NORFOLK (WAVY) – Leading by 10 points, Old Dominion was only nine minutes away from its first ever win over Western Kentucky, and a memorable Friday night victory. Any celebration plans by the coaches, fans or players were dashed, as the two-time defending Conference USA champions rallied for a 35-31 win at SB Ballard Stadium on Friday night.
“Crushed. Everybody in that locker room is crushed right now,” said Bobby Wilder, who’s team has now lost five straight games.
Star running back Ray Lawry, who was thought to be lost for the year with a torn hamstring, rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns in his first home game back since his injury. His third touchdown of the night gave ODU a 31-21 lead in the third quarter. One of the bigger momentum shifts of the night happened early in the fourth quarter. With Hilltoppers (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) quarterback Mike White throwing incomplete on a 2nd-and-8 play, defensive back Denzel Williams was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Visibly upset, Wilder pleaded his case to the officials, but to no avail. Western Kentucky went on to score the next 14 points on consecutive touchdown drives, both capped by touchdown passes from White.
The Monarchs (2-5, 0-3), still with life, drove all the way to the Hilltopper 26 yard line with 2:25 remaining. Facing a 4th-and-1, Lawry fumbled the handoff, ending the last real ODU threat. Quarterback Steven Williams let go a hail mary heave to the endzone from the WKU 43 yard line as time expired, but it was intercepted to end the game.
“It sucks because we were beating them offensively and defensively the whole game,” said Lawry. “We were leaving it all out there, playing our hearts out.”
White threw five touchdown passes for the second straight game, completing 24 of 34 for 304 yards.