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VMI wins Big South opener

A 12-yard Cameron Jones touchdown pass to Mario Scott with 1:20 remaining sealed a VMI win over Presbyterian College, 24-13, in the Big South football opener for both schools, played Saturday at Foster Stadium in Lexington.

With the Keydets clinging to a 17-13 lead, VMI got the ball back with 6:09 to play. The Keydets picked up two first downs, but were whistled for a delay of game penalty on third and two, leaving them with a third and seven from just inside PC territory. Cameron Jones then found Trent White for a 33-yard pass completion, moving the Keydets to the 16 and setting up the clinching touchdown.

With the win, VMI equals its record at 2-2 and goes to 1-0 in the Big South, winning its conference opener for the first time since 2008. It is also the first 2-0 home start for VMI since the 2008 campaign, while Presbyterian College drops to 0-5 and 0-1 in conference action.

The Keydets marched down the field on the opening drive, as Chaz Jones ran for half of the drive’s 60 yards and a 15-yard pass interference penalty put VMI in scoring range. On the second play after the infraction, Cameron Jones found Mario Scott open in the left corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown. Jeff Sexton converted the extra point, capping the 5:24 drive that put VMI up 7-0.

After a Kris Ware interception on the ensuing drive, VMI came right back down the field. The PC defense stiffened, however, and Sexton came on for a 38-yard field goal try. The kick was good, and with 6:22 left in the opening quarter, VMI had a 10-0 lead.

After a Blue Hose punt, the Keydets had the ball at their own 20. A sack set them back to the 17, and on the ensuing play, Jones was intercepted by PC’s Antarius Terrell, who ran the pick into the endzone for a score. The extra point cut the VMI lead to 10-7, which was the score after the first quarter of play.

From there, the teams began to exchange punts. Neither squad could score for a time, but Patrick Morgano of PC was able to uncork a 64-yard punt just minutes into the second quarter. The boot was tied for the fifth-longest in Big South history, and was the longest in the conference this season.

The next key play came with 6:14 left in the half, as PC lined up for a 37-yard field goal. As kicker Cam Miller kicked through the ball, the officials blew their whistles and flagged the Blue Hose for a false start. The ball was pushed back five yards, but Miller converted the ensuing 42-yarder, tying the game at 10.

VMI fired right back on its next drive, putting together a seven-play, 59-yard spurt to retake the lead. Chaz Jones had a 22-yard run and an 18-yard reception on the drive, and he then capped the push with a one-yard touchdown run behind the left guard. Sexton’s extra point gave the Keydets a 17-10 lead with 2:47 left in the opening half. Trae Watkins picked off PC quarterback Brandon Miley on the next Blue Hose drive, but the Keydets were forced to punt and the score remained 17-10 at the intermission.

Cameron Jones led VMI in the first half, going 12 of 16 with one touchdown and one interception, while Lance Byrd was PC’s offensive leader with 29 yards on the ground.

The Blue Hose went to backup quarterback Myron Gary to open the second half, but neither they nor VMI could dent the scoreboard in the third quarter. The Keydets had one lengthy drive, starting with 8:15 left in the quarter, but it ended when Cameron Jones was sacked on third-and-one from the PC 10. He fumbled the football, and the visitors’ Brian Leonardi fell on it for the turnover. PC could not take advantage, and an exchange of punts wrapped up the third quarter with the score still VMI 17, Presbyterian College 10.

The visitors struck again with 12:12 to play, as PC executed a flawless trick play to get into the red zone. Quarterback Gary handed the ball off to Michael Ruff, who ran towards the near sideline. Ruff then paused about seven yards behind the line of scrimmage and threw the ball back across the field, finding a wide-open Gary for a 44-yard gain. With a penalty tacked on, PC had the ball at the Keydet 3, but could not find the end-zone, thanks to two negative rushes and a Greg Walker pass breakup. Miller came on for the 23-yard field goal and drilled it, cutting the VMI lead to 17-13 with 10:29 to play. After an exchange of punts, the stage was set for the drive to seal the win.

Quarterback Cameron Jones had one of the best games of his career, as he set career highs in passing yards (195), attempts (35) and completions (21), while receiver Scott had his first career two-touchdown catch game. Chaz Jones ran for 88 yards and a touchdown, while A.J. Gross had nine tackles on defense. For the Blue Hose, Derek Brown and LJ Perry each recorded double-digit tackles, with 13 and 10 respectively.

The Keydets outgained the Blue Hose, 325-205, and held a 37:10 to 22:50 advantage in time of possession for the contest. VMI converted 10 of 19 in third down situations and held PC to 1 of 12 in third down tries and limied the Blue Hose to 10 first downs.


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