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VMI led 25th-ranked Charleston Southern in the second half, but ended up losing its fourth straight.
CHUCK STEENBURGH | VMI
Charleston Southern’s Damian Dixon (left) was called for pass interference against VMI’s Matthew Nicholson on Saturday.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
LEXINGTON — Desperately hoping to finally secure a long-awaited “signature” victory, VMI’s football team had its check in hand but couldn’t sign off on the deal Saturday.
On the cusp of knocking off the country’s 25th-ranked FBS team, the Keydets came up empty on a fourth-and-5 situation deep in Charleston Southern territory and fell 25-17 to the unbeaten Buccaneers in front of a season-high 5,902 fans at Foster Stadium.
When quarterback Eric Kordenbrock’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone with no receiver in sight with 4:24 left, the luckless Keydets were doomed to their fourth straight loss. They also squandered a chance to beat a ranked foe for the first time in 11 years.
Initially, it appeared that tight end Mario Thompson, the targeted receiver on the play, had busted a route and possibly cut the wrong direction. After the game, Kordenbrock took the blame for the call going awry.
“That’s my fault. … We called a good play there,” said Kordenbrock, refusing to throw anyone under the bus. “The safety was wide on that so I thought we were going to get Mario right up the middle. The linebacker dropped out … and that’s all on me, that’s not Mario.”
Then, like the good soldier he steadfastly remains, sixth-year VMI coach Sparky Woods quickly interceded and absorbed the rap.
“I appreciate Eric, but the fourth-down play was not a good call,” Woods said. “That was my fault. We had better plays we should have run. That was not a great call and we had some that were better.
“I wish we had made [the call] on third down, that’s where I think we failed in our execution a little a bit,” added Woods, referring to a 3-yard run by back Derrick Ziglar on third-and-8 at the CSU 18.
“But on fourth down, I was trying to win it from the sideline … and that’s a mistake.”
VMI, which now hits the road for its next three games, fell to 1-5 with the loss in both clubs’ Big South opener. Meanwhile, first-year coach Jamey Chadwell’s surprising Buccaneers improved to 7-0 and gained an early share of the league lead. The Bucs’ option running-game churned out 211 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Daniel Crogan was 18-for-27 passing for 245 yards. CSU didn’t commit a turnover and held the ball for all but 23-plus minutes.
The way things started, no one would have bet on the Keydets having a shot in the end.
Kordenbrock, who entered the game having thrown 155 straight passes without an interception, was picked off by CSU’s Zack Johnson on the Keydets’ first play from scrimmage. One play later, the Bucs were in the end zone on Crogan’s 27-yard strike down the right sideline to a wide-open Kevin Glears.
After VMI went three-and-out on its next two possessions, Bucs back Mike Holloway broke a 42-yard run to the Keydets’ 14. Christian Reyes’ 4-yard run put the visitors up 13-0 after the conversion kick failed.
Down by 13 and yet to muster a first down, the Keydets finally got their act together late in the second quarter.
Kordenbrock found Burton for a 31-yard TD pass to cap a 74-yard drive that made it 13-7.
After a stop, VMI embarked on a 72-yard drive that was culminated by Kordenbrock’s 15-yard TD pass to freshman wideout Matthew Nicholson with 1:06 left in the half. Freshman Dillon Christopher’s point-after sent the home team to the halftime locker room with a 14-13 edge.
The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter before CSU took the lead for good on a magnificent 48-yard one-handed catch for a TD by Larry Jones III.
A failed two-point conversion attempt left the visitors ahead 22-17 after three quarters.
“We were just two big defensive plays away from winning,” Keydets cornerback James Fruehan said. “We’re there. We just need to start making plays in big-time situations against a top 25 team that’s 6-0. You have them in your house and it’s time to step up.”
Charleston Southern 13 0 9 3 — 25
VMI 0 14 3 0 — 17
ChSo—Glears 27 pass from Croghan (Higgins kick), 14:34.
ChSo—Reyes 4 run (kick failed), 4:24.
VMI—D.Burton 31 pass from Kordenbrock (Christopher kick), 5:44.
VMI—Nicholson 15 pass from Kordenbrock (Christopher kick), 1:06.
ChSo—FG Deboy 22, 7:04.
VMI—FG Christopher 45, 2:06.
ChSo—Jones 48 pass from Croghan (pass failed), :01.
ChSo—FG Deboy 22, 7:38.
First downs 23 19
Rushes-yards 47-211 18-44
Passing 245 263
Comp-Att-Int 18-29-0 21-38-2
Return Yards 37 17
Punts-Avg. 4-39.0 4-36.8
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 11-80 2-10
Time of Possession 36:38 23:22
RUSHING—Charleston Southern, Holloway 2-59, Robinson 6-49,
Reyes 11-45, Croghan 15-30, Frazier 6-23, Cruz 2-19, Allen 1-7,
Copeland 2-3, Team 2-(minus 24). VMI, Ziglar 12-65, Watts 2-3,
Kordenbrock 4-(minus 24).
PASSING—Charleston Southern, Croghan 18-27-0-245, Copeland 0-2-0-0. VMI, Kordenbrock 21-38-2-263.
RECEIVING—Charleston Southern, Jones 5-103, Glears 4-46,
Sumpter 4-44, Theodore 3-33, Cruz 1-10, Reyes 1-9. VMI, Ziglar 5-58,
D.Burton 4-90, Rogers 4-37, Forlines 3-19, Patterson 2-29, Nicholson 1-15, Sanders 1-10, Watts 1-5.
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