Taylor Heinicke has two seasons and heaven-knows-how-many passing yards ahead of him at Old Dominion. But few, if any, Monarchs were more distraught after Saturday’s 49-35 playoff loss to Georgia Southern.
“He was crushed in the locker room,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. “He felt like, it’s almost laughable for me to say this, but he felt like he didn’t do enough.”
On a day in which he set Championship Subdivision single-season records for passing yards and completions, Heinicke passed for 421 yards and three touchdowns, the first of which was a suitable-for-framng 74-yard post route to Antonio Vaughan, the last of which, an 8-yarder to senior Nick Mayers, gave the Monarchs a 35-21 lead late in the third quarter.
But in the fourth quarter Heinicke lost a fumble and threw an interception, ODU’s lone and dooming turnovers. The latter came in the waning moments with the Monarchs trailing 42-35; the first, and game-changer, occurred early in the period with ODU threatening to expand a 35-28 lead.
It was third-and-6 from Georgia Southern’s 12, and with his primary receiver covered, Heinicke was waiting for a second target who was just about to break open.
“I was about to pull the pin,” Heinicke said, “and I just got hit. I didn’t see it coming.”
Defensive end Dion Dubose blindsided Heinicke, and linebacker Patrick Flowe recovered at the 21. The Eagles promptly drove 79 yards to the tying touchdown.
With ODU upgrading to the Bowl Subdivision, Heinicke’s playoff and postseason career – the Monarchs are not bowl-eligible in 2013 or ’14 – are over. He departs with 19 touchdown passes and one interception in four playoff outings.
I for one am curious to see him next season against an exponentially more difficult schedule that includes Maryland, North Carolina and East Carolina. Is his arm strong enough? Is he as fast as he appears against FCS defenders? Will he be as effective without Mayers, his favorite receiver?
Heinicke is wasting no time preparing to answer the questions.
“The offseason,” he said, “starts tomorrow.”
Courtesy of ODU football’s media relations director Eric Bohannon, here are Heinicke’s FCS season records and near-misses this year.
Passing yards: Heinicke finished with 5,076, eclipsing Steve McNair, who threw for 4,863 at Alcorn State in 1994.
Completions: Heinicke’s 398 surpass Villanova’s Brett Gordon’s 385 in 2002.
Games with 200-plus yards passing: Heinicke’s 13 equal the mark set by Stephen F. Austin’s Jeremy Moses in 2009 and matched in 2011 by Lehigh’s Chris Lum.
Total offense plays (passes plus rushes): Heinicke’s 705 break the record of 680 set by Grambling’s Bruce Eugene in 2002.
Passing yards per game: Heinicke’s 390.5 rank third behind McNair’s 442.1 in 1994 and Mississippi Valley State’s Willie Totten’s 455.7 in 1984.
Touchdown passes: Heinicke’s 44 tie McNair for third behind Totten’s and Eugene’s 56 from 1984 and 2005, respectively.
Total offense: Heinicke’s 5,546 yards are second to McNair’s 5,799 in 1994.
Passing attempts: Heinicke’s 579 are second to Moses’ 598 in 2008.
And let’s not forget Heinicke’s mind-bending performance against New Hampshire. He set Division I records for passing yards (730), total offense (791 yards) and passes without a pick (79) in a 64-61 victory.
His season totals: 398-of-579 (68.7 percent), for 5,076 yards, 44 touchdowns and 14 picks; 126 rushes for 470 yards and 11 scores.
“That’s a great offense we faced,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said.
Taylor Heinicke made it great. Making it great again is his next challenge.
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