NORFOLK, Va. - On a fourth-and-29 play with 1:07 remaining, sophomore quarterback Grant Enders threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Tom Ryan as the No. 17 Tigers (5-1, 3-0) overcame an 11-point deficit in the final minutes to stun No. 18 Old Dominion University (5-2) in a Colonial Athletic Association game before a stunned crowd of 19,818 at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The pass play completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in program history. It also enabled the Tigers to remain tied for first place in the CAA with Maine (5-1, 3-0).
The Tigers were down to their final play when Enders rolled out and fired a pass to Ryan, who caught the ball in traffic at the ODU 30-yard line. He broke a tackle, followed two blocks and carried two ODU defensive players into the end zone for the touchdown.
The Monarchs' hopes for a comeback win were dashed when linebacker Kenton Powell intercepted a pass.
Enders, who completed 24 of 37 passes for a career high 314 yards, overcame five sacks to pull out the win. Before throwing the game-winning touchdown pass, he had actually sat out a play because he was hit hard on a second down sack.
"I'm very glad I got back into the game," he said. "I just told my guys to run a deep out and get to the first down sticks. All the credit goes to Tom. He made a tremendous play."
Ryan said, "I went up and got the ball and broke free. I knew I had gotten the first down. I had two guys (Leon Kinnard and Alex Blake) blocking for me. I just kept going and made it to the end zone."
The Tigers had cut their deficit to 35-30 with 3:13 left when Enders scored on an eight-yard run. That capped a 75-yard drive in nine plays. The Tigers went for two points and Kinnard, normally a wide receiver, threw the two-point conversion pass to Mike Evans to make it 35-32.
In a game that featured 1,016 yards of total offense, the two teams exchanged the lead four times.
Freshman Terrance West, who ran for 128 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Tigers' win over Richmond last week, picked up right where he left off against Old Dominion.
On his second carry of the game, he ran around right end and outraced two ODU defensive backs to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown run, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead just 3:27 into the game. West's touchdown run capped off a 81-yard, five-play drive for the Tigers, a drive on which Enders completed a 23-yard pass on third down to Ryan.
On their second possession of the game, the Monarchs marched 60 yards in ten plays and tied the game on a three-yard touchdown run by freshman Tyree Lee with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
Midway through the first quarter, West broke loose for another long touchdown run. On first down at the Towson 46-yard line, he burst up the middle and ran to the right. His career long 54-yard TD run gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
He finished the game with a career high 148 yards on 16 carries.
The Monarchs came back and tied the game at 14-14 with 13:09 remaining in the first half when freshman Angus Harper made history for ODU. He broke through the line and ran down the right sideline, just beating cornerback Justin Harris to the end zone, tying the game for the second time. His 64-yard run was the longest run in the three-year history of Old Dominion football.
On the Monarchs' next possession, freshman quarterback Taylor Heinicke directed ODU on a drive to the Tigers' 36-yard line. Facing fourth down-and-six, he completed a pass to junior wide receiver Nick Mayers on a crossing pattern. Mayers caught the ball at the 30-yard line and kept on running to score on a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Monarchs' 86-yard, ten-play drive gave ODU its first lead of the game, a 21-14 advantage with 6:30 remaining in the half.
Late in the half, the Tigers drove to the ODU 22-yard line. However, Enders was sacked on a third down play. On fourth down at the 30, Soven was called on to try a 47-yard field goal. His kick was good and the Tigers trailed at halftime, 21-17.
On their opening drive of the second half, the Tigers regained the lead. They marched 64 yards on eight plays and scored the go-ahead touchdown when senior fullback Tyler Wharton caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Enders on a third down-and-one play with 10:59 left in the third quarter. Wharton's four TD catch of the season have the Tigers a 24-21 lead.
Once again, the Monarchs responded with a touchdown drive. They marched 75 yards in nine plays and took a 28-24 lead when Heinicke threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Prentice Gill with 7:10 left in the third quarter.
Trailing by 28-24, the Tigers came right back. A 39-yard kickoff return by freshman cornerback Tye Smith to the Monarchs' 47-yard line gave Towson excellent field position. They moved the ball to the ODU 19-yard line where junior safety Carvin Powell made a game-changing play. He intercepted Enders' pass in the end zone and returned it to the four-yard line.
On the next play, Heinicke completed a pass to Gill, who caught the ball and ran up the near sideline. Ford caught him from behind at the Towson three-yard line and knocked the ball loose. Gill recovered the fumble just before it went out of the end zone for a touchdown to give ODU a 35-24 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers drove to the ODU ten-yard line where they faced fourth down-and-three. On a pitch to the left to West, cornerback Aaron Evans made a great one-on-one tackle and the Tigers turned the ball over.
However, the Tiger defense held ODU on downs, setting the stage for the Tigers' comeback.