Category: Old Dominion Monarchs

The top rushing performance you may have missed in Week 1

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The 2015 season is supposed to be a big season for young running backs. You know the heavy hitters already — Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette etc. — but here’s one you may not know. There were plenty of performances worth recognizing after the first weekend of college football was put in the books. One you may have overlooked was Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry. Against Eastern Michigan, Lawry rushed for 223 yards and four touchdowns, both new career highs for the sophomore. Both are numbers that now lead the nation out of the gates of a brand new college football season.

The New Jersey native came through in a big way for Old Dominion by rushing for a 45 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game Lawry broke loose on a 54-yard touchdown run too. It would seem, perhaps depending on the opponent, Old Dominion has a little home-run threat to utilize in the running game. Time will tell how effective he is on a regular basis once Old Dominion’s schedule gets a little tougher. That will not happen this week, with Norfolk State coming to town. The following week though, against North Carolina State, could be different. Old Dominion pushed NC State last season in Raleigh, and now Old Dominion gets a chance to score an upset win over the ACC opponent on their home field. Lawry should play a key role in that upset bid.

Lawry did not go unrecognized by Conference USA. On Monday the conference awarded him Offensive Player of the Week. He ended his day just one yard shy of the school record for single-game rushing yards. Lawry should once again be able to pile up some big numbers this weekend as Old Dominion hosts Norfolk State. The Spartans were just routed by Rutgers in the season opener, and should have their hands full once again with Old Dominion’s ground attack.

Lawry rushed for 947 yards and 16 touchdowns last season for Old Dominion, as the program underwent its transition year from FCS to FBS. He ended the season with a career-high 213 rushing yards in the last game of the season against FAU and set his single-game rushing touchdown bar of four touchdowns earlier in the year at Western Kentucky.

Shad Thornton, NCSU’s leading rusher, hit with two-game suspension

Tyler Hunter, Shadrach Thornton

In what’s become an annual tradition in Raleigh, North Carolina State’s top running back has once again found himself in his coach’s doghouse.

Dave Doeren announced Thursday that Shadrach Thornton has been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season.  The head coach declined to go into detail, allowing only that the issue responsible for the situation occurred six months ago.  The Raleigh News & Observer writes that “[t]he only outstanding legal charges against Thornton are minor traffic infractions.”

Because of the suspension, the senior back will miss the opener against Troy and the Week 2 matchup with Eastern Kentucky. He’ll return for the following week’s game at Old Dominion.

Thornton has led the Wolfpack in rushing each of the last three seasons, with his totals increasing from 694 yards to 798 to 907 last season. Earlier this month, he was named first-team All-ACC.

However, he’s had a hard time staying in the coaching staff’s good graces. In 2013, he was suspended for the opener after being charged with violence against a female. He was indefinitely suspended in December of that year for another run-in with the law, and reinstated in August of last year.

UPDATED 1:26 pm. ET: And now we have the alleged reason behind Thornton’s suspension.

UNC, Old Dominion schedule future home-and-home series

North Carolina vs. Old Dominion
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North Carolina has locked up the final piece of the 2017 scheduling puzzle. It also is a nice little win for Old Dominion. The two schools have reportedly agreed to a home-and-home series that will begin in 2017 in Norfolk and conclude three years later in Chapel Hill.

Per a report from The Virginian-Pilot, UNC will visit Conference USA’s Old Dominion on September 16, 2017. Old Dominion will make the return trip to North Carolina on September 26, 2020.

For North Carolina, the addition of Old Dominion in 2017 will complete the non-conference schedule for the Tar Heels. North Carolina is also scheduled to play California, Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame in 2017. The Old Dominion game in Chapel Hill in 2020 is the first on the schedule for the Tar Heels in that particular season.

Old Dominion has made a strong effort to arrange scheduling agreements with ACC schools, which makes sense given the location of the program being so close to a number of potential ACC opponents. even more important is working out deals to bring ACC foes into Norfolk, which can be a struggle for many programs in the so-called Group of 5. Currently, Old Dominion has home games scheduled against NC State (2015), UNC (2017), Virginia Tech (2018, 2022, 2024) and Wake Forest (2020).

UNC and Old Dominion have met just once before, and it was quite the blowout. The Tar Heels ambushed the young FBS program by the score of 80-20 in 2013. That was Old Dominion’s first season in the FBS after making the quick move up from the FCS.

C-USA commish Britton Banowsky steps down to take CFP post

Britton Banowsky

One of the longest-tenured commissioners at the FBS level has decided its time to step away from his current post and head down a different career path.

In a press release, Conference USA announced that Britton Banowsky has decided to step down from his long-time role as commissioner of the league.  Banowsky, who had held the commissioner title for 13 years, will remain on the job until a successor is found.

Per the release, “[i]t is anticipated that the Board of Directors will conduct a special meeting to discuss the matter in September and at its regular meeting scheduled Oct. 25-26.” So, at minimum, Banowsky’s expected to stay at his post through at least the midway point of the upcoming football season.

“My time with Conference USA has been an experience of a lifetime,” Banowsky said. “It has been an honor to serve these member institutions and this great conference, which is very well positioned for the future. The landscape has settled and these universities are all on the rise. They work very well together and the conference has tremendous leadership on each campus and within the conference office.”

Interestingly, Banowsky is just the second commissioner in the league’s history. The first? Mike Slive, who recently stepped down as the commissioner of the SEC, the job he moved to that opened the door for Banowsky.

“We all appreciate Britton’s strong and steady leadership during a period of unprecedented change in intercollegiate athletics,” said UTEP president Dr. Diana Natalicio, who just completed her term as chair of the C-USA Board of Directors. “Britton maintained a truly remarkable balance between tactical agility and a deep understanding of the big-picture issues that confront intercollegiate athletics today. His leadership of C-USA and the talented team he built has positioned us well for a successful future.”

While Banowsky is leaving Conference USA, he’s not leaving sports as the College Football Playoff subsequently announced that he will serve as the executive director of that organization’s foundation. The CFP in its release writes that “[t]he Foundation, with its capstone project, Extra Yard for Teachers, honors, celebrates, inspires and empowers great teachers.” Banowsky’s role at the Foundation will be to enhance it and build sustainability.

Since its founding in the spring of $2013, the CFP has generated $3 million for the Foundation, money that has funded more than 1,700 projects at 1,400 schools.

“We are delighted that Britton will be leading the CFP Foundation,” CFP executive director and Foundation president Bill Hancock said in his statement. “He has a great passion for community service and for the mission of our Foundation–public education. Throughout his distinguished career, he has been known for his great intellect, heart and creativity. He is the very best person to take this Foundation to an exciting new echelon.”

(Photo credit: Conference USA)

Ezekiel Elliott one of 69 on Doak Walker watch list

Ezekiel Elliott

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was the hottest running back exiting the 2014 season, and that momentum carried into the offseason as he’s one of the wagering favorites for the 2015 Heisman Trophy and claimed a prestigious amateur honor for good measure.  Not surprisingly, he’s landed on a watch lost that specifically honors the position he plays.

As part of the annual watch list dump in mid-July, the Doak Walker Award announced a group of 69 backs added to its preseason listing.  Included in that number are six backs who finished in the Top 10 in rushing yards in 2014: Elliott (No. 3), along with San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey (No. 4), Marshall’s Devon Johnson (No. 6), Pittsburgh’s James Connor (No. 7), Oklahoma Samaje Perine (No. 8) and Toledo’s Kareem Hunt (No. 10).

Connor and Johnson were semifinalists last year for the award won by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, as was 2015 watch lister Matt Breida of Georgia Southern.

Conference-wise, the Pac-12 led all leagues with 12 players on the list.  The other Power Five conferences has the SEC with 10, the Big Ten with eight, and the ACC and Big 12 with five each.  Amongst the Group of Five, Conference USA and the Sun Belt are tops with six apiece.

Arkansas, Oregon and USC were the only schools with two backs each listed.

2015 Doak walker Award Watch List