020 and at 1-6, was derided by some in the national media as one of the Sad Sacks in FBS.

Yet the Monarchs won their final five regular-season games, including a 56-34 Conference USA victory over Charlotte on Nov. 30, to become a comeback story that drew national interest.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 Monarch fans gave ODU a decided home-field advantage, a fact noted by ESPN sportscasters on the national television broadcast.

ODU’s offense, which scored seven touchdowns against Charlotte, simply could not move the ball most of the game against a unique Tulsa defense. The Golden Hurricane generally rush three defensive linemen and play three safeties, leaving eight defenders in pass coverage on most plays.

ODU was outgained in offfensive yardage, 529-247.

ODU trailed 17-10 at halftime, but was undone in part by a disastrous third quarter in which the Monarchs had a net loss of two yards and six passes fell incomplete.  

Tulsa extended the lead to 23-10 on a pair of Zack Long field goals, the second from 25 yards right after quarterback Davis Brin, who was still in the pocket, threw the ball into an area where there were no receivers.

It was an obvious intentional grounding penalty that went uncalled and would have made that field goal a 45-yarder, a much more difficult kick. Much to the chagrin of coach Ricky Rahne, after huddling briefly, the refs made no call.

Things got a little crazy in the third quarter as Tulsa self-destructed on back-to-back plays and allowed ODU to get back into the game. The Golden Hurricane was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which turned a fourth and 1 from the 32 into fourth and 16 from the 47.

Punter Lacklan Wilson then tried an ill-advised fake punt that was snuffed out by freshman linebacker Jason Henderson at the ODU 48.

Blake Watson then ran for 22 yards, then Hayden Wolff passed 30 yards to wide receiver Ali Jennings, who while headed into the end zone, had the ball poked away by Tyon Davis.

The ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback, which gave Tulsa the ball back with 13 minutes left.

Ethan Hall then extended the lead to 30-10 when he hauled in a 4-yard pass from Brin with 7:04 left.

Watson then capped a 60-yard ODU drive with a two-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 30-17 two minutes later. But Tulsa then mounted a sustained drive that thwarted any chance for an ODU comeback.

 The game began as well as could be expected for the Monarchs as LaMareon James, the freshman from Indian River High School, electrified the crowd by returning the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.

It was his second kickoff return of the season returned for a TD.

But Rahne had warned that tackling was his biggest worry, because the Monarchs had not tackled live in nearly three weeks, and the rustiness showed as Tulsa responded with two quick touchdowns.

The Golden Hurricane drove 75 yards in just 1:34, with Shamari Brooks scoring from the one.

ODU then wasted a promising possession, as they methodically drove from their 25 to the Tulsa 27. On third and five, quarterback Hayden Wolff just missed an open Watson in the left flat. Kicking into a brisk wind, Nick Rice’s 41-yard field goal fell just wide right.

Tulsa then took 3:46 to score again, as Brin capped a 75-yard drive with a 23-yard pass to Josh Johnson to give Tulsa a 14-7 lead.

Tulsa was again driving when the Golden Hurricane rolled the dice and went for it on fourth and 1 at the ODU 46. Linebacker Jordan Young sniffed out the play and tackled Brayton Braxton for a two-yard loss. It was the 341st tackle of his career and set a new ODU record.

The stop resulted in points. The Monarch offense stalled at the 14 and Rice narrowed the lead to 14-10 with a 32 yard field goal almost three minutes into the second half.

Tulsa closed out the first-half scoring after Golden Hurricane free safety L.J. Wallace intercepted a 50-50 ball intended for tight end Zack Kuntz. The INT resulted in 35-yard field from Zack Long with nine seconds left that gave Tulsa a 17-10 lead.

Tulsa (7-6), from the American Athletic Conference, was the favorite and defeated SMU and Memphis and had narrow losses to Cincinnati and Oklahoma State.