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VMI, after loss to ETSU, still not out of it: Whatever ‘it’ is

scott wachenheim
VMI football coach Scott Wachenheim. Photo by Chris Graham.

VMI had its destiny in its hands heading into Saturday’s matchup with East Tennessee State: win, and the Keydets win the SoCon title. After the 24-20 loss, everything is up in the air.

“I don’t know if we control our destiny or not,” VMI coach Scott Wachenheim said.

The Keydets (5-1) can still win the conference title with an ETSU loss next week at Mercer and a VMI win the following week in its rivalry matchup with The Citadel.

An FCS playoff berth could be in the offing with or without the conference title with a win over The Citadel.

Right now, all that’s for certain is that VMI has next weekend off, then the game with The Citadel in Foster Stadium on April 17.

“We’re going to play The Citadel, and that’s for the Silver Shako. One of our purposes every season is to win the Silver Shako,” Wachenheim said. “Coach (Randy) Sanders said ETSU might try to schedule another game. I don’t know how the people above me will decide who wins the conference or who doesn’t. All I know is that we have an open week, we’re going to use it to get better, and that we’ll learn from today’s game.

“We’re going to put all our eggs in the basket to beat The Citadel. After that, we’ll let the people above us decide what happens.”

VMI opened this one like a team on a mission, getting scores on its first three drives, though two drives stalled out in the red zone, and ended in short field goals from freshman Jerry Rice.

ETSU got it back to 13-10 at halftime on a late field goal by Tyler Keltner, then took the lead on the first possession of the second half, when Brock Landes hit Will Huzzie with a 9-yard scoring strike that put the Bucs up 17-13.

VMI would go back on top, 20-17, when freshman Grant Swinehart scored from three yards out with 1:58 left in the third.

ETSU answered with a 69-yard scoring drive aided by a god-awful pass-interference call on a third-and-long that gave the Bucs fresh life.

Quay Holmes, who ran for 135 yards on the afternoon, scored his second TD of the day from a yard out to take the lead for good.

VMI drove three times into Bucs’ territory, but came up empty both times – the first when Seth Morgan was sacked on back-to-back plays, the second on a bad shotgun snap that set the offense behind the chains, the third on a Jakob Herres fumble on a fourth-and-5 pass that would have given the Keydets a first down inside the ETSU 30 in the final minute.

“We put ourselves in a position to win the game on our final drives, and our defense put us in a position to win by getting the ball back,” Wachenheim said. “I’m proud of the way the team fought. They never say die and they kept battling. ETSU found a way to make a play. They made big sacks, and we had some self-inflicted wounds that they took advantage of.

“They made one more play than we did. Hats off to ETSU. Coach Sanders put together a great game plan and his team executed it well on the road. It was a big-time win for their program.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press