Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Old Dominion 24, Eastern Michigan 20: 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017
Old Dominion held on to beat Eastern Michigan 24-20 in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. What are the 5 things that matter, and what’s next for 2017?
Old Dominion is a football school?
ODU is growing into a real, live FCS football program with a terrific ten-win season and a bright future under head coach Bobby Wilder. Now this is a team worth paying more attention to – it was the real deal in a breakthrough season closing out with a six-game winning streak.
It’s a bowl win. Don’t dog that it wasn’t in an elite bowl; the Popeyes Bahamas has been the start of big things.
Western Kentucky won it two years ago, Western Michigan came up with the win last year. ODU might be on the verge of being a Group of Five power after this year and now that it’s a bowl winner.
Ray Lawry still might be the best back you never paid attention to
With over 2,000 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns in his first two years, Lawry beefed up a little bit and came up with another strong season, taking off for 1,122 yards and 11 scores, averaging well over six yards per pop. Against EMU, he was the steadying force throughout, especially when the momentum shifted the other way. He finished with 133 yards on 23 carries behind a good day from the O line, and now let this game be the national announcement that he’ll be a star worth watching.
Yeah, Eastern Michigan lost, but …
It doesn’t matter. This was a phenomenal season for the perennial doormat of the MAC, breaking out and proving that it really is possible to win in Ypsilanti. The team fought back in the second half with Brogan Roback throwing for 300 yards, while the defense did a decent enough job of keeping the game tight once the O started to get rolling. Roback was able to keep the chains moving with third down conversion after third down conversion, while the defense came up with its share of stops, especially in the second half. EMU lost to a better team, but it made it close.
What’s next for Eastern Michigan in 2017?
Can the Eagles build off the surprising season and become a MAC power? Brogan Roback returns under center, and all his key targets are back in what’ll be a senior-laden receiving corps. The running game was just okay, but EMU has a slew of promising young backs to add more to the attack if – and it’s a big if – the line comes together in a hurry. Four starters are gone up front with just right guard Jimmy Leatiota returning.
While the offense should be better with experience, the defense loses just enough key parts to take a wee step back. There’s no replacing DE Pat O’Connor, and LB Ike Spearman was a strong producer for years. Fortunately, Jason Beck is back in a strong-looking secondary that gets back four of the five starters. JUCO transfers from the last few years should fill in the gaps.
What’s next for Old Dominion in 2017?
The offense will revolve all around RB Ray Lawry, who’ll be a mortal lock for a third straight 1,000-yard season if he stays in one piece. Fortunately, he’ll work behind a line that’s been building for the last few years, getting four starters back and only losing Troy Butler at right guard. However, the quarterback situation is iffy with do-it-all star David Washington gone, and not having Zach Pascal back to lead the receiving corps is a problem.
The defense loses TJ Ricks and Anthony Wilson from the linebacking corps, but the secondary should be a killer with SS Sean Carter leading the way. The defensive front loses Rashaad Coward on the nose, but it gets back three starters including both of the top pass rushers, Bunmi Rotimi and Oshane Ximines on the outside.