Old Dominion defeats Towson 31-20

TOWSON, Md. — Old Dominion's offense built a comfortable margin, then its defense made enough plays to thwart Towson's comeback effort in a 31-20 win Saturday at Unitas Stadium.

Unlike last season against Towson, ODU (6-1, 3-1 CAA) held onto an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Tigers (3-4, 2-2 CAA) came from behind to defeat ODU 39-35 a year ago and went on to capture their first CAA title.

ODU's defense limited Towson to 20 points after allowing an average of 45 points in its three previous conference games. Cornerback Aaron Evans made one of the game's key plays, defending a fourth-down pass in the end zone against Tom Ryan with 4:26 remaining to preserve the 31-20 lead.

ODU was without three defensive regulars: end Alex Arain and linebacker Rodney Hunter were injured, and cornerback Eriq Lewis was suspended for the game for disciplinary measures. Wide receiver Larry Pinkard also was suspended for the game for disciplinary reasons.

Towson played without leading rusher Terrance West, who sat out after a death in the family.

ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke efficiently directed the offense, accounting for 335 yards passing and running and three touchdowns.

He completed 26 of 39 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown and was the Monarchs' leading rusher with 71 yards and two scores, including a 36-yard dash up the middle to start the second half that extended the lead to 24-6.

After stalling in the red zone for 2 1/2 quarters, Towson finally found some offensive traction. Grant Enders scored after a long drive, and then passed 11 yards to Cory Kirby to cut the ODU lead to 31-20 with 10:42 remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Tye Smith intercepted Heinicke in the end zone with 6:28 remaining on 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line as the Monarchs attempted a clinching touchdown.

Towson moved swiftly to the ODU red zone and faced 4th-and-4 at the Monarchs' 8-yard line. But Evans jostled with Ryan and knocked down the pass. The Monarchs then ran out the clock.

The Monarchs led 17-6 at halftime, then scored on their opening drive of the third quarter. Heinicke dashed 36 yards up the middle, barely touched, to conclude the drive for a 24-6 lead.

Towson's D.J. Soven missed a 34-yard field goal attempt. On the next possession, the Tigers went for it on 4th-and-6 from their own 43, but Enders' pass completion was out of bounds.

The Monarchs responded with a short-field drive, as Blair Roberts recovered Angus Harper's fumble into the end zone for a 31-6 lead late in the quarter.

Towson dominated time of possession in the first half, even with a fumbled kickoff return, but managed only two Soven field goals.

ODU responded after Soven's first field goal cut the Monarchs' lead to 10-3. Heinicke crisply drove the Monarchs 78 yards in nine plays, scrambling for a 6-yard touchdown to finish the drive.

The Monarchs scored on the opening drive, with Jarod Brown kicking a 27-yard field goal. Towson fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and ODU capitalized. Heinicke connected with Antonio Vaughan for an 11-yard touchdown.

Towson's promising first drive was stopped when Erik Saylor hit Enders, causing the ball to flutter to ODU tackle Chris Burnette.

The Monarchs' chance to extend the lead was squelched when a bad snap caused Brown to miss a 26-yard field goal.

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