On the same day Thomas DeMarco set his school's rushing yardage and touchdown records, Old Dominion became the most successful start-up Football Championship Subdivision program in history.
But the latter of those milestones hardly came as easy as the former.
After North Carolina Central scored 28 unanswered points to erase ODU's seemingly comfortable third-quarter lead, DeMarco and the Monarchs counterpunched with consecutive touchdown drives to win 42-28 at Foreman Field on homecoming Saturday.
The 8-2 Monarchs, which bested Robert Morris' inaugural 7-1-1 season in 1994, led 28-0 as late as 2:37 remaining in the third quarter before Central scored four touchdowns in a 6-minute, 49-second span.
"I told Thomas and the other guys that even though we were up 21-0 that we hadn't seen their best yet," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "They have explosive players."
DeMarco finished the game with 224 yards on 30 carries, four rushing touchdowns and one passing score (10-19-1 passing, 169 yards).
Markell Wilkins set up ODU's 4-play, 38-yard, game-winning drive with a 48-yard kickoff return after Central knotted the game. Three plays and four more rushing yards later, DeMarco converted a huge third down, hitting a wide-open Nick Mayers with a 34-yard slant-and-go in the end zone with 9:12 remaining.
True to his signature, big-play form, DeMarco gave the Monarchs insurance with a 20-yard touchdown run to cap an 8-play, 65-yard drive that drew the score to its final mark.
"Considering that the tying touchdown was because of me, yeah, I kind of had to calm down because I was a little upset about that," said DeMarco, who accounted for 393 of ODU's 448 total yards. "I know that we're going to battle back. I trust my offensive line, my receivers and my defense to get it done."
The game-saving scores came after Central mounted the most rapid and effective rally of the season against the Monarchs.
Eagles quarterback Michael Johnson began the surge with a 13-yard strike to Earthan Ward for Central's first score with 2:36 remaining in the third. After an ODU 3-and-out, wideout Geovonie Irvine hit Will Scott with a 20-yard touchdown pass after receiving a lateral that cut ODU's lead in half.
Another Scott reception – this time a 13-yard touchdown pass from Johnson – brought the Eagles drew the score to 28-21.
DeMarco then threw an uncharacteristic interception – just his fourth on the season – to Calvin Hillie on a failed slant pass that set up a 3-yard rush from Tim Shankle for the equalizing score, which came with 10:41 left in the game.
Just like that, the Monarchs found themselves in an unexpected dogfight that came on the heels of another dominant game-opening performance.
DeMarco, who ran for 138 yards in the first half, broke off a 25-yard touchdown scamper on the first play of ODU's second drive.
His second score came on a 38-yard run that capped a 4-play, 58-yard drive that made it 14-0 with 2:12 left in the opening quarter.
On ODU's next possession, he ended a 65-yard push with another 20-yard burst.
The Monarchs rolled to a 28-0 third-quarter lead when Mario Crawford punched in a 9-yard run with 8:11 left in the quarter.
OLD DOMINION 42, N.C. CENTRAL 28N.C. Central00721—28Old Dominion147714—42First quarter—DeMarco 25 run (Hareza kick), 10:59. —DeMarco 38 run (Hareza kick), 2:12. Second quarter—DeMarco 20 run (Hareza kick), 8:45. Third quarter—M.Crawford 9 run (Hareza kick), 8:11. NCCe—Ward 13 pass from M.Johnson (Cardelle kick), 2:36. Fourth quarterNCCe—Scott 20 pass from Irvine (Cardelle kick), 14:54. NCCe—Scott 12 pass from M.Johnson (Cardelle kick), 11:13. NCCe—Shankle 3 run (Cardelle kick), 10:41. —Mayers 34 pass from DeMarco (Hareza kick), 9:12. —DeMarco 16 run (Hareza kick), 4:05. A:19,782.TEAM STATSNCCEFirst downs2019Rushes-yards30-8244-279Passing269169Comp-Att-Int27-43-110-19-1Return Yards6115Punts-Avg.5-29.45-46.0Fumbles-lost2-00-0Penalties-yards6-559-88Time of poss31:4228:18Rushing: N.C. Central, Shankle 14-38, McCord 6-24, Goforth 5-17, Abdul-Azeez 1-2, M.Johnson 4-1. Old Dominion, DeMarco 30-224, M.Crawford 10-44, Mayers 1-10, D.Williams 2-2, Team 1-(minus 1). Passing: N.C. Central, M.Johnson 26-42-1-249, Irvine 1-1-0-20. Old Dominion, DeMarco 10-19-1-169. Receiving: N.C. Central, Irvine 6-87, Scott 5-57, An.Johnson 5-28, Shankle 3-37, Abdul-Azeez 3-26, Ward 3-26, McCord 1-8, Barren 1-0. Old Dominion, Evans 5-64, Mayers 3-98, Arain 1-8, D.Williams 1-(minus 1).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun