Walter Payton Award Finalist: Taylor Heinicke

Big numbers poured out of the New Hampshire at Old Dominion game on Sept. 22.

Old Dominion won the game, 64-61, and quarterback Taylor Heinicke passed for 730 yards and compiled 791 yards of total offense - both Division I records for a single game. He completed 55-of-79 attempts with five touchdown strikes.

The number that Heinicke points to months later? One.

It's what went into Old Dominion's win column - the Monarchs' first CAA Football victory of the season.

The individual statistics are great, but Heinicke is about winning games. One followed the other, however, as the sophomore quarterback became a Walter Payton Award finalist this season. The 26th annual award is to be presented Monday night to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein and Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet are the other two players invited to the announcement of the award.

"If we didn't get the win, it wouldn't have been nearly as sweet as it was," Heinicke said about the New Hampshire win.

The UNH game was a defining day for Heinicke because of his extraordinary play. Generally, what would be extraordinary for many other signal-callers are typical games for Heinicke.

During the regular season, when the Monarchs went 10-1, Heinicke led the FCS with 4,158 passing yards, 35 touchdown passes and 4,535 total yards, throwing for at least 350 yards in a game seven times. He also rushed for eight touchdowns and led the nation in points responsible for with 24.2 per game.

Including two FCS playoff games, Heinicke finished his season with 398 completions and 5,076 passing yards - both national single-season records. He also accounted for 55 touchdowns (44 passing, 11 rushing) and 5,546 total yards as the Monarchs finished 11-2.

"I like controlling the game, managing the game. I feel like in anything I do I just want to be in control," said Heinicke, who has that authority from ODU coach Bobby Wilder.

"That's (the UNH game) going to happen once in my life, and it happened. I try to move on. The coaches really put it in my head that that's not going to happen every game. There's going to be games when I only throw 230 yards against a William & Mary that's a very good defense. Just take what they give us."

What wasn't given to Heinicke was a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia, his dream school while he grew up in Atlanta. No problem. The 6- foot-1, 195-pound gunslinger was a perfect fit for Old Dominion, where success has come quickly as it builds its fourth-year program.

Heinicke was supposed to sit out as a true freshman last year, but had his redshirt lifted one month into the season and he went on to finish second in the Jerry Rice Award voting for FCS freshman of the year. He threw 25 touchdowns with only one interception.

Georgia may not have worked out for Heinicke, but now he will help the Monarchs fulfill their dream as a program. Next year, they will start the transition to full-fledged membership on the Bowl Subdivision level.

"I was fortunate enough to run a spread offense in high school my senior year," said the mechanical engineering major. "It's one of the main reasons I came here; I felt very comfortable with this offense. But coming here last year, it was a totally different speed, bigger and faster guys. My main focus this offseason was to focus on the protections and knowing everything about the offense.

"It's a high-speed offense. We like to go fast."