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ODU Football Rally is Too Little,Too Late as Appalachian State Claims a 27-14 Victory

App State rolled to a 27-14 victory over ODU Saturday on Senior Day at Kidd Brewer Stadium that extended the Monarchs' losing streak to five games.
Credit: ODU Athletics

BOONE, N.C. — The Old Dominion and Appalachian State football teams last met in 2016, and although much has changed in six seasons, one thing remains the same – the Monarchs have yet to play a competitive game against the Mountaineers.

App State rolled to a 27-14 victory over ODU Saturday on Senior Day at Kidd Brewer Stadium that extended the Monarchs' losing streak to five games.

ODU (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) is 0-3 against App State (6-5, 3-4) and has been outscored, 107-21, by the Mountaineers. ODU joined the Sun Belt Conference on July 1 and will play App State every year from now on.

Injuries have crippled ODU's offense. The Monarchs' two top playmakers, wide receiver Ali Jennings III and tight end Zack Kuntz, were lost for the season to injuries and the offensive line is beaten and bruised as well.

On Saturday, it was the defense that got banged up.

The game appeared to end ODU linebacker Jason Henderson's quest for a national record. The sophomore from Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania began the game 28 tackles short of setting the FBS record for tackles in a season.

Henderson tackled App State's Henry Pearson from behind after a 23-yard pass reception late in the first quarter and came down awkwardly. He was in obvious pain when he left the field and did not return.

If he returns for ODU's regular-season finale at South Alabama next Saturday, he would need 26 tackles.

Linebacker Ryan Henry also did not play, which meant the Monarchs played with two backups most of the game – redshirt freshman Malcolm Britt and sixth-year senior Steven Williams Jr., who has missed three games.

Coach Ricky Rahne said he doesn't yet know the extent of Henderson's injury, but did not sound optimistic that he would return.

"We'll have to see," he said. "But based on the fact that he's been playing with three injuries that would have kept a normal human being out of the game, that speaks to how much pain he was in."

Senior safety R'Tarriun Johnson, who led ODU with 10 tackles, said he is devastated by Henderson's injury.

"Not having him out there is difficult because he's our engine on defense," Johnson said. "We kind of revolve around Jason. It just really stinks that he's not going to get a shot at breaking that record. I really feel bad for him."

App State broke a two-game losing streak and kept its bowl hopes alive. The Mountaineers must win next Saturday at Georgia Southern to garner a bowl bid. They need seven victories rather than six because they played two FCS teams and only one can count toward bowl eligibility.

ODU can take solace in its offensive performance in the fourth quarter. App State led, 27-0, when ODU finally got on the board imidway through the fourth quarter when the Monarchs capped an 80-yard drive with a 37 TD pass from Hayden Wolff to Javon Harvey with 7:05 to play.

It was ODU's first touchdown in November and ended a 13-quarter scoring drought.

Wolff then connected with Harvey for another touchdown, this time from 25 yards, to finish off a 75-yard drive with five minutes left.

Wolff completed 22 of 38 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Harvey had four receptions for 133 yards.

Tailback Blake Watson rushed 10 times for 69 yards and caught seven passes for 73 yards.

"I was really proud of him," Rahne said. "I thought he was able to run hard today and be a major factor in our passing game."

Rahne said ODU was at times closer to scoring in the first half than it would appear.

"The funny part about it is there were times all game where we were moving the ball," he said. "There were times when we just got bogged down with a stupid penalty or had a missed assignment or we were just not believing.

"I talked to out guys after the game. Faith is either 100 percent or zero percent. You either have 100 percent belief or you have zero. So you have to have belief and faith to give yourself a chance.

"I thought we did that more in the second half. Our guys just said I'm going to do exactly what I'm told to do and I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."

App State's defensive starters played most of the game and Rahne said "they were in the same defense they were the entire game."

"It wasn't the defense," he said. "We just happened to play better."

ODU started off playing well in the first quarter. App State had a first and goal from the 10 but the Monarch defense forced the Mountaineers to kick a 27-yard field goal by Michael Hughes.

But ODU failed to score twice in the red zone, and that left the Monarchs in a deep hole.

On ODU's next possession, Wolff found Harvey on a 47-yard pass, which gave the Monarchs a first down at the 21. Brendon Clark, the transfer quarterback from Notre Dame, then entered the game and ran for a yard before fumbling. App State's Markus Clark recovered.

Late in the first quarter, on the same drive in which Henderson was injured, a mixup in the defensive backfield left App State wide receiver Kaedin Robinson wide open and he hauled in a 35-yard pass from quarterback Chase Brice to make it 10-0 with 20 seconds left in the quarter.

On the first play of App State's next possession, wide receiver Christian Wells broke free of an ODU defender and hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-0.

Ahmani Marshall made it 24-0 midway through the second quarter on a 17-yard rush in which he and several App State linemen pushed the pile over the goal line.

ODU then put together its finest drive in a while, driving 66 yards to the two, where the Monarchs had a first and goal. An illegal formation moved the ball back to the seven, but Wolff then found wide receiver Isiah Paige on what game officials at first ruled a touchdown.

But after an instant replay review, the pass was ruled incomplete. ODU went for it on fourth down, but an attempted reverse pass by Harvey was sniffed out by the App State defense and Harvey was tackled short of the goal line.

If he had to do it over, Rahne said he would have kicked a field goal there, although in the end, a field goal would not have gotten the Monarchs back in the game.

A redshirt sophomore from Norfolk's Lake Taylor High School, Harvey has stepped up in a big way after ODU lost its other offensive stars.

"Javon has always been a guy that we had a lot of faith in," Rahne said. "For the last four weeks he's been one of our bright spots. He's worked hard and he's just got to continue growing."

ODU's last game at South Alabama is a short drive from Johnson's hometown of Wiggins, Mississippi.

"I'll have a lot of family there," he said. "But I want to win for all of our seniors.

"Some of us will never play football game. This will be our last time together.

"We just want to go out on the right foot."

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