LEXINGTON, Va. – Redshirt sophomore Jerry Rice drilled a 37-yard field goal in overtime Saturday to lift the VMI football team to a 37-34 win over No. 19 Chattanooga in a Southern Conference game at Foster Stadium.
Rice converted on five field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder, with 41 seconds remaining in regulation to put VMI ahead 34-31. The Mocs forced overtime after an Aaron Sears 39-yard field goal with one second left.
The VMI defense came up big in the extra session, forcing two straight incomplete passes and Sears missed a 37-yard field goal before the Keydets got the ball. Three running plays put Rice at the same distance as Sears for his game winner.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Seth Morgan completed 30-of-42 passes for 306 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Senior Korey Bridy carried the ball 36 times for 165 yards while senior Michael Jackson caught six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Chance Knox hauled in a team-high seven catches for 68 yards. Rice was 5-5 on the afternoon, tying the school record for most field goals in a game (Craig Jones, 1977 vs. William & Mary).
Josh Knapp had a team-best nine tackles, while Ethan Caselberry, Aljareek Malry and Stone Snyder each had eight. Will Bunton was credited with three pass breakups and Alex Oliver had two.
Chattanooga’s running back tandem of Tyrell Price and Ailyn Ford each carried 17 times and scored twice. Price ran for 122 yards and Ford for 118. Cole Copeland was 18-35 passing for 192 yards while Ty Boeck and Kam Jones each made 16 stops on defense.
Rice kicked three short field goals (32, 27, 18), as the Keydets took a 9-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Price capped an eight-play 51-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run with just 15 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to 9-7.
The Mocs’ Ben Brewton gave UTC a great scoring opportunity with a strip sack early in the third quarter. The visitors got the ball at the VMI 29 and Ford capitalized with a six-yard run to give Chattanooga its first lead, 14-9, with 9:34 left in the third period.
The Keydets countered with a long drive of their own to get in the end zone. Morgan found Jackson on a 19-yard grab to cap an eight-play, 79-yard drive and make the score 17-16. Morgan hit Jackson for a 35-yard gain earlier in the drive.
Ford broke free on the next possession and rumbled for 65 yards to give Chattanooga a 24-16 lead early in the fourth.
VMI went 91 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, as Morgan tossed to Thomas for a 14-yard score and Morgan hit Knox on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 24 with 8:51 left.
Price’s 33-yard jaunt gave UTC a 31-24 advantage, but again VMI had the answer on a 29-yard Morgan-to-Jackson TD throw. Malry broke up a pass on third down of the next drive and, following a Chattanooga punt, Bridy set-up Rice’s 49-yarder with a 30-yard run.
VMI (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) travels to Mercer next Saturday for another SoCon matchup at 4 p.m. UTC falls to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play.
VMI Head Coach Scott Wachenheim Postgame Quotes
“This team all week long had their best week of practice all season. It makes me very proud to be their coach and their response to adversity after a tough loss last week. There’s a lot of guys who stepped up and played great. Our wide receivers when Jakob Herres went down had big games. Michael Jackson, Chance Knox, Max Brimigion and Leroy Thomas – all big-time games. Korey Bridy ran extremely hard. Our offensive line was blocking all day fighting against a very good defensive front. Seth Morgan kept playing and really found his rhythm. Defensively, I thought our whole defense played extremely well. They fought all game to stop a great running attack that had three backs behind a big O-Line. There’s not enough to say about Jerry Rice and our snapper Robert Soderholm and holder Aaron Vardell. Jerry stepped up and made every kick. There was no doubt in my mind he was going to make every one.”
· Jerry Rice tied the VMI school single game record for most field goals (5) set by Craig Jones against William & Mary on September 10, 1977. His 49-yarder in the fourth quarter was a career long. Rice is now 10 for 11 on the season and 21 of 25 for his career.
· With six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Michael Jackson posted a career-high in receiving yards. It was also his first two touchdown reception game.
· With 306 yards Seth Morgan threw for his fourth career 300-yard game which ties him with Eric Kordenbrock for third most all-time in program history.
· VMI is now 10-5 in overtime games overall including 4-0 against Chattanooga (all in Lexington).
· VMI won its first game against a ranked opponent this season and has won two straight over Chattanooga with both wins at Foster Stadium.