The Towson offense moved the ball against Old Dominion and actually outgained the high-powered Monarchs. But the Tigers fell behind early and simply couldn't recover in time.
Towson was 10 points down before it ran a play and never caught up as Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for 264 yards, ran for 71 more and accounted for three touchdowns to beat the Tigers, 31-20, in a Colonial Athletic Association game at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Tigers beat Old Dominion, 39-35, last year en route to the CAA title, and the Monarchs certainly remembered that. They came out fired up in this game and were probably helped by the fact that Towson (3-4, 2-2) had to play without top rusher Terrance West, the CAA's preseason offensive player of the year, who sat out due to a death in the family.
But even if West had played, Towson still needed to find a way to stop Heinicke, and the Tigers couldn't do it. He led the high-powered, fast-paced Old Dominion offense, running the no-huddle attack smartly and moving the Monarchs from start to finish.
Old Dominion (6-1, 3-1) came into this game leading the Football Championship Subdivision with an average of 49.2 points per game, and it showed Towson why, especially the quarterback.
"I haven't seen anybody yet that has stopped that kid, and I don't think anybody's going to," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "There's no quarterback out there I've seen so far on film that has his mastery over his offense like that kid does, and that's a credit to the staff and the kid and his surrounding partners. They are truly, truly dynamic."
Towson outgained Old Dominion, 455-404, and also held an edge in first downs (26-23). But the Monarchs made numerous big plays, led mostly by Heinicke, who completed 26 of 39 for 264 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 71 yards and two scores.
Quarterback Grant Enders said the Tigers just kept moving without West there.
"[He] is a great player, but it is next man up, and these guys are great running backs, too," Enders said.
The biggest problem for the Tigers might have been the start. Old Dominion took the opening kickoff and marched right down field before Jarod Brown kicked a 27-yard field goal. Towson's Derrick Joseph then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Monarchs the ball at the Tigers' 22.
Four plays later, Heinicke threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Vaughan for a quick 10-0 lead.
"I felt like the start of the game was the key," Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said. "Before Towson had run a play, we had run 17 offensive snaps and had a 10-0 lead."
Enders got the Tigers' offense moving, completing 26 of 41 for 290 yards. He also helped with the running, gaining 94 yards on the ground.
Old Dominion took a 17-6 halftime lead and looked like it was about to blow it open in the second half. Blair Roberts recovered a fumble in the end zone to make it 31-6 late in the third quarter.
Enders then led two good drives, capping one with a 3-yard touchdown run and another with an 11-yard scoring pass to Cory Kirby that cut the lead to 31-20. Tye Smith then picked off Heinicke in the end zone — the Tigers' first interception this season — and Towson drove back again.
Enders got them down to the Old Dominion 8-yard line where his pass to Ryan on fourth-and-4 was incomplete. The Monarchs took over on downs and ran out the clock.
"Last year, we felt like they just stole the conference championship from us," Heinicke said. "We felt like we needed to come up here and beat Towson."