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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — David Washington came to Old Dominion a year before the program started its transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Five years later, he led the Monarchs to a victory in their first bowl game.
Washington threw three touchdowns passes, Ray Lawry ran for 133 yards and Old Dominion beat Eastern Michigan 24-20 on Friday in the Bahamas Bowl.
Old Dominion (10-3) didn't play football for 69 years before restarting the program in 2009. The Monarchs started at the FCS level and made the transition to the FBS in 2013, where they play in Conference USA.
"I know I haven't been here since the program started, but I've been here five years," Washington said. "So it kind of feels like my baby. We just took it to a bowl game and won the bowl game so it's just really special."
Eastern Michigan (7-6) lost in its first bowl appearance since 1987. The Eagles were led by Brogan Roback, who completed 26 of 46 passes for 300 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Roback threw for at least 300 yards in six of his final seven games.
"We were moving the ball," Roback said. "We just weren't really finishing."
Old Dominion had a 10-0 halftime lead, but Eastern Michigan rallied to tie it at 17 late in the third quarter on Paul Fricano's 24-yard field goal.
The Monarchs took the lead for good on Washington's third touchdown pass, which went for 5 yards to Jonathan Duhart and put Old Dominion up 24-17.
"We played really good football at times, but it just wasn't quite good enough to win," Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. "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."
ODU controlled the game in the first half and an impressive 47-yard touchdown throw from Washington to Zach Pascal gave the Monarchs their 10-0 halftime advantage.
Washington — who was a receiver earlier in his collegiate career — evaded multiple defenders on the play, before stepping up and throwing to Pascal in the end zone.
Old Dominion has beaten Eastern Michigan in each of the past three seasons, including 17-3 in 2014 and 38-34 in 2015.
ODU PLAYS A CLOSE GAME
Old Dominion beat Eastern Michigan in its closest game of the season. All of the Monarchs' previous 12 games — wins and losses — were decided by at least 10 points.
Old Dominion linebacker T.J. Ricks was the Monarchs' defensive MVP after making nine tackles, including one for a loss. Lawry was the offensive MVP after averaging 5.8 yards per carry and making some critical first down runs during the final possession when the Monarchs were running down the clock.
ANOTHER GOOD GAME
The Bahamas Bowl has featured three interesting games in its three-year history. Western Kentucky won the inaugural game in 2014 against Central Michigan 49-48, barely holding on after giving up 34 fourth-quarter points. Last year, Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee were tied at 24 going into the fourth quarter before Western Michigan pulled away for a 45-31 win.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles took a huge step forward this season after winning just one game last year, but taking another step will be a challenge in 2017. EMU must replace a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive lines, including star defensive end Pat O'Connor.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs must find someone to replace Washington, who was steady all season. Old Dominion will have a few more holes to fill — particularly at linebacker — but returns quite a bit of talent on both sides of the ball.
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