The Eagles (0-1) took an early lead in the contest and held on until the fourth quarter when the Monarchs (1-0) scored a touchdown with just 1:57 left in the game to pull out a victory.
The contest offered plenty of offense as both teams went for 400-or-more yards in the season opener. The Eagles out-gained Old Dominion, 444-413, but EMU was forced into three turnovers which proved to be the difference in the game.
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In the passing game, Reginald Bell went 12-of-18 for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bell found Dustin Creel on both of the touchdown passes.
On the defensive side of the ball, Anthony Zappone led the Eagles in tackles with 11, while Great Ibe recorded nine. The Green and White posted two sacks in the contest – one each for Derric Williams and Luke Maclean.
Old Dominion's Ray Lawry had a very good day for the Monarchs, rushing for 223 yards on 28 carries. Lawry made his way into the endzone on four occasions, including a 54 yard touchdown dash. Shuler Bentley went 18-for-32 in passing attempts, throwing for 184 yards.
After a stout defensive effort, the Eagles forced the Monarchs to punt on the opening possession. Taking over at their own 20-yard line, EMU's running game clicked right away. A four-play 68-yard drive was highlighted by a 26-yard run by Jackson. With the Green and White's offensive line sealing the ODU defense, Jackson broke through a hole at the line of scrimmage and exploded into the end zone to put the Eagles ahead with 11:50 to play in the first quarter.
On the ensuing ODU drive, the Eagles defense forced the Monarchs to punt.
Taking over on downs, Bell followed a six-yard run by redshirt sophomore Shaq Vann with a 38-yard pass to Jackson, giving EMU a first down at the ODU 10-yard line. Looking to double their lead, the Eagles fed the hot-handed Jackson. Taking the handoff from Bell, Jackson bulldozed his way into the end zone.
With the Green and White defense dominating for a majority of the first quarter, ODU made its way into the end zone with 1:31 left in the period. Bentley found David Washington for a 14-yard touchdown to cut EMU's lead in half.
Heading into the second quarter with a 14-7 edge, the defensive play of each team kept the score at a standstill for most of the second quarter before the teams traded field goals. After a field goal by ODU with time expiring, EMU headed to the locker room with a 17-10 lead.
EMU wasted little time getting points after the break, capitalizing on its first possession of the second half. Starting the drive at its own 34-yard line, a roughing the passer call against the Monarchs gave EMU a first down shy of midfield. Following a trio of completions, Bell zipped a screen pass to Creel who ran it in from 10-yards out for the score.
The Monarchs responded quickly, breaking away for a long touchdown run down the sideline on the next possession.
EMU took over, but a fumble was recovered by the Monarchs, giving them the ball at the Eagles' 32-yard line with an opportunity to even the score. Eastern defense looked as though it would contain the Monarchs until an untimely pass interference call gave ODU new life. With first and goal after the Eagles' penalty, the Monarchs ran it up the middle for the touchdown to tie the score at 24.
Freshman Devon Russell carried the kickoff back past the EMU 35-yard line before, and a flag allowed the Eagles to start their drive in ODU territory. The Eagles rushed their way to first and goal before coming up empty on their first two downs. Bell then dropped back in the pocket. He found Creel cutting across the end zone and hit the leaping receiver with a pass to give EMU a 31-24 advantage.
Old Dominion needed just four plays on its next drive to erase the Eagles' lead. A pair of carries and a long pass across the middle of the field put the Monarchs inside the EMU 10-yard line with a fresh set of downs. Running it up the middle on a few of the previous plays, Lawry swung outside before leaping across the goal line from two yards out.
Following empty possessions from both teams, the Eagles' Dylan Mulder sent a 52-yard field goal through the uprights to put EMU in front 34-31 with 3:40 to play. Mulder's field goal tied the longest in program history while also marking a personal-best and tying for the longest in Rynearson Stadium laurels.
After a Williams' sack forced ODU to punt, it seemed as though the Eagles would run the clock down to an opening day victory. However, a holding penalty left the offense facing second and long. Despite two completions by redshirt sophomore Brogan Roback, the Eagles were forced to punt on fourth down.
Taking over on downs with 3:02 to play, a 30-yard completion put the Monarchs at the Eagles 46-yard line. After back-to-back stops by the defense, ODU's Lawry exploded for a 45-yard touchdown run. Lawry's breakaway gave the Monarchs the lead for the first time in the game with 1:49 remaining.
Trailing 38-34 with less than two minutes to play, the Eagles turned to the arm of Roback. Finding redshirt junior Kevin Davis for a 14-yard reception, Roback converted on fourth down to keep the Eagles rolling.
Roback completed 3-of-4 passes before his fifth attempt was deflected and intercepted. Old Dominion then kneeled out to end the game.
The Eagles return to the field next Saturday, Sept. 12, when they travel to Laramie, Wyo. to square off with the University of Wyoming. EMU will take on the Cowboys (0-1) at War Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. MT.