NORFOLK — Old Dominion's football formula is as predictable and successful as Coca Cola and Motown's old hit factory. Lots of Taylor Heinicke and timely defense.
Heinicke posted another record-setting performance as the Monarchs pulled away from Coastal Carolina 63-35 Saturday in a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game in front of the usual sellout crowd at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
Heinicke passed for six touchdowns and ran for two more as the Monarchs (11-1) scored the final 28 points, setting up next week's playoff rematch against Georgia Southern. The Eagles, who defeated ODU last season in Statesboro, Ga., held off Central Arkansas 24-16 Saturday.
"To get this win today and know that we are now in the Elite Eight, if you will, three wins away from a national championship, it's exciting to think about that," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "Coming off that two-week bye, I had hoped we would come out and be aggressive and play hard. I felt like we did."
As usual, the discussion begins with Heinicke. The sophomore from Atlanta, a finalist for the Payton Award to the top offensive player in FCS, completed 32 of 44 passes for 497 yards and was ODU's second-leading rusher with 45 yards, adding the two touchdowns.
Heinicke's 542 yards of total offense set a single-game FCS playoff record, breaking Todd Hammel's mark (539) for Stephen F. Austin in 1989. His six touchdown passes tied an FCS playoff record held by Northern Iowa's Mike Smith (1987) and Grambling's Clemente Gordon (1989).
Heinicke's 4,655 yards passing this season is second all-time to the late Steve McNair (4,863), who set the record at Alcorn State.
"He's a good, good quarterback," Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia said, "but what he does a great job of, he does a great job of making decisions after the ball is snapped. He does a great job of that. He handles himself well under pressure, and if you don't do a good job of containing him, he will come up with a big play by extending the play, finding somebody that's open downfield or turning it into a gain himself."
Heinicke ran for ODU's second and third touchdowns in the first half on plays that broke down, in which he was unable to find a receiver. After that, he did most of his damage through the air.
He completed 10 of his first 12 passes, then endured a spotty stretch in the second quarter when he missed on 5 of 6 passes. In the second half, he completed 20 of 24 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns, as the Monarchs totaled 672 yards.
Wilder said that the Monarchs didn't get into an offensive rhythm for much of the first half because Coastal Carolina (8-5) kept the ball for lengthy stretches. After ODU took a 21-7 lead, the Chanticleers answered with scoring drives of 81 and 80 yards.
Coastal then drove 87 yards to the ODU 1-yard line, as the clock wound down inside 10 seconds of the second quarter. On the final play of the half, Monarchs' tackle Chris Burnette forced and recovered a Marcus Whitener fumble as he tried to dive in for the tying touchdown.
"That was really big because we had given up huge plays on that drive," Wilder said. "We needed that for momentum, because at 28-28 going into halftime, they would have had all the momentum at that point. That ended up being a really big stop for our defense and something that gave our defense a lift going into halftime."
The Monarchs again opened a two-touchdown lead early in the third quarter, only to see Coastal come back to tie at 35. The Chanticleers were aided by Tyree Lee's first fumble of the season, setting up a short-field drive for the tying touchdown.
ODU scored on its next four possessions – 28 points in a span of 9 minutes, 24 seconds. The Monarchs' defense, gashed for two-plus quarters, stopped Coastal on three consecutive series: two three-and-outs and a sack on fourth down.
Defensive end Alex Arain, who had 2 1/2 sacks and 4 1/2 tackles-for-loss, said that defensive coordinator Bill Dee "came in at halftime, we made our adjustments, (he) told everybody to stay together and just continue to be there for one another. We just stuck with the plan and executed."
"All due respect to Coastal," Wilder said, "I felt like, particularly in the first half, was a really poor performance for us. We went back to some things that we hadn't done. We had been tackling very well, particularly in the second half of William and Mary and James Madison (games). We had far too many missed tackles, particularly at corner."
But Heinicke, who connected three times for touchdowns with Larry Pinkard, can cover a multitude of shortcomings in other areas.
"I thought I did pretty well," Heinicke said, without a trace of bragging. "Six touchdowns passing and two rushing is a pretty good day. The receivers … played lights out today. The line played great. I only had one sack. The offense overall played a great game."