ETSU keeps pace in SoCon race downing VMI 27-20


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Battling for the top spot in the league standing, the No. 18 VMI football team fell by a 27-20 score to host No. 14 ETSU Saturday afternoon at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City, Tennessee.   

With the loss, the Keydets (6-3, 4-2) fall into a tie for second place in the race for a Southern Conference title while the Bucs (8-1, 5-1) can earn the championship by winning out their remaining two games.  

With nine catches for 90 yards, Jakob Herres now has 226 receptions which stands eight behind VMI all-time leader Aaron Sanders (2013-16). He also moved past the 3,000 yard career receiving mark and now has 3,006, which is 85 behind all-time leader Mark Stock (1984-88).

The Bucs scored on two consecutive drives late in the first quarter on short runs by running back Quay Holmes to put ETSU up, 14-0, after one period. The first TD was a two-yard scamper at the 4:03 mark and the latter on a three-yard rush with 2:34 on the clock. 

Ahead 14-0, the Bucs drove down the field again and appeared to be stopped on a 4th-and-4 deep in VMI territory, but an offsides penalty on an ETSU field goal attempt gave the Bucs a first down. Riddell connected with Jawan Martin from two yards out for a touchdown to put ETSU up, 21-0, with four minutes before the half. 

The Keydets responded before the break by driving down the field and getting into the red zone, but VMI quarterback Seth Morgan was sacked to put VMI back at the Bucs’ 32-yard line. Kicker Jerry Rice then converted a 49-yard field goal attempt to tie a career high set earlier this season and keep VMI from going scoreless in the opening half with the score at 21-3 ETSU at the break.  

Early in the third quarter, ETSU forced a VMI punt which was pinned at the Bucs’ 1-yard line. The Keydets held ETSU to a three-and-out to force a punt, which VMI’s Alex Oliver received at midfield and returned to the ETSU 33-yard line. Morgan connected with Jakob Herres on a 19-yard reception during the drive and Herres appeared to scamper into the end zone for a touchdown but was mysteriously ruled out at the six-yard line. A few plays later, the Keydets punched it one from the one-yard line on a Korey Bridy one-yard dive to cut the deficit to 21-10 for ETSU with 6:12 on the clock in the third quarter. 

At the start of the fourth quarter, ETSU drove down the field and appeared to score on a Holmes 13-yard rush, but the play was called back due to a clipping penalty. The Bucs settled for a 35-yard field goal to make the score 24-10 with 13:10 to play.  

VMI responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive in just under five minutes to score on a Morgan eight-yard rush around the end to cut the deficit to 24-17 with 9:04 on the clock. The Keydets overcame a holding penalty on the drive near midfield but would topped it with a long pass from Morgan to Herres to get into the ETSU red zone.  

The Bucs made it a two-score game with 5:38 left to play by going on an eight-play, 26-yard drive in 3:18 capped by a Tyler Keltner 42-yard field goal to make the score 27-17. 

Trailing by 10 points, VMI went down the field in four minutes and Rice converted a 37-yard field goal to make the score 27-20 with 1:30 left in regulation. VMI’s onsides kick attempt sailed out of bounds, however, and the Bucs managed to run out the clock for the victory. 

Morgan finished the game going 30-44 for 248 yards with two interceptions while ETSU’s Riddell finished 9-22 for 130 yards and a touchdown. Herres led VMI with 90 receiving yards while Michael Jackson had 51 for the day.  

ETSU’s Quay Holmes finished with 161 rushing yards on 21 carries while teammate Jacob Saylors logged 85 yards on 11 attempts. VMI’s Bridy registered 32 rushing yards to lead the Keydets on the ground.  

The Keydets return to action next Saturday on the road with a 2 p.m. kickoff with Furman in Greenville, South Carolina.

VMI Head Coach Scott Wachenheim Postgame Quotes

“I’m proud of the way our team fought to the end. We had a lot of adversity. We had three turnovers and we jumped offsides on the field goal attempt – which really makes it a fourth turnover – and those led to 21 of their points. It was an uphill battle. I’m proud of the kids, they kept fighting and fighting and believing. We thought we were going to get that onside kick at the end and go down and tie it up and win in overtime. Credit ETSU – they did not turn the ball over one time. Their backs ran extremely hard and were difficult to tackle. They played pretty much an error-free game except for a few penalties.”

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