Central Indiana had its first snowfall of the season Sunday, but inside Lucas Oil Stadium, a Hurricane announced its presence when it mattered most for the Indianapolis Colts.
Rookie defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo, nicknamed "Hurricane Dayo" for his ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses during his college career at Vanderbilt, saved the day for the Colts late in Sunday's Week 10 home matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. His forced fumble on fellow rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence with just 1:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, which was recovered by Kemoko Turay near at the Indy 45-yard line, allowed the Colts to escape with a 23-17 victory to even their record at 5-5 on the season.
"I was just rushing the B-gap (and) saw the quarterback step up," Odeyingbo said. "I was trying to play a level rush and get there, and I saw the ball, so I just tried to make a play. And I was blessed enough to make it."
The 60,622 fans in attendance on Sunday were just waiting for something they could erupt about after seeing the Colts dominate the first quarter, but sputter at times the rest of the way to allow the Jaguars (2-7) back into the ballgame.
Thanks to a dominant run game on offense, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown on special teams, Indy was able to take a 17-6 lead going into the second quarter. But the Jaguars would shut the door in all three phrases from that point on, outscoring the Colts 11-6 over the next three quarters and getting a shot at a potential game-winning drive, down by six with 2:17 left in the ballgame.
To begin that drive, Lawrence, the highly-touted Clemson product and No. 1-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, chipped away at the Indy defense with short completions, getting to the Indianapolis 46-yard line after back-to-back nine-yard completions to running back James Robinson.
On 1st and 10 from the Colts' 46, Lawrence, lined up in the shotgun, took the snap with 1:09 left on the game clock. With Indy defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus dialing up a blitz, sending cornerback Kenny Moore II and others towards the quarterback, Lawrence stepped up into the pocket, where he was met almost immediately by All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
Odeyingbo, who was just to the right of the initial collision, took the opportunity to reach in with his right hand and rip the football out of Lawrence's grip as he was being brought to the turf near midfield. Turay jumped on the loose ball at the Colts' 45-yard line to officially dash Jacksonville's comeback hopes.
Once Odeyingbo realized his teammate was on the ball, he couldn't wait to get to his feet and sprint towards a jubilant Colts' sideline.
"I really didn't know how to react," Odeyingbo said with a smile. "I was just screaming and jumping around."
The play for Odeyingbo was the culmination of months of patience for the 6-foot-6, 276-pound Irving, Texas, native. Had he not suffered an Achilles injury while training for the Senior Bowl in January, Odeyingbo possibly could've found himself being selected in the first round of this year's NFL Draft; instead, the Colts were absolutely thrilled to have Odeyingbo available to them when they went on the clock with the 54th-overall pick in the second round, knowing he would require some time to work his way back to the field.
Placed on the Non-Football Injury list to begin the regular season, Odeyingbo made his professional debut Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans. Adjusting on the fly to the speed of the NFL game, Odeyingbo logged one tackle and one quarterback pressure in 41 combined defensive snaps the last two weeks against the Titans and New York Jets, respectively.
Odeyingbo played 12 snaps in Sunday's game against the Jaguars, and was credited with an assisted tackle, a half-sack and a forced fumble on that key fourth-quarter play.
"It's definitely been slowing down, especially now that we've had a few more practices," Odeyingbo said of his progress since working his way back from such a serious injury. "It's definitely a big confidence booster to be able to make a play like that (today). It's been tough trying to gain confidence with the injury and coming back in the middle of the season, not having camp and very many practices, so it's definitely big and it's a testament to what's been going on in practice — just trying to get better every day."