Robert Morris defeats VMI in 2OT, 37-31
The VMI Keydets tied the game with a Hail Mary heave in the final seconds of regulation, but the Robert Morris Colonials saw Deontae Howard notch a 17-yard touchdown run in the second overtime, giving them a 37-31 win in football action Saturday at VMI’s Foster Stadium. The contest was the first overtime game the Keydets had been involved in since Oct. 22, 2005.
After Robert Morris (2-2) had rallied to take a 31-24 lead in the final period, Eric Kordenbrock got the Keydets (1-4) into Colonial territory with the clock running down. With the final seconds ticking away, he rolled to his right and launched a deep pass into the endzone. Freshman Matthew Nicholson was waiting just behind the main throng going up for the pass, and he grabbed it for his second touchdown of the day with just one second showing on the clock.
The extra point tied the game and sent it to overtime, where, after an early interception, the Keydets had a chance to win it with a 34-yard kick by Dillon Christopher. The freshman missed wide right, however, giving VMI the ball right back to start the second overtime. Once again, the Keydets got the ball into position for a field goal try, but Christopher misfired and the game stayed tied. RMU took over and after an eight-yard rush, Howard broke into the clear around the left end and found the end zone to end the marathon contest.
In the contest, Kordenbrock led the Keydets by going 34 of 51 for 359 yards and three touchdowns. The 34 completions were a new VMI record, breaking his own mark set in 2011, and the 359 yards was the fourth-highest total in school history. Kordenbrock also moved past Joey Gibson ’03 and become VMI’s all-time leader in passing yards.
On this day, he completed passes to 11 different receivers led by Jabari Turner’s seven receptions. Turner had a career-high 146 all-purpose yards in the setback, a total that included 91 yards rushing in his first start of the season.
The teams traded early scores, with the Keydets getting on the board at the 4:45 mark of the first quarter. Nicholson had a 10-yard touchdown catch to tie the score, 7-7, on a drive that included a 55-yard run by Bradley Lipscomb, but the Colonials opened the second quarter with an explosion. RMU saw Antwan Eddie return a David Eberhardt punt 88 yards for a touchdown to give the visitors a 14-7 advantage. It was the first punt return for a touchdown VMI had given up since the 2010 season, but the Keydets responded by marching 66 yards on 15 plays. Christopher converted a 26-yard field goal to cut the margin to 14-10, RMU.
The momentum appeared to change late in the half after a Colonial missed field goal. The Keydets put together a 6-play, 76-yard drive in just 1:50, a spurt that included 30 rushing yards for Turner. Turner then capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run, putting VMI in front 17-14 at halftime.
At halftime, the Keydets had dominated total yardage, 264-147, although the 88-yard punt return made that figure somewhat misleading. VMI did, however, have a 99-25 edge on the ground despite running two times fewer than did the visitors.
The visitors took the ball to open the second half and drove into VMI territory, but a fourth-down conversion went for naught and the Keydets took over. Kordenbrock immediately went to work, finding Dane Forlines for 18 yards and James Rogers for another 11 to move VMI into RMU territory. Two plays later, Forlines hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass, a strike that gave VMI a 24-14 lead.
After an exchange of turnovers and punts, RMU had the football on its own 48. One play into the drive, quarterback Paul Jones found Sean Gavin for a 28-yard completion. Two plays later, Corey Garry found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run. The point after was good, and with 3:21 left in the third quarter, RMU had cut the lead to 24-21. The Colonials quickly got the ball back, doing so late in the third, and marched 62 yards in just six plays. A 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Tyler Digby, coming less than two minutes into the fourth, gave RMU a 28-24 lead.
Neither team scored again until the 3:53 mark, when Hunter Khaleghi drilled a 40-yard field goal to increase the visitor lead to 31-24. The Keydets went three and out after Turner was turned aside on a fourth down rushing attempt, but Robert Morris failed to pick up a first down and VMI got the ball back with 1:35 and no timeouts remaining. A 10-yard pass to Nicholson moved the ball to the VMI 42, and two plays later, completions to Rogers (12 yards) and Doug Burton (eight yards) set up the tying touchdown to Nicholson and the resulting overtime.
Jones was intercepted on RMU’s first drive of overtime, as Caleb Furlow grabbed his first career interception, but Christopher missed the two field goal attempts to set up Howard’s winning touchdown around left tackle.
RMU saw Howard rush for 100 yards on 18 carries, while Jones was 22 for 43 for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Freshmen Nicholson and Forlines combined for 10 catches and 157 yards receiving, while Damian Jones led the way defensively with 10 tackles and his first career pick. With the setback, VMI drops to 5-2 all-time in overtime games after losing their first such contest since a 2005 triple overtime loss to Gardner-Webb, 55-52.
VMI football will return to action following an off week, and will face the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Oct. 12 at Foster Stadium. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.
QUOTES – VMI Head Coach Sparky Woods “I’d like to start out by congratulating Robert Morris and the good job they did. They came in here and beat us in an exciting game. I was proud of our players; I thought they played really hard, fought back. I thought they played hard and prepared hard. What we didn’t do, was play particularly well. We didn’t kick well, we didn’t cover kicks well, and we gave up a lot of yards. We let that Penn State (transfer Paul Jones) beat us. He passed around and we couldn’t play pass defense.”
“In the third quarter, we couldn’t get anything going on offense. Overall, it was a game of a few plays that determined it and they made one more than we did.“
“I’m disappointed. I know our team is disappointed and I know all of VMI is and I’m sorry about that. I thought we tried hard and prepared hard. You just never know which play it is that will determine the outcome; you can’t take any plays off during the game.”
On the game-tying touchdown catch “That’s a play that we practice every week, so it’s not like it’s total luck. A great player jumps up to make a great catch, the quarterback (Eric Kordenbrock) scrambles to keep the play alive and throws it to the end zone.”
On starting overtime “We were at a huge advantage; not only did they have a penalty on the kickoff, but they had a personal foul penalty, which allowed us to gain a great advantage in the first overtime. The momentum swung after we missed the first field goal. We had the ball, we should have taken it in and scored when they had it and ran it in.”
On the Christopher Misses “You have to let the kids decide the outcome of the game. You have to give them a chance and put your field goal unit out there. He’s a freshman and he’s going to be a good kicker. There was a lot of pressure on him, and I hate to do that, but if he’s going to be a great kicker, he’ll be in that situation more.
On Nicholson “He’s a talented kid. He can run and can certainly jump and get that ball. He has great skills to catch the ball, especially that touchdown. He’s going to be an outstanding player. I’m glad he’s on our team and will be for awhile. He really tries to do what you ask him to do and he’s come along well. He’s a freshman, so he’s going through all of the rigors of that at VMI. I have a lot of respect for Matt. Playmakers like that give you a chance to win the game.”
On possibly going for two points at the end of the game. “I thought about it, but they had that penalty, plus our quarterback was hurt on the field, so I didn’t want to change quarterbacks and put the game on the line then. I did think about that (the two point). The big question was whether we take the ball or play defense. If we had taken the ball first, we would have put the ball on the 12 and half yard line and we could have done that. It was their (RMU) choice and they chose to take the ball. But with Eric hurt, I didn’t want to take the risk of putting in a new quarterback to take a stab at it.”
ERIC KORDENBROCK On the Nicholson Play “We practice that play every Thursday at the end of practice and those are the plays that we need to make to help our team at the end. We need to put it in the end zone and Robert Morris played good defense.”
LOGAN STAIB “It was definitely a roller coaster. I thought Robert Morris got the momentum and then we got it back; the momentum went back and forth and that makes for a good football game. It was really disappointing; I think these ones are tougher to lose because we were in it the entire time. Hats off to them (Robert Morris) they played a little better today and it’s unfortunate that it happens this way.”
On RMU Offense “Our game plan is to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We were there a lot and I think we should have been in there more. And that’s on all of us, that’s on the entire defense. We played pretty solid. We played the way we wanted to play. Just gave up one too many big plays. And like I said, hats off to them, they came out and executed those big plays.
On the Bye Week “It’s going to sting for two weeks. It’s pretty unfortunate but I think a lot of guys will use this as motivation and we’ll have tough practices this week. We have to come out and prepare for the next game. It (the two weeks) could be an advantage, could be a disadvantage.”
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