Norfolk, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's not often a player wins the Walter Payton Award, returns to school the next season and somewhat flies under the radar.
It's happened for Old Dominion junior quarterback Taylor Henicke, whose team is an FCS independent this season during its transition into the FBS as a member of Conference USA next year. The Monarchs aren't eligible for the FCS playoffs this year, and Heinicke's name isn't found on the Payton Watch List as he and his team shift upward.
But that doesn't discourage Heinicke from his typical stat-driven play. In games against three FCS opponents this season, the Atlanta resident has thrown for 1,134 yards and nine touchdowns. Overall, he's 139-for-187 (74.3 percent) for 1,638 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, with another 203 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, in ODU's 3-2 start.
Now Liberty, also 3-2, is on the schedule Saturday for ODU's Homecoming.
The Flames have dropped contests to Kent State and Richmond, with wins over Monmouth, Morgan State and Kentucky Wesleyan. As one of the preseason favorites to take the Big South Conference title, Liberty has to endure a tough few games against Old Dominion and Heinicke, Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb with a bye week separating the ODU and CCU contests.
The focus for the Flames this week is Heinicke, and how to limit his production. Their defense has only given up more than 20 points to an opponent once this season (the 30-21 loss to Richmond) and will need a similar performance on Saturday.