By Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_)
The Eastern Michigan Eagles and Old Dominion Monarchs escape the clutches of winter to play out their 2016 season finale in the tropics.
Head coach Bobby Wilder’s bunch cap a season in which they finished 7-1 in Conference USA with ODU’s first ever bowl appearance. The Monarchs finished with their best record yet (9-3) since joining Conference USA in 2014.
ODU’s offense seemed to find itself in 2016, averaging 36.0 points per game -- 26th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
The Monarchs are led by senior QB David Washington, who’s thrown for 2,648 yards, 28 touchdowns, and four interceptions this season.
Washington’s top target is WR Zach Pascal. The 6-2 senior snagged 63 receptions this season for 893 yards and eight touchdowns.
Junior RB Ray Lawry is yet another weapon in the Monarch arsenal. Lawry ran his way to 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
Migrating to the postseason
The last time the Eagles went bowling, the World Wide Web didn’t exist, and “Faith” by George Michael was the number one song in the county. Eastern Michigan defeated San Jose State in the 1987 California Bowl by a score of 30-27.
The Eagles didn’t need faith to make it their first bowl game in 29 years, just swagger on offense. EMU racked up 5,447 yards of total offense this season, and scored 30.4 ppg.
EMU QB Brogan Roback tossed 2,394 yards this season for 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. WR Sergio Bailey II caught 55 passes for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns.
Sophomore RB Ian Eriksen gives the Eagles a change of pace. Eriksen raced to 741 yards this season and nine touchdowns.