By Dave Fairbank, firstname.lastname@example.org | 757-247-4637
8:23 PM EST, November 10, 2012
NORFOLK — Old Dominion's superb quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, is described many ways for his many attributes. William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock offered one more possibility: alien cyborg.
"I think he's got 360-degree vision," Laycock said. "I don't see how he knows that people are where they are and he's able to avoid them on the rush."
The Tribe experienced another mostly unsuccessful day of chasing Heinicke, as the sophomore quarterback and ODU's juiced-up running game played big parts in Saturday's 41-31 win at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
ODU (9-1, 6-1 CAA) matched last year's regular season victory total, heading into next Saturday's season finale at James Madison. Meanwhile, the march of frustration continued for William and Mary (2-8, 1-6 CAA), which matched its worst 10-game start since 1982, Laycock's third season at his alma mater.
"I thought there were two things that hurt us," Laycock said. "One was, we were not consistent running the football like we felt like we needed to, and two, defensively, we didn't tackle nearly as well as we need to against an athletic, quick team like ODU."
That certainly applies to Heinicke. He didn't have a lights-out statistical day. In fact, the nation's total offense leader was held to 291 yards passing and 43 rushing – 100 yards fewer than his per-game average.
But he was poised, patient and elusive against Tribe defensive coordinator Scott Boone's array of blitzes, coverages and personnel groupings.
"We took away his first, second and third reads sometimes and he still kept the play alive," Laycock said.
"It was nothing we didn't see on film," Heinicke said. "It was just adjusting to it during the game. They did a good job of disguising a lot of man(-to-man) coverage that was actually zone. They were getting into my head a little bit at the beginning, but the coaches kept on telling me (to) stick to the game plan and it worked out well."
Heinicke's touchdown pass to Antonio Vaughan early in the fourth quarter, his fourth scoring pass of the day, gave ODU the lead for good at 34-31. The Tribe drove into ODU territory, but the drive ended when the Monarchs' Carvin Powell intercepted Michael Graham in the end zone.
Heinicke then led a crisp 80-yard drive on which he and running back Tyree Lee accounted for 63 yards. Lee blasted the final 16 yards for the clinching touchdown, the culmination of a career-high 166 yards rushing.
"We told Taylor and our offensive guys that this was going to be a challenging game," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "He was going to have to be patient. He was going to have to take a lot of underneath throws because of William and Mary's style of defense. They really make it hard to push the ball vertically down the field."
Indeed, that's what William and Mary was able to do in the first half against the Monarchs' periodically beleaguered defense. Graham, who earned a battlefield promotion to starter because of injuries, threw for 222 of his 353 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as the Tribe came back for a 28-27 halftime lead.
ODU nearly pulled away in the second quarter with two touchdowns less than two minutes apart for a 27-14 lead. The first came on an excuse-me, 70-yard punt return by Vaughan in which the Tribe did everything but take him to the ground. The second came on a short-field drive set up by Craig Wilkins' interception three plays later.
The Tribe answered with touchdowns on its final two possessions of the half. In the second half, though, W&M managed just three points. Four times, the Tribe drove into ODU territory, but missed one field attempt, settled for a chip-shot field goal when it was unable to punch in a first-and-goal from the 5, and had the other two drives stopped on interceptions.
"It was one of those games where Taylor couldn't turn the ball over," Wilder said. "This is two years in a row that he hasn't turned the ball over against them. I felt like that's why we ended up winning the game, because he was smart and he was patient."
ODU's defense tightened in the second half, giving the Monarchs a chance for a 10-win season and at least one home game in the FCS playoffs. Laycock sounded just as happy that Heinicke will torment others from here on out.
"He understands his offense, he's a good thrower and all that stuff," Laycock said, "but to me, it's the way he buys time, he avoids the rush, he extends plays, he makes good decisions. That's what I take away from watching him."
Copyright © 2015, Virginia Gazette