Monarchs stun WKU after wild final series of events

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Old Dominion had never beaten Western Kentucky before. It needed a wild series of events Saturday to finally pull it off.

Nick Rice kicked a 26-yard field goal on the third of three un-timed downs to give the Monarchs a 37-34 win at Houchens-Smith Stadium. What led to that was hard to believe.

On what appeared to be the final play from scrimmage, WKU quarterback Davis Shanley was knocked to the ground and Old Dominion was called for roughing the passer. That put the ball at the ODU 40 where Alex Rinella came out and missed a 57-yard field goal.

But hold on.

Old Dominion was called for an illegal substitution giving Western life again. This time Rinella’s kick from 52 yards out was caught in the end zone but the speedy Isaiah Harper.

Harper ran it all the way back to the 15 where he was pushed out of bounds.

But hold on again.

Western Kentucky was called for a facemask. That put the ball at the 8, allowed Rice to boot the ball through the uprights and then be swarmed by his teammates.

The loss dropped WKU to 1-6 – its worst start since 2010 – and 0-3 in Conference USA. The Tops host Florida International (5-2, 3-0 CUSA) at 6:30 p.m. next Saturday.

Western Kentucky had appeared to have won the game with a 1:37 to play when Gino Appleberry completed an 80-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run to the left side. Appleberry rushed for 80 yards and two scores on the night.

Old Dominion would not go that quietly after that however. In virtually no time the Monarchs came all the way back down to the 6 where quarterback Blake LaRussa found a wide-open Travis Fulgham to tie the game with nine seconds left.

That looked to force overtime – or so it seemed.

Nursing a 27-19 lead midway through the fourth, Old Dominion drove to the 2 after a 44-yard pass from LaRussa to Harper. Kesean Strong dove in from there making it 27-25 and then LaRussa scrambled to his left and found Cornell Hendrick on the two-point conversion pass to make it 27-all with 5:40 to go.

Western Kentucky took its opening offensive possession and scored with a crisp 80-yard drive in nine plays. Shanley slipped a shovel pass to tight end Mik’Quan Deane from nine yards out making it 7-0 early in the first.

Old Dominion came right back with an easy 72-yard drive highlighted by LaRussa’s 27-yard pass to Fulgham down to the 1. Strong dove in easily from there to knot the score at 7-7 with 5:59 to go in the opening period.

Western tried to make a statement on its next drive with a 4th-and-1 call at the ODU 19 out of a timeout. But Appleberry was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. The Monarchs slid down the field the other way in just more than three minutes and took a 14-7 lead on the final play of the first quarter on Will Knight’s 1-yard run.

The Hilltoppers opened the second quarter by putting together a 75-yard drive that burned five minutes and was capped off by a 1-yard scoring run from Appleberry tying the game at 14-14.

Rice kicked a 45-yard field goal with 8:17 left in the half to make it 17-14 in favor of Old Dominion. Rinella made a 41-yard kick three minutes later to tie the score at 17-all.

Lala Davis made the first serious mistake of the game for ODU when he fumbled a second-down carry into the arms of WKU linebacker Eli Brown at the Western 29. Shanley led the offense the other direction and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Fourtenbary giving the Hilltoppers a 24-17 lead heading into the locker room.

The Monarchs (2-6, 1-4 Conference USA) had the first golden scoring opportunity of the second half by marching to the WKU 3. On fourth down, however, LaRussa rolled left and his pass into the end zone was broken up by safety Drell Greene.

That gamble actually paid for ODU when Western was flagged for holding in the end zone two plays later resulting in a safety. That made it 24-19 with 7:08 left in the third quarter.

Rinella kicked a 33-yard field goal with 3:45 to play in the period making it 27-19.

That’s how the score would look going into the final 15 minutes.


• WKU sophomore safety Antwon Kincade was penalized for targeting in the first quarter and disqualified for the remainder of the game.

• WKU sophomore wide receiver Xavier Lane has been temporarily removed from the roster. Lane has made 34 catches for 391 yards during his career.

• Under second-year coach Mike Sanford, WKU is now 4-7 in conference games, 4-5 in home games, 6-9 in night games, 3-3 in October, 5-6 when scoring first, 1-7 when trailing after the first quarter, 5-5 when leading at halftime, 6-4 when leading after the third quarter and 4-13 when the opponent scores 20 points or more.

• Western Kentucky is now 7-13 under Sanford and 2-11 in its last 13 games.

• The Hilltoppers lost a third-straight home defeat for the first time since 2012.

• Old Dominion and WKU met for the fifth time in series history Saturday. Western had won the four previous matchups by an average margin of 19.5 points.

• Saturday’s game was the 1,000th in program history for Western Kentucky.

• Attendance on Saturday was 13,269 giving WKU a season average of 16,599.

— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop