Well, look who is 1-0 in the Southern Conference.
In a game that did not end until 1:08 a.m. Sunday, the VMI football team snapped a pair of long losing streaks with a 31-24 overtime win at East Tennessee State.
The Keydets (2-1 overall) had lost 27 straight games to Division I foes, including 22 straight SoCon games.
“It’s a culmination of hard work by these young men since the end of last season,” VMI coach Scott Wachenheim said Sunday afternoon in a phone interview.
“We’ve had a bit of a drought, and that’s why it’s just so much more special because these kids keep believing.”
The Keydets snapped the longest active conference losing streak in FCS football. It was their first SoCon victory since an October 2016 win over ETSU.
After an ETSU incomplete pass ended the game, the jubilant Keydets raced onto the Greene Stadium field to celebrate the victory.
The fun continued in the visitors’ locker room. Wachenheim said the celebration was even more joyful than it was when VMI beat Division II member Tusculum in November to snap a 25-game skid.
“It meant more,” he said of the SoCon win. “It was very celebratory — and it should be, it really should be. We fight hard here, and these kids are winning the VMI way.
“I told them after the game, nobody deserves it more than they do.”
The Keydets improved to 2-1 overall for the first time since 2016, when they finished 3-8. They have not had a winning season since 1981.
“In the first three games, this team’s showed itself it be a very good football team,” Wachenheim said.
The Keydets are 1-0 in league play for the first time since 2012, when they belonged to the Big South.
VMI won a SoCon road game for the first time since the 2015 season.
The victory did not come against a cupcake. The Buccaneers (1-2, 0-1) made the FCS playoffs last year. They were picked third in the SoCon coaches’ preseason poll last month.
The game was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday but was delayed until 8:42 p.m. because of lightning.
Late in the second quarter, the game was halted for 65 minutes because of more lightning. Ten plays after the game resumed, VMI’s Reece Udinski threw a touchdown pass to tie the score at 7 with 1:41 left in the second quarter.
“There was a lot of grit displayed in that game. You had to overcome the … weather delays,” Wachenheim said. “VMI helps you deal with adversity.
“We came out the more focused team after the [second] lightning delay.”
Salem High School graduate Alex Ramsey had his second TD run of the night to give VMI a 21-17 lead with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Jacob Saylors scored on a 61-yard run to give ETSU a 24-21 lead with 5:59 to go, but Lord Botetourt High School graduate Grant Clemons made a 30-yard field goal to tie the score with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
VMI got the ball first in overtime. On third-and-6 from the ETSU 21, Javeon Lara hauled in a Udinski pass at about the ETSU 14, broke a tackle and sprinted up the left sideline for a 21-yard TD catch to give the Keydets the lead.
ETSU then got the ball at the VMI 25-yard line. The Buccaneers drove to the VMI 5. But after ETSU running back Quay Holmes was stopped for a 1-yard loss, Trey Mitchell threw three straight incomplete passes to end the game.
“The defense … kept fighting, and they saved the best for last,” Wachenheim said.
Udinski completed 38 of 64 passes (tying for the third-most attempts in a game in VMI history) for 281 yards and two TDs. Ramsey ran for 57 yards and had 11 catches for 56 yards.
VMI’s three team buses — the squad has one more bus than it did last year, thanks to donors — did not get back to campus until 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
The Keydets will host nonleague foe Robert Morris (0-3) on Saturday.