Here’s a little extra:
One of ODU’s most eventful and critical possessions did not produce points. It did, however, include a questionable penalty against JMU.
When Cameron Starke missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, the Monarchs took over at their own 34 with 6:33 remaining, nursing a 23-20 lead. They needed to milk the clock.
End Sage Harold blindsided ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke on first down, forcing a fumble that Monarchs lineman Ryan Jensen recovered at the 20. Facing second-and-24, Heinicke, as he did much of the afternoon, eluded the rush and scrambled for 15 yards.
It was a huge play that set up third-and-9 at the 35. ODU spread the formation, isolating receiver Reid Evans to the left on cornerback Leavander Jones, who rather than give Evans a cushion, was in press coverage.
Heinicke immediately focused on Evans and lofted a pass down the sideline. Evans and Jones got tangled, both falling to the turf. Field judge Vincent Boccanfuso wasted little time in flagging Jones for interference, a 15-yard penalty that gave ODU a first down at midfield with 5:03 left.
JMU coach Mickey Matthews erupted on the far sideline, screaming at officials and ripping off his headset. After watching the play several times on DVR – Comcast didn’t have great camera angles – I’d call the flag iffy. In fact, Evans may have been falling (slipping?) before Jones re-established contact.
Former Virginia Tech and NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, the analyst on the broadcast, said on the air he didn’t believe the contact merited a flag, faulting Evans for not better separating from the bump-and-run coverage. That prompted play-by-play man Bob Picozzi to haze Freeman for not sticking up for a fellow receiver.
After the penalty, ODU made two more first downs, finally turning the ball back over to JMU with 1:07 remaining. So that’s an extra 3:56 the Monarchs milked.
Following the game, Matthews said his biggest objection was a previous play, which he thought similar, that didn’t draw a pass interference call against ODU.
“The guy had a better look at it than I did,” Matthews said of the Jones penalty.
Good of Matthews to take the high road. His Dukes had every chance to stop the Monarchs late but gave up consecutive runs of 6, 6, 7 and 4 yards to redshirt freshman Angus Harper.
That was emblematic of a second half in which ODU outgained JMU 176-76, outscored the Dukes 9-0 and earned its most notable victory.
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