Eastern Michigan falls to Old Dominion in bowl return

The Detroit News


Nassau, Bahamas — Eastern Michigan’s first bowl appearance in 29 years did not go the Eagles’ way.

EMU lost to Old Dominion, 24-20, on Friday in the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau.

It was the first ever bowl appearance for Old Dominion, which joined FBS in 2013 after restarting the football program four years earlier, following a 69-year hiatus.

“We played really good football at times, but it just wasn’t quite good enough to win,” said third-year Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton, who more than doubled his win total from the last two seasons. “It’s a heartbroken locker room right now. We’ve had a wonderful week here. 

“This isn’t the way we wanted it to end.”

BOX SCORE: Old Dominion 24, Eastern Michigan 20

EMU (7-6) finished with its first winning season since 1995, and played in its first bowl since the 1987 California Bowl.

Brogan Roback completed 26 of 46 passes for 300 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Eagles, who are winless in three straight seasons against Old Dominion. He also ran six times for 28 yards.

The 300-yard performance for Roback was his sixth in the last seven games for Eastern Michigan, which outgained Old Dominion 470-394.

Blake Banham led Eastern’s run game with 13 carries for 63 yards, while Breck Turner had eight carries for 50 yards and Ian Eriksen (Clarkston) ran nine times for 30 yards.

Freshman Dieuly Aristilde had seven catches for 80 yards, before leaving in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury. Eddie Daugherty had six catches for 72 yards, Sergio Bailey five catches for 69 and a touchdown and Johnnie Niupalau four for 31 and a touchdown.

For the Monarchs (10-3), David Washington was 11-of-20 for 188 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Ray Lawry, who has been impossible for Eastern Michigan to stop the last two seasons during the regular season, had 23 carries for 133 yards. Jeremy Cox ran 10 times for 47 yards.

“He’s obviously very tough to tackle,” Creighton said of Lawry, who has run for 476 yards in three games against EMU. 

Jonathan Duhart had three catches for 45 yards, while Zach Pascal and Travis Fulgham each had touchdown receptions.

Old Dominion held Eastern scoreless in the first half, leading 10-0. An interception from Roback in the end zone late in the first half derailed a drive into the red zone for EMU.

“That’s on me,” Roback said. “We can’t have that. We were moving the ball, we just weren’t really finishing.”

But the Eagles rallied.

Roback connected with Bailey on a 5-yard score with 12:04 remaining in the third quarter. After the extra point from Paul Fricano, Old Dominion’s lead was just 10-7.

After a 31-yard touchdown pass from Washington to Fulgham — his only catch of the day — Eastern marched 81 yards in 1:25, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Roback to Niupalau.

Fricano’s 24-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the third tied the game at 17.

Each team scored only once in the fourth quarter.

Washington’s 5-yard pass to Duhart with 12:56 left put Old Dominion ahead, before the Eagles settled for a 19-yard field goal from Fricano with 9:08 left.

Eagles losing coaches

EMU’s offensive coordinator Kalen Deboer  and offensive line coach Ryan Grubb are leaving for Fresno State, according to FootballScoop.com.

Al Williman is a freelance writer;

 News wire services contributed