VMI dominates Mercer in SoCon matchup, 41-14: First 3-0 start for Keydets since 1981 season
VMI, a 4.5-point favorite over Mercer coming in, dominated from the outset, leading 17-0 at the half, 34-0 at the end of three, on its way to a 41-14 win Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium.
The Keydets (3-0, 3-0 SoCon) got on the board first with a 21-yard field goal by Jerry Rice that put VMI up early, 3-0, at the 5:06 mark of the quarter.
Rice would later add a 22-yard field goal in the second half, marking his fifth straight field goal conversion, and he is now 5-for-6 on the season.
Junior running back Korey Bridy made the score 10-0 on a 4-yard scamper early in the second quarter, and senior quarterback Reece Udinski snuck one in from a yard out with a minute to play before halftime that gave VMI the 17-0 lead going into the break.
Midway through the third quarter, Udinski tallied another one-yard touchdown around the end that lifted VMI to a commanding 27-0 advantage at the 6:21 mark of the third quarter, capping an 11-yard, 48-yard drive.
After holding the Bears (1-5, 1-2 SoCon) to a punt on the ensuing possession, Udinski connected with sophomore Leroy Thomas on a sailing 27-yard pass into the endzone that raised the score to 34-0 for VMI.
Mercer wide receiver Ethan Dirrim put the Bears on the board at the 11:51 mark of the final period as he received a 7-yard touchdown pass from Carter Peevy to avoid the shutout.
VMI redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Morgan came in for most of the fourth quarter and led a 12-play, 83-yard drive for a score as he connected with Tice Toomy on a 6-yard TD reception with 4:01 on the clock.
The Bears threw in backup quarterback Harrison Frost for their final possession, and he led a seven-play, 58-yard drive to connect with Isaia Harris for the game’s final tally of 41-14.
Inside the Numbers
Udinski had his 21st career 200-yard passing game, finishing with 242 yards.
Bridy enjoyed a breakout afternoon by rushing for a career-high 113 yards on 27 carries, also the most of his career.
VMI finished with 29 first downs to 10 for Mercer and registered 212 yards on the ground to 70 for the Bears.
The Keydets also finished with 258 through the air to Mercer’s 100 and 470 yards of total offense to 170 for the Bears.
VMI finished 6-for-7 on red zone scoring opportunities.
Stone Snyder led a dominant defensive effort for VMI and finished with 13 tackles, including 1.5 sacks for a loss of 12 yards. Senior Connor Riddle ended up with seven takedowns, half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Josh Sarratt had an interception in the first half and senior Tyren Cloyd recovered a Mercer fumble.
Postgame: VMI coach Scott Wachenheim
“It’s great to get the win. I thought our players played extremely hard and they prepared extremely hard this week. I’m very proud of their preparation. To start 3-0 for the first time since 1981 is huge and a tremendous accomplishment. We had two themes this week: to be humble and hungry. We don’t want to think less of ourselves after our big wins over Furman and Western Carolina. We lost track of that a few times today in the heat of the battle, but that’s something we can learn from as a young football team. I’m very pleased with how the defense played. Special teams stepped up and played their best game of the season. I’m really proud of our coordinators and how they prepared the team to play.
“It was great to see Korey Bridy run for over 100 yards. Uncharacteristically, we gave up three sacks in the first half but I like how they stepped up in the second. We did a much better job of protecting Reece in the second half. I thought Billy Cosh did an excellent job of calling plays. I’m proud of our team and our coaching staff. We’ll enjoy this for a day then begin to prepare for the Samford Bulldogs.
“Our defensive staff has come up with a great system that fits the personnel that we have, and I think our players enjoy playing it.
“The last two weeks, Korey has done a really nice job running the football. He’s very determined and an excellent athlete. Billy Parker, our running backs coach, is doing an excellent job developing him. Korey will get better each and every week.”
VMI returns to action next Saturday as the Keydets take on Samford in Birmingham, Ala. Kickoff is set for a 1 p.m. start and will be broadcast on ESPN+.