Western Carolina rallies late, defeats VMI, 24-20

vmi footballDespite leading twice throughout the game, the Virginia Military Institute football team fell to visiting Western Carolina by a 24-20 score Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium in Lexington, Virginia.

Down 20-17 with only 2:12 remaining in the game, the Catamounts (7-4, 5-2) used a four-play, 70-yard drive to score on a two-yard run and pull ahead for the final tally with 1:05 left on the clock. The Keydets (2-9, 1-6) employed a furious rally in the final minute to attempt a comeback of their own, but Al Cobb was tackled out of bounds at the WCU seven-yard line as time expired for the Catamounts to leave post victorious.

“I am proud of our football team and the way they fought,” said VMI head coach Scott Wachenheim. “Al Cobb is a competitor and Derrick Ziglar is a competitor. The kids fought their tails off. We have to play smarter football in key situations. Coach Speir is an excellent head coach and they have an excellent football team, and you can’t make the mistakes we did to come out with a win.

“I think the team primed the pump this year. The water we’re trying to reach is down deep, it’s sweet and it’s cool, but it’s been down there for 34 years. We just have to keep pumping and it starts right now.”

Western Carolina running back Detrez Newsome finished the game with 141 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown to lead the Catamount attack while quarterback Troy Mitchell threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.

The Keydets jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead off a Derrick Ziglar three-yard run midway through the first quarter and a Dillon Christopher 25-yard field goal minutes into the second quarter. The advantage lasted until 20 seconds left before the break when WCU cut the lead to 10-7 off a 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Helms.

Western Carolina then attempted a squib kick following the score, which VMI successfully recovered at midfield and drove 12 yards in 15 seconds to set up a 55-yard field goal attempt by Christopher. The Newport News, Virginia, native split the uprights for the program’s second-longest field goal conversion in school history and put the Keydets up, 13-7, at the half. The distance was also a Foster Stadium record.

Midway through the third quarter, the Catamounts pulled ahead by a point after a 75-yard touchdown pass to Newsome put WCU up 14-13 at the 4:11 mark of the third quarter. The Catamounts would add a field goal at the 9:38 mark of the fourth period to up the advantage to 17-13.

VMI then went on a four-minute drive that went deep into WCU territory, but the Keydets were stopped short at the Catamount five-yardline on fourth down to give the ball back to WCU with 5:59 remaining. After a few plays, VMI’s J.C. Garvin forced and recovered a fumble at the WCU 17-yard line to give the ball back to the Keydets with only 3:22 left.

On the ensuing play, Ziglar took it in for a 17-yard touchdown to put VMI up for a second time, 20-17, with only 3:17 left in regulation.

Unfazed, the Catamounts quickly went down the field starting at their own 30-yard line as Newsome took a rush for 24 yards to midfield and Mitchell connected with Karnorris Benson for a 41-yard reception to the VMI two-yard line. Newsome took it in from there for the game-winning score.

The loss marked the conclusion of the 2015 football season for the Keydets.


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