CHARLESTON, S.C. - Looking to snap a 12-game losing streak to rival The Citadel in the Military Classic of the South, the VMI football team accomplished the feat with a hard fought 34-21 victory over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina.
With the win, VMI (3-3, 2-1 SoCon) earned its first win over The Citadel since November 16, 2002, a 23-21 victory contested in Charlotte, North Carolina (the schools only competed sporadically from 2003-14 during VMI's tenure in the Big South Conference). It was also the Keydets' first win in Charleston since a 34-7 victory on November 11, 1995.
VMI junior quarterback Reece Udinski threw his ninth career 300-yard passing game by totaling 335 yards through the air on 25-35 passing and zero interceptions. He earned a new SoCon record for consecutive passes without an interception as he now has thrown 252 passes without a pick, surpassing Elon quarterback Scott Riddle's mark of 218 set between the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Another crucial element to VMI's victory was that the Keydets did not commit a turnover for a second straight week and third time this season. VMI now has a +8 turnover margin for the year.
"Everybody on the team did their job," said VMI head coach Scott Wachenheim. "They kept believing and it was awesome to have the Corps here. I'm just thrilled to bring the Shako back to Lexington. Give Credit to The Citadel, they kept playing to the very end.
"I thought coach Brian Sheppard called a heck of a game on offense and never apologized for attacking. Coach Clark on defense holding them to under rushing 100 yards as an option team? Just outstanding. And our players - Reece Udinski and Jakob Herres - were outstanding playing through pain and grit. Some of our guys came back from adversity early with Kaleb Tucker and Javeon Lara coming back to make big plays later in the game. Grant Clemons was also big making all the extra points and field goals."
The Citadel opened the game on an eight-play, 75 drive on their first possession capped by a Brandon Rainey two-yard keeper to move quickly on the Keydets with an early 7-0 advantage.
On the Bulldogs' ensuing possession, VMI linebacker Liam Kauthen recovered a fumble forced by Brett Howell at the VMI 46. The Keydets tied the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter with a nine-yard pass to Herres in the left corner of the end zone on a fourth and 1 from the Bulldog nine.
“The fumble recovery by Kauthen in the first quarter was humongous,” Wachenheim said. “They were up early with a 7-0 lead and that was a game-changing momentum play.”
Alex Ramsey, who totaled 97 net yards on 27 carries for the day, ran in from the one-yard to cap a 10 play-73 yard drive on the following VMI possession to put the Keydets up 14-7 at the 5:37 mark of the second quarter. Ramsey toted the ball for 42 yards on five carries on the drive.
VMI added a 22-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to make it 17-7 to enter halftime with a huge upswing of momentum. Freshman wideout Max Brimigion hauled in a 25-yard strike to The Citadel 5 with :09 left to set up the score. The drive was also aided by a personal foul roughing the passer penalty against The Citadel.
The Keydets opened the second half with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Udinski to Javeon Lara to cap a seven play 75-yard drive. A 26-yarder to Herres to The Citadel 46 sparked the drive.
Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey added a 3-yard run with 5:53 left in third quarter to cut the VMI lead to 24-14, but VMI countered with a 46-yard field goal by Clemons as Herres caught two balls for 35 yards to bolster the drive.
Rainey would later score his third touchdown of the day to cut it to 27-21 with just 3:22 left after VMI had two interceptions negated on the drive by a personal foul and an official replay overrule.
Udinski delivered the clincher with a 61-yard scoring strike to Herres on a 3rd and 5 call from the VMI 39 with only 2:18 on the clock to seal the win.
The VMI defense limited the Bulldogs to 78 yards rushing and forced The Citadel to attempt more passes (34) than they had all season.
Herres tied a career-high with eight catches in the game and set a new career high with 175 yards receiving.
The Keydets return home next Saturday to face one of the top teams in the conference in Samford. Kickoff is slated for a 1:30 start at Foster Stadium and will be aired on Nexstar/ESPN+.