DOVER, Del. - Quarterback Nick Elko posted a four-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining, breaking a 10-10 tie and sending the Delaware State Hornets to a 17-10 win over the VMI Keydets in non-conference football action, contested Saturday in Dover, Del. The contest was the season opener for both schools.
The Keydets (0-1) had tied the game in the fourth quarter with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a Jeff Sexton 22-yard field goal, but the Hornets (1-0) returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 45. A two-yard run on fourth-and-one gave them a first down in VMI territory, and one play later, the Keydets were hit with a personal foul penalty, giving DSU the ball at the VMI 26.
Four plays later, the home team had a first-and-goal with under a minute remaining. The Keydet defense held on first down, but Elko converted the second down rushing attempt for the game-winner, and Marshall Ward added the point after to account for the final margin. VMI did get the ball into DSU territory in the final seconds, but a last-second Eric Kordenbrock deep pass was intercepted by Hornet defensive back Ronald Robinson in the endzone to seal the game's result.
Junior back David Turner led the way for the Keydets in Saturday's game, rushing for a career-high 101 yards on 23 carries. He also had seven catches for 83 yards receiving, giving him 184 all-purpose yards. That is the highest all-purpose yardage for a Keydet since Tracy Hairston had 212 yards last season against Richmond.
In the first half, both offenses had difficulty getting in sync and squandered opportunities while the defenses held the upper hand. The Keydets fumbled it away twice and punted three times on their first five possessions of the first half while Delaware State was forced to punt four times while fumbling it away once.
The Keydets second fumble of the first half led to the game's first score when a missed center exchange resulted in a Hornet possession at the VMI 30. But the Keydet defense stiffenend and forced Delaware State to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Mitchell Ward and a 3-0 DSU lead with 6:01 remaining in the second quarter.
VMI missed a field goal try on the next possession when Sexton pushed a 31-yard attempt wide right. The Hornets countered with an eight-play 80-yard possession with a hurry-up offense that consumed 1:44 and produced a 26-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Elko to Travis Tarpley.
VMI tried a 41-yarder in the final moments of the first half, but Sexton's attempt sailed left of the uprights. DSU took a 10-0 lead at halftime but the game turned toward VMI's favor as the Keydets clawed back to regain momentum in the second half.
Turning to an recharged ground game in Turner, the Roanoke native carried all nine plays on a 46-yard drive and capped it with a one-yard dive at the 2:24 mark of the third quarter. Sexton's extra point made it 10-7 as the game headed to the fourth period.
The Keydets eventually tied game by gaining control of the line of scrimmage and pounding out a 17-play, 17-yard drive that chewed up 7:31 off the clock. The drive stalled at the DSU four-yard line, however, and the Keydets settled for a Sexton 22-yard field goal that tied the game at 10-10 with 2:35 left.
The Keydets dominated the second half statistically running 47 snaps to Delaware State's 24 and piling up 229 yards to DSU's 122.
Statistically for the Keydets, Turner became the first VMI back to rush for over 100 yards in a game since Chaz Jones rushed for 112 yards against The Citadel on October 29, 2011. Sophomore defensive back James Fruehan was credited with seven solo stops and eight tackles while outside linebacker Chris Harper logged five solos and two assists for seven stops and recovered a fumble. Kordenbrock completed 22 of 38 passes for 225 yards for his fifth career 200-yard game.
Malcolm Williams paced the DSU ground game with 72 yards on 13 carries while Elko completed 18 of 33 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. Elko's favrite target was Wilson who gathered in eight aerials for 71 yards. But the Hornets could muster only one pass over 20 yards on the day - the 26-yard TD strike to Tarpley near the end of the first half.
The Keydets were flagged 10 times for 84 yards while the Hornets drew six infractions for 65 yards.
The Keydets return home next Saturday to begin two consecutive home games starting with the home opener against Chowan at 1:30 p.m. at Foster Stadium. Delaware State travels to Delaware to face the Blue Hens next Saturday.
VMI HEAD COACH SPARKY WOODS - "Delaware State played more error free than we did. We turned the ball over too many times and we had an opportunity to score and go ahead at the end and we didn't capitalize on that . They had an opportinity to score and they did. It was an interesting game with a lot of huge plays in it - no bigger than the late hit on their sidelines that put them in field goal range right at the very end. That takes the game away from the players that are playing it. Our guy hit him out of bounds and that was an undisciplined play on our part. It was a huge call and made a difference in the ballgame. Defensively, it seemed we were able to play a little better in the first half than the second half and credit Delaware State and their offense for that. We had a hard time tackling (DSU receiver Justin) Wilson and on offense we played very poorly in the first half with pre-snap penalties which is something we can't afford to have , and we had penalties at key times - had a chop block called on us and a holding penalty on a key play. We have to a be a more disiciplined team from that sense." "I was proud of our team for fighting back in the second half and we had a chance to go ahead at the end of the ballgame and didn't put it in the end zone. Credit their ability to run the kickoff back (at the end) . We obviously have to cover kicks better than we did. "