NORFOLK, Va. – Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) passed for 336 yards and five touchdowns Saturday afternoon at S.B. Ballard Stadium, but Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke set an NCAA Division I record by amassing 730 passing yards as the fifth-ranked Monarchs outlasted the No. 18/19 University of New Hampshire football team, 64-61, in the highest-scoring game in CAA history.
The Wildcats, who led by as many as 23 points (47-24) in the second half, dropped to 2-2 on the season and 0-1 in the league despite setting a school record with 35 first downs. ODU upped its overall record to 4-0 by winning its conference opener, and the Monarchs established an FCS record by racking up 824 yards of total offense.
Jarod Brown snapped a 61-61 tie by kicking a 25-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining to cap a record-shattering game that featured an astounding 1,549 yards of total offense –another NCAA FCS record.
Heinicke completed 55 of 79 passes for five touchdowns without an interception. The sophomore added 11 rushes for 61 yards and a TD to set an FCS record with 791 yards of total offense.
ODU's top receivers were Nick Mayers, who snared 12 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and Antonio Vaughan, who posted 12 catches for 143 yards and a score.
Vailas went 23-for-38 and was not picked off until his final pass of the game, a desperation second-and-11 pass from the ODU 49 intended for Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) with six seconds left. Vailas added 14 carries for 80 yards and a rushing TD to finish with 416 yards of total offense.
Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) led all ball-carriers with 21 rushes for a career-high 201 yards and two TDs, and R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) collected eight receptions for a career-high 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Harris was on the receiving end of a 45-yard TD pass from Vailas with 3:22 left in the fourth to tie the game, 61-61.
The Wildcats made an instant impact on the opening kickoff when Lamar Edmonds (Worcester, Mass./one tackle) drilled ODU kick-returner Colby Goodwyn, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Akil Anderson (Morristown, N.J./one tackle) at the Monarchs' 25. One play later, Vailas found Orlando (seven catches-81 yards, two TDs) on a post-pattern scoring toss and a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game.
Two possessions later, Old Dominion marched down the field on a 13-play, 72-yard drive that culminated with Brown's 22-yard field goal to trim UNH's lead to 7-3 with 10:04 left in the first.
The Wildcats responded quickly - and emphatically - when Steriti (career-high 226 all-purpose yards) accounted for all 76 yards of a four-play drive capped by his one-yard touchdown run with 9:06 remaining in the first for a 13-3 lead. The two-point attempt failed. The sophomore running back carried once for 12 yards before breaking free on his next attempt for a 63-yard gain to the 1-yard line. On the next play, he carried in for his first of two TDs in the game.
New Hampshire added one more first-quarter score with 48 seconds remaining courtesy of a 38-yard field goal off the foot of Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H) to lift the advantage to 16-3.
A two-play, 60-yard drive culminating in a 57-yard TD strike from Heinicke to Mayers cut UNH's lead to 16-10 with 12:42 remaining in the second quarter.
The Wildcats parlayed the Monarchs' second turnover of the game into a touchdown with 10:15 left in the second. Mayers fumbled a punt return that was recovered by Jimmy Vailas (Bedford, N.H./one tackle) at the Monarchs' 25. Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass./10 rushes-70 yards; three catches-28 yards) rumbled for 12 yards on the first play of the subsequent drive before taking a screen pass from Andy Vailas on the next play 13 yards into the end zone, which staked the 'Cats to a 23-10 lead.
The lead ballooned to 30-10 with 6:56 left in the half when Steriti burst through a hole in the middle of the line of scrimmage and raced 61 yards for his second score of the game.
Heinicke drew the home team within 30-17 with 4:02 left in the second quarter when, on fourth-and-1 from the UNH 15, he bought time by scrambling in the pocket before discovering Vaughan at the left pylon for the TD pass.
New Hampshire recaptured the momentum when Vailas completed a 73-yard touchdown pass to Harris on a third-and-23 play to build the lead to 37-17 with 2:50 left in the half. It was the longest passing play for the Wildcats since a 77-yard hookup between R.J. Toman, who was in attendance, and Chris Jeannot on Nov. 15, 2008, against Massachusetts.
Old Dominion struck right back 25 seconds later. After Vaughan (317 all-purpose yards) returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the UNH 9, Heinicke called his own number, sprinted left and dove to the pylon for a nine-yard score to trim the score to 37-24.
MacArthur sent the 'Cats to the halftime break with a 40-24 lead by kicking a 32-yard field goal as time expired.
The Wildcats scored on their first possession of the second half to seize a 47-24 lead, their biggest advantage of the game. Orlando notched his second TD catch of the game when he took a screen pass from Vailas in the left flat and maneuvered behind a host of blockers to the end zone.
ODU fought back by orchestrating an 11-play, 90-yard drive highlighted by a 32-yard catch-and-run TD reception by Jakwail Bailey (nine catches-81 yards, TD), who bounced off a pair of hard hits before registering his first career score with 7:10 left in the third to slice the UNH edge to 47-31.
The Monarchs capitalized on the Wildcats' first turnover of the game when Craig Wilkins recovered a fumble on the UNH 2. That set the stage for an eight-play, 98-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown rush from Goodwyn that brought the Monarchs within 47-38 with 1:38 to go in the third.
UNH had another big-play answer with 1:05 left in the third when Vailas ran to the outside, made good use of a downfield block from Harold Spears (Perkasie, Pa./one catch-12 yards), and outran the ODU defense 67 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 54-38 lead.
Heinicke's fourth TD pass of the afternoon, a 12-yard strike to Mayers, followed by a Heinicke-to-Mayers two-point conversation, decreased UNH's lead to 54-46 with 13:04 left.
Mayers hauled in his third touchdown reception of the game, a nine-yard catch with 10:09 remaining, and Heinicke found Blair Roberts for a two-point conversion to knot the score, 54-54.
The Monarchs captured their first lead, 61-54, on a two-yard run by Angus Harper (three rushes-four yards) that completed a 10-play, 89-yard drive with 4:39 remaining.
Chris Houston (Harrisburg, Pa.) led the Wildcats with 14 tackles, while Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md./13 tackles), Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass./12 tackles) and Alan Buzbee (Chester, N.J./10 tackles) all finished with double-digit stops.
The 61 points scored by UNH represented the most ever in a defeat and the highest totaled by the 'Cats since a 63-21 win at Rhode Island on Nov. 11, 2006. ODU's 64 points were the most allowed by New Hampshire since a 64-42 loss to Massachusetts on Nov. 19, 1988.
UNH plays host to Delaware on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 12 p.m. It will be Family Day at Cowell Stadium. For tickets and more information, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call (603) 862-4000