#18 VMI rallies from fourth quarter deficit, defeats Samford in OT, 38-37
Junior receiver Michael Jackson hauled in a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Reece Udinski in the back of the endzone in the extra period to lift #18 VMI to a 38-37 win over Samford Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference football action in Birmingham, Ala.
The Bulldogs (2-3) led 30-17 following the third of Michael Fineran’s field goals at the 8:34 mark of the fourth quarter.
VMI (4-0) answered on the ensuing drive when a wide-open Jackson took a 16-yard pass from Udinski to the endzone to pull the Keydets within a score, 30-24, with 5:25 remaining.
The Keydets moved 77 yards on 10 plays and took just over three minutes off the fourth-quarter clock.
The defense forced Samford into a three-and-out on the next drive, and the Keydets took over at their own 42. VMI had to punt it away, but the VMI defense gave the Keydets new life when Bulldog quarter Liam Welch was intercepted by sophomore safety Josh Sarratt at the Samford 45 with 2:41 left in regulation.
Udinski, who had left the game on the previous drive due to injury, returned and engineered an eight-play, 45-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 17-yard scoring toss to Herres with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter.
The extra point attempt was missed off the left upright, leaving the game tied at 30-30.
Samford moved the ball to the VMI 45 with :23 left, but an 11-yard sack by Tyren Cloyd on the last play of regulation snuffed out any hopes of a game ending field goal try by the hosts.
The teams then headed into overtime, with Samford on offense first. The Bulldogs retook the lead four snaps later when Welch floated a pass in the left corner of the endzone to wide receiver Montrell Washington and the extra point made it 37-30.
The Keydets took over and faced a fourth-and-3 from the Bulldog 18. Udinski then fired a strike to the right corner of the endzone that Herres hauled in and pulled the Keydets within 37-36.
Rather than kick the extra-point to force another OT, VMI called timeout and elected to go for the win on a two-point try. Udinski fired a pass over the middle that found Jackson in the back end of the end zone for the game-winner, sending the Keydet sideline into pandemonium.
“The VMI football team displayed the ‘Never Say Die” attitude engrained in our spirit by our collective experiences at the Institute,” said head coach Scott Wachenheim. “Our core values of grit, brotherhood, and purpose were obvious to me today as I watched our team compete. It is amazing what a team can accomplish when they truly love each other.”
Herres finished with a career-high 14 catches for 166 yards, and his two TD grabs gave him 16 for his career. The 14 catches were also the second most in game in program history behind Aaron Sanders in 2015.
Jackson also had a career-high in catches with eight receptions for 60 yards.
Udinski completed 40 of 57 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns for his 10th 300-yard game and 22nd contest with 200 or more yards passing. He also became VMI’s all-time passing leader, moving past Al Cobb (2014-16), and now has 7,877 yards for the #1 spot.
Junior running back Korey Bridy posted his second straight 100-yard game with 109 yards rushing with a touchdown.
Defensively, VMI was led on the charts with 12 stops from sophomore Aljareek Malry while outside linebacker Connor Riddle added 11 tackles and an interception. Sarratt also reached double-digit tackles with 10 in addition to his fourth quarter pick.
Samford quarterback Liam Welch completed 37 of 59 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns, including a 96-yard strike to Ty King on the first Bulldog score in the first quarter.
Udinski tied the game at 17-17 before halftime with a 1-yard run at the 1:14 mark, but Samford answered in the second half with 13 unanswered points on a 60-yard TD pass to Montrell Washington flowed by a pair of Fineran field goals from 29 and 22 yards.
The Keydets resume action next Saturday at Wofford with a 1 pm slated in Spartanburg, S.C.