VMI rally falls short at Citadel, 27-24

Despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the Virginia Military Institute football squad fell in the Military Classic of the South 27-24 to former Southern Conference foe The Citadel.

Down 24-10 heading into the final quarter of play, the Keydets, led by Eric Kordenbrock’s 191 passing yards, scored twice in the fourth quarter, pulling within a field goal of the Bulldogs with just over three minutes to play.

After Mario Thompson caught a four-yard dart from Kordenbrock, the Keydets trailed just 27-24, but after failing to recover an onsides kick, The Citadel, which claimed the coveted Silver Shako with the win, ran out the clock to preserve the win.

Kordenbrock finished with 191 passing yards, 81 of which came in a single passing play to Jabari Turner in the fourth quarter, setting up a VMI touchdown. The Keydet rushing attack was paced by Derrick Ziglar, who netted 51 yards. Turner picked up another 46 ground yards, including a 20-yard scamper.

An option team, The Citadel (6-4) ran the ball 62 times, amassing 262 yards on the ground. Quarterback Aaron Miller threw for 72 yards while teammate Ben Dupree completed all three of his pass attempts for 49 yards. Miller was picked off once, as VMI’s Mike Smith snapped the ball out of the air and returned it 17 yards.

On the defensive side, Adam Morgan led the Keydets with 15 total tackles, including six solo stops. Another three Keydets managed double-digit tackles as well, with Smith, Ty Garvin and Weston Reber each logging 11 stops.

The Citadel jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game as Dupree ran for 10-yards, capping a 10-play, 54-yard drive. But the Keydets answered back, marching 39 yards on 11 plays, setting up a Jeff Sexton field goal.

In the second quarter, The Citadel struck twice, first on a one-yard run by Vinny Miller, ending a 77-yard drive. During the series, the Bulldogs completed a pair of plays that each went for 20-yards, helping put them on top 14-3. At the tail e nd of the quarter, The Citadel picked up a field goal from Thomas Warren to go into the break up 17-3.

Despite the halftime deficit, VMI (2-8) rallied and out-scored The Citadel 21-10 in the second half, aided by big plays from the defense and special teams units.

As the Bulldogs slowly mounted a drive, reaching VMI’s 24-yard line, The Citadel set up for a field goal attempt, but the kick was blocked, allowing Logan Staib to recover the ball. Two plays later however, the Bulldog defense got to Kordenbrock, forcing a fumble that Derek Douglas recovered for a touchdown after a 22-yard run to the endzone, extending The Citadel’s lead to 24-3.

That would be the last time the Bulldogs reached the VMI endzone, as the Keydets scored the game’s next 14 points. With four minutes left in the third, Jabari Turner punched in the first of VMI’s two rushing touchdowns on the day. His scoring play was setup by special teams miscues by The Citadel, which was hit with a facemask penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, setting the Keydets up at the Bulldogs’ 18-yard line.

Opening the fourth quarter, Kordenbrock and Turner connected for the 81-yard catch and run off a swing pass VMI’s longest play of the season thus far, along the VMI side of the field. Two players later, Cody Shirley helped VMI get within a touchdown of the Bulldogs’ 24-17 lead.

But the Bulldogs pushed the lead out to 27-17 with just under five minutes left in the game as Warren kicked another field goal, following a clock-chewing drive of 13-plays in 6:52, covering on 33 yards.

Down but not out, VMI responded quickly, scoring two minutes later on a six-play, 59-yard drive. It became a one-score game as Kordenbrock zipped his lone passing touchdown of the day into Thompson. It was too little, too late however, as the Bulldogs escaped with the 27-24 victory in the 68th meeting between the two teams.

VMI concludes its 2012 campaign next Saturday when it hosts local foe Liberty University. Action between the two Big South Conference opponents is set to kickoff at Foster Stadium at 1:30 p.m.

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