CLINTON, S.C. - After being down by 21 points in the fourth quarter, the VMI Keydets climbed with seven with just over a minute remaining but could not complete the comeback, as they fell to the Presbyterian College Blue Hose 49-35 in Big South football action Saturday in Clinton, S.C.
VMI (1-6, 0-2 Big South) fell behind 42-21 after Presbyterian's (2-4, 1-0 Big South) Seth Moreland ran in a touchdown from three yards out with 9:37 remaining, but the Keydets stormed back. A.J. Augustine found Sam Patterson for an 11-yard touchdown with 4:32 left, and then an Augustine to Matthew Nicholson 61-yard strike with 61 seconds left cut the margin to seven, 42-35. The Blue Hose, however, recovered the onside kick and added a late touchdown to account for the final margin.
Augustine, who entered in the second half after starter Eric Kordenbrock was injured just before halftime, went 15 for 21 for 259 yards and three scores in leading VMI's furious rally, while Derrick Ziglar ran for a career-high 126 yards on 19 carries and two scores. Patterson had seven catches for 161 yards, both career-highs as well, while the 161 yards stands as the sixth-highest total in school history.
The 400 passing yards that Augustine and Kordenbrock combined for were the second-most in VMI annals behind Dave Brown's 422 in 1986, and the 540 yards of total offense were the most since the VMI/PC tilt in 2009, also in Clinton.
VMI took the opening kick and was forced to punt from its own 38 after three plays. The PC offense then assembled a 77-yard drive and moved to the VMI 2 but saw the possession stall on downs when freshman defensive back Alijah Robinson knocked down a pass intended for Antigha in the endzone. After an exchange of punts, VMI took over at its own 1 and marched 99 yards on six plays to take the lead. A Kordenbrock to Sam Patterson pass for 42 yards on the first snap of the drive gave the Keydets some breathing room and Ziglar followed with three rushes for 47 yards including a 34-yard dash down the right sideline to setup up a two-yard TD dive one play later. Dillon Christopher's extra-point was good and VMI held a 7-0 lead with 2:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Presbyterian tied the score in the opening seconds of the second quarter when freshman quarterback Hays McMath, making his first college start, connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Antigah to even the game at 7-7 just 31 seconds into the second period.
The score remained tied until late in the half when PC's DeMarcus Rouse plowed in from the one-yard line to cap an 11-play 80-yard drive that consumed nearly five minutes off the second quarter clock. The drive was keyed by a 31-yard pass from McMath to Jeremiah McKie to the VMI 2 which set up the go-ahead rush one play later.
VMI threatened to score before halftime but came up empty and lost its starting quarterback for the day in the process. Starting at its own 41, a face mask penalty on PC during a Ziglar one-yard rush moved it to the Blue Hose 44. Kordenbrock then rolling right attempted a long pass to Patterson but was knocked down after the throw on a head hit that was ruled a “targeting” infraction delivered by defensive end Mitchell Anderson who was immediately ejected from the contest. The personal foul moved allowed VMI to attempt a 46-yard field goal with time expired, but Christopher's 46-yarder was blocked and the first half ended with Presbyterian up, 14-7.
McKie's 97-yard kick return for a Presbyterian TD to open the second half signaled a shootout that was to come.
VMI answered on its first drive when Augustine marched the Keydets 82 yards in seven plays and tallied on a 20-yard scoring toss in the left corner to Patterson, cutting the PC lead to 21-14 with 11:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Presbyterian took over at its own 42 on its next drive and moved to the VMI 9 but came up empty when Stephen Doar's 26-yard field goal missed. The Keydets took possession at their own 20 and went to Ziglar on a four-yard rush on the first play, but the redshirt sophomore had the ball stripped fighting for extra yardage and recovered by PC's Ed Britt at the VMI 26. The Blue Hose would make its second chance stand up as McMath and Antigha converted a third and 10 pass play for 15 yards to the VMI 1 and McMath executed a QB sneak for a touchdown one play later to extend the Blue Hose lead to 28-14 with 4:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Presbyterian assumed its biggest lead of the second half when McMath and Antigha connected again for a 16-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the endzone that was converted on a 4th and 9 from the VMI 16 to extend the Blue Hose lead to 35-14 with :14 left in the third quarter.
The Keydets, however, refused to fold and played long ball on a 45-yard pass to Patterson and 28-yard reception to Burton to the PC 4 which led to a Ziglar two-yard touchdown dive. VMI trailed 35-21 with 13:10 left in the final quarter but fell behind by three scores again when Blue Hose running back Seth Moreland bulled in from three yards out marking three straight PC scoring possessions.
The Keydets again rallied with back-to-back scoring possessions to close within 42-35 with 1:01 left. Augustine tossed a 12-yard TD to Patterson with 4:32 left and freshman wideout Matthew Nicholson snagged an Augustine aerial at the 20-yard line and dashed the remaining yardage to the endzone to complete a 61-yard score for VMI's longest pass play of the year. VMI had its ensuing onsides kick recovered by PC at the VMI 44, and the Blue Hose put the game away two plays later with a 38-yard end run by Antigha with 46.7 seconds left.
VMI returns to action next Saturday night at undefeated Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
VMI Head Coach Sparky Woods -
“We just didn't make any plays on defense. We made some plays on offense at times, but the plays that stick out to me were the kickoff return for a touchdown and we hurt the defense by fumbling the ball down on our end of the field. Derrick Ziglar played well all day and I know he'd like to have that one back. I thought overall we just weren't able to stop them. We were in position to make plays, but the ball would come in, we'd freeze and they would jump up and catch it. The most disappointing thing was that. We weren't able to get the ball away from them and didn't have a sack. We had some young players out there who are trying so hard to win, but they are afraid of losing rather than trying to make plays to win.”