LEXINGTON, Va. - Jabari Turner had a 45-yard touchdown reception with 8:29 remaining, and after a Jeff Sexton field goal, the VMI Keydets survived a late-game drive by the Chowan Hawks to eke out a 24-17 win in NCAA football action Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium.
After Chowan (1-1) took a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter in the midst of a consistent, heavy-at-times rainstorm, the teams traded interceptions and then punts, giving VMI (1-1) the ball with 9:48 remaining. A five-play, 56-yard drive ended with a wide pass to Turner, who made several Hawk defenders miss en route to the endzone. Sexton tacked on the point after, making it a 21-17 game.
After CU kicker Alex Noboa missed wide left from 33, trying to cut the lead to one, Sexton tacked on a 36-yard field goal with 2:04 to play, making it a 24-17 game. Chowan got the ball back and marched to the VMI 36, but three incompletions and a sack ended the drive and the game, as Eric Kordenbrock executed two kneel-downs to run out the clock and preserve the victory.
Turner had 133 all-purpose yards on the day, was one of two Keydet receivers with four catches and had two touchdowns as well. He also rushed for 45 yards, as starting tailback David Turner missed the second half due to an undisclosed injury. Chowan's Damian Ellis had eight catches for 77 yards in the losing effort, and the game was marred by 26 total penalties for 212 yards.
The Keydets struck first on a cloudy day with rain approaching, as four Chowan penalties on the Hawks' opening drive helped give VMI outstanding field position. VMI's first drive, in fact, started at the CU 17 and six plays later, a one-yard rush for David Turner opened the scoring. Sexton's point after made it VMI 7, Chowan 0.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Keydets came right back on their next drive and went 34 yards in three plays, capping the quick drive with a Kordenbrock pass to Jabari Turner for a 28-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Keydet lead. That would be the last VMI points until the fourth quarter, and Chowan cut into the advantage in the second period.
The Keydets marched down the field, going 65 yards in 10 plays and appeared to be on the verge of seizing command of the game. On the final of those plays, however, a Kordenbrock pass bounced off the hands of a Keydet receiver and was intercepted by Devahn Murphy. Murphy found a seam down the sideline and returned the pick 83 yards for a touchdown, putting Chowan on the board, 14-7, with 7:39 left in the opening half.
Neither team could dent the scoreboard for the remainder of the half, and the contest went to halftime with the Keydets holding a seven-point cushion. The game remained close despite VMI outgaining CU 213-100 in the first half, and also in spite of CU's eight first half penalties.
The Keydets took the second half kickoff in a driving rainstorm, which had started just as the first half ended, and it cost VMI early. On the fifth play of the half, Kordenbrock bobbled the snap from center and CU's Chris Morris fell on the ball, giving the Hawks possession with 12:51 to play in the third. Chowan then held the ball for the next 8:04 and went 67 yards in a eye-popping 19 plays, including a third down conversion, a fourth down conversion and a VMI roughing the kicker penalty. Finally, Noboa capped the push with a 23-yard field goal, cutting the Keydet edge to 14-10 with 4:47 left in the period.
CU's defense held on the next Keydet possession, and the Hawk offense came right back once again. Aided by two penalties, Chowan went 78 yards in just five plays, and quarterback Cameron Stover threw a 17-yard touchdown to Antjuan Randall to give the Hawks a 17-14 cushion with 2:31 remaining in the quarter.
That would be the score headed to the fourth period, which opened with a CU punt, giving the Keydets the ball at their own 39. Kordenbrock, however, was promptly intercepted by Dakoria Desamme at the Chowan 24, VMI's third turnover of the day. Two plays later, Mike Smith picked off Stover to give the Keydets the ball once again, but they could not take advantage and the teams would trade punts. With CU still up 17-14, the Keydets took over with 9:48 to go and picked up a quick first down, as Jabari Turner ran for a first down on third and 3. After an incomplete pass, Kordenbrock found Turner on a swing pass for the eventual game-winner, a 45-yard strike that would put VMI up, 21-17.
CU tried to answer, driving 51 yards in 10 plays, but Noboa missed wide left with 5:56 remaining and the Keydets got the ball back. They could not take advantage, and the teams would trade punts. Chowan's punt, however, would come from its own endzone and went just 17 yards, setting up an eventual Sexton 36-yard field goal to make it 24-17 with just 2:04 left.
The visitors had one last rally, as Stover completed passes of 13 and 16 yards to move the ball into VMI territory, but three incompletions and a sack gave the Keydets the ball on downs and sealed the victory.
Kordenbrock went 19 for 37 for VMI, throwing for 275 yards, while Stover was 28 for 52 for 246 yards for the opposition. James Fruehan led the VMI defense with eight tackles, while Chowan amassed seven tackles for loss for 27 yards on the afternoon.
VMI football will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 15, playing host to the Richmond Spiders in Foster Stadium. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.
Quotes - VMI Head Coach Sparky Woods
"I'd like to commend Chowan; they are a good team and they are much improved, scored 70 points last week. They came in here and played well against us with every intention to win the game and it looked like they had the opportunity to do so."
"I'm really proud of our team for the win. I think that we started out ready to play and guys really came out early and we got out to an early lead and unfortunately a turnover turned into a touchdown for them, gave them momentum and got them back in it.
"They are a team that really crowds the box and puts you out there in a one-on-one pass so that was not a good thing for us."
"I'm happy that we won the game, I'm happy we overcame adversity to win the game and I wish we wouldn't create a lot our own adversity."
"We seem to create our own adversity. I felt really good about our football team; we practiced, we had a rough early week with some sickness but Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday, they were ready to go. We started the ball game ready to go."
"We had a chance, going up 14-0 there and then we made it 14-7 without their offense having anything to do with it. That was a big turnover, a big negative for us. Things that hurt us, we tried hard to win the game and I think this has happened sometimes, when you have a late hit out of bounds or a personal foul penalty out of frustration over maybe not making the first down, we have to be more disciplined than that."