TAKEAWAYS | ODU, Troy score their first 10-win seasons in FBS
ODU, TROY TRIUMPHANT
Old Dominion didn't play football for 69 years before restarting the program in 2009. After five seasons in the FCS, the Monarchs moved up to the FBS and Conference USA in 2014.
Now in its third FBS season, ODU (10-3) celebrated their first bowl appearance, their first bowl victory and first 10-win season in FBS after beating Eastern Michigan 24-20 in the Bahamas Bowl on Friday.
"This was a life-changing experience," said head coach Bobby Wilder, who is 67-30 in eight seasons. "We made memories to last a lifetime, and to win the game makes it that much more special."
ODU's Ray Lawry, the Offensive Player of the Game, rushed for 133 yards and quarterback David Washington passed for three touchdowns.
"I know I haven't been here since the program started, but I've been here five years," said Washington, a senior. "So it kind of feels like my baby. We just took it to a bowl game and won the bowl game so it's just really special."
Troy has been playing in the FBS since 2001, but the Trojans also scored their first 10-win season in college football's highest level with a 28-23 victory against Ohio in the in the Dollar General Bowl on Friday night.
"This was a microcosm of our season," said second-year head coach Neal Brown. "We're sitting here 10-3 and quite honestly it wasn't always pretty. We've won a bunch of different ways."
The Trojans (10-3), who forced 18 turnovers in their last five games, came up with three big fourth-quarter stopsagainst the Bobcats. Jordan Chunn gained only 56 yards on 20 carries but he scored three touchdowns to earn Offensive MVP honors. Chunn, a junior, also set a school record with 37 TDs, surpassing Joe Jackson's 35 (1994-97).
ODU and Troy are among 19 FBS teams with 10 wins.
Troy, the Sun Belt's first team ranked in the Top 25, could be even better next season. The Trojans return all but two offensive starters, including Chunn. The defense gets seven starters back. The first game is a big one, Sept. 2 at Boise State. Only 248 days away.
Troy's victory improved the Sun Belt's postseason record to 4-1, the best among the Group of 5 schools, with one game remaining.
A victory by South Alabama against Air Force in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl Friday on ASN would clinch the G-5's best bowl record for the Sun Belt.
Conference USA finished 4-3 after North Texas lost 38-31 to Army in overtime in Tuesday's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Mountain West is 3–2 with Air Force and Boise State, which plays Baylor Tuesday night in the Cactus Bowl, still to play.
The big surprise is the 1-9 combined bowl record of the American Athletic Conference (1-4) and MAC (0-5).
Temple (Tuesday vs. Wake Forest in the Military Bowl) and South Florida (Thursday vs. South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl) give The American two more chances, but the conference will finish below .500.
Western Michigan is the MAC's last chance for a bowl win. The No. 15 Broncos (13-0) try to cap their perfect season with a victory on Jan. 2 in the Cotton Bowl against No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3).
Among the milestones set over the postseason's past week:
• Allenzae Staggers of Southern Miss set New Orleans Bowl records with 11 catches for 230 yards and also scored a touchdown in 28-21 victory against Louisiana on Saturday night. His quarterback, Nick Mullens, finished his distinguished career by throwing for 346 yards and two TDs. Mullens leaves as the Golden Eagles' career leader in yards passing (11,994) and TD passes (87).
• In a fitting final showcase for Louisiana Tech's accomplished trio of Ryan Higgins, Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson. Higgins passed for 409 yards and four touchdowns, two each to Taylor and Henderson, in a 48-45 victory against Navy on Friday in the Armed Forces Bowl. Jonathan Barnes won it on a 32-yard field goal to break the game's fourth tie. "Each person that I hugged after that, it was just getting worse and worse," said Higgins, who shed tears of joy. "I just couldn't be happier to send my class and this team out on a high note." Both teams finished 9-5.
• Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan, the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, led the Vandals to a breathless 61-50 victory against Colorado State on Thursday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It was the third-highest scoring game in bowl history. The Vandals heled off Colorado State's 36-point rally in the fourth quarter to win. The bowl record for points is 125 in Marshall's 64-61, double-overtime victory over East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.
• Western Kentucky's Anthony Wales ran for a career-high 245 yards on 35 carries in a 51-31 victory against Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 20. He finished with 329 total yards as the Hilltoppers earned a bowl victory for the third consecutive year to finish 11-3.
• Forrest Lamp, WKU 300-pound senior tackle, caught a lateral and scored the first touchdown of his career against Memphis. "The last time I scored a touchdown was probably in my backyard against my little brother," he said. Expect him to pave the way for more touchdowns in the NFL — he's one of the top guard prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.
• Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns against WKU, setting a school season record with 32 TD passes. Anthony Miller had a career-high three touchdown catches and increased his season total to 14, also a school record.
• Tulsa made history in a 55-10 victory against Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 19. The Hurricanes became the first team in FBS history with a 3,000-yard passer (Dane Evans), two 1,000-yard rushers (James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Josh Atkinson and Keevan Lucas) in the same season.
PREPPING FOR THE PENGUINS
James Madison will play for its second FCS national championship next week and the school has already sold out its block of tickets for the title game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
The Dukes (13-1) advanced with a 27-17 victory against five-time defending national champion North Dakota State on Dec. 16 in Fargo. The win ended NDSU's 22-game playoff winning streak and the first at the Fargodome since 1991.
Khalid Abdullah, ASN FCS Player of the Year, rushed for 180 yards and added 51 receiving yards and a touchdown. Bryan Schor passed for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
Abdullah, a senior running back, was one of four JMU players named to the STATS FCS All-America Teams. Abdullah, a second-teamer, has rushed for 1,708 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, becoming the first running back to earn STATS, AP and AFCA All-America accolades since Curtis Keaton in 1999.
Senior receiver/returner Rashard Davis and senior offensive lineman Mitchell Kirsch were named first-teamers and senior cornerback Taylor Reynolds was tabbed for the third team.
The Dukes will play Youngstown State (12-3), which knocked off No. 2-seed Eastern Washington, 40-38, on Dec. 17. It will be their fifth meeting, with the Penguins leading 3-1. YSU won the last meeting, 35-31 the first round of the 2006 FCS playoffs.
JMU won the 2004 title and YSU has four championships (1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997).
Photo courtesy Troy Athletics