NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion will play in a bowl game for the first time in school history as the Monarchs accepted a bid to represent Conference USA in the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl on Friday, Dec. 23 in Nassau’s Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. ODU gained bowl-eligibility with their November 5 win against Marshall.
The Monarchs’ opponent for the third Popeyes Bahamas Bowl will be Eastern Michigan University. The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl will be played at 1 p.m. and the contest will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Radio Network.
The early invitation allows ODU additional time to prepare to play in an international destination, including obtaining passports for those who still need them to travel to the Bahamas as well as giving extra time for fans to make their travel plans to Nassau for bowl week.
Information on tickets to the 2016 bowl is available through PopeyesBahamasBowl.com. All U.S. citizens who wish to attend the game must have a valid U.S. Passport to enter the Bahamas.
The Monarchs (9-3 overall, 7-1 in Conference USA play) will be led to their first-ever bowl appearance by head coach Bobby Wilder, who is in his eighth season (66-30 record overall) at the school, and the school’s only head coach since restarting the program in 2009.
“We are pleased that Old Dominion will be competing in the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl,” said Richard Giannini, executive director of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. “Coach Bobby Wilder and his staff have done a tremendous job in preparing the Monarchs all season long, and we look forward to hosting them in Nassau for their first bowl game.”
“We are all thrilled to play in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl,” said Wilder. “The coaches I spoke with about the bowl said it is a great experience for the kids, which is what this is all about. This is an historic moment for Old Dominion University and our football program.”
“The 2016 season will be remembered for the 9-3 overall record and the 7-1 record in C-USA. It will be remembered for the kids making history with a bowl game,” Wilder continued. “The bowl game is historic, it is special. I will remember the young people that represented the 11 letters across their chest that say Old Dominion with class and dignity.”
The Monarchs will come into the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl with a five-game win streak and wins in eight of the last nine games. ODU has the top rushing offense in C-USA, averaging 199.1 yards per game behind junior running back Ray Lawry, who ran for 1,112 yards (102.0 yards per game), six 100-yard rushing games and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore running back Jeremy Cox rushed for 685 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior quarterback David Washington threw for 2,648 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Senior wide receiver Zach Pascal, who caught 63 passes for 893 yards and eight TDs, has caught a pass in 48 consecutive games, tied for the longest current streak in FBS.
The Monarchs had the second-best scoring defense in the conference, holding opponents to an average of 27.8 yards per game and led C-USA in turnover margin at +13, thanks to 12 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions against a league-low nine turnovers on offense. The defense also recorded 34 sacks, second in the conference. Sophomore defensive end Oshane Ximines had 7.5 sacks while junior defensive end Bunmi Rotimi added seven. Senior cornerback Aaron Young led the team with three interceptions.
“Today’s announcement represents the culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. Our student-athletes have been grinding every day to improve and grow our program,” said ODU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig. “Our coaching staff, led by head coach Bobby Wilder, have recruited wisely and served as great teachers to get the program to this level of success in such a relatively short period of time,” Selig said. “Our University administration starting with President John Broderick have generously provided the resources, facilities, and philosophical support needed to compete at this high level of FBS football. Our fan support for ODU football is second to none and continues to turn heads nationally with their incredible tangible support of our program. I am most impressed with the job done by our student-athletes and coaches this season and participation in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl is the perfect reward for a scrapbook season.”