LEXINGTON, Va. - Safety Adam Morgan notched two interceptions, one in each half, to spark the VMI Keydets to a 17-7 win over the Presbyterian College Blue Hose in Big South football action contested Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Va. The game marked the Big South opener for both schools.
Morgan picked off Presbyterian (2-4, 0-1 Big South) starting quarterback Tamyn Garrick on the Blue Hose final play of the first half, and would go on to intercept backup quarterback Kaleb Griffin midway through the third quarter. The redshirt junior became the first VMI (2-3, 1-0 BSC) player with multiple interceptions in a game since Oct. 21, 2006, when Christian Kelly had three against Charleston Southern.
Logan Staib also had an interception, while Weston Reber recovered a fumble, as the Keydets won the turnover battle 4-1. VMI also posted a season-high in time of possession, as they had the ball for 37:46 of game action, in addition to logging 25 first downs, also a 2012 best. 12 of the 25 first downs came on third down conversions.
Offensively, Jabari Turner had a career-high 71 yards rushing to go along with a one-yard touchdown run, while Eric Kordenbrock and Dexter Bridge connected for a 29-yard first half TD.
Clouds rolled into Lexington during warm-ups, but in a good omen for the Keydets, the sun broke through as the teams took the field for kickoff on the moderate early fall day. The initial drives of the game were not notable, as the first four attempts all ended in punts, but the fifth was a good one for the home team.
A 10-play, 43-yard drive that included five Derrick Ziglar rushing attempts ended in points, as Jeff Sexton connected on a 19-yard field goal to give VMI a 3-0 lead, which would be the score after one quarter.
After a Blue Hose punt early in the second period, VMI would notch an 18-play, 49-yard drive that ate up an impressive 9:22 on the game clock. The drive ended in a punt, but when VMI got the ball back just four plays later, the Keydets marched 66 yards in 10 plays. On fourth down, Kordenbrock found Dexter Bridge for a 29-yard touchdown, and Sexton's point after game VMI a 10-0 lead with 1:01 left in the half. Morgan then picked off Garrick on PC's ensuing try, and the Keydets took a 10-point lead to halftime.
The first half saw VMI hold Presbyterian to just 45 yards of total offense, as the Blue Hose had the ball for just 8:14 of game action, compared to 21:46 for the Keydets.
PC took the ball to start the third quarter, and went to its bench for backup quarterback Griffin. After two plays, Griffin was picked off by Morgan at the Keydet 39, as the VMI defensive back intercepted a deep seam route for his second pick of the day. The Keydets nearly took advantage, as Kordenbrock completed first down passes to Aaron Lewis and Mario Thompson, but a 43-yard field goal from Sexton was wide right, keeping the score 10-0, VMI.
The visitors then took the ball with 10:39 left in the third quarter, and put together their best drive of the day. Two rushing first downs, as well as a Griffin pass to Arthur Williams, put the Blue Hose in position for their first points of the day. They came away empty, however, as an Aaron Mayes kick sailed wide left to give VMI possession once again, and the Keydets would take advantage.
After five straight rushing plays to open the drive, Kordenbrock found Lewis for nine yards and one play later, hit his redshirt senior receiver for a 40-yard completion. That gave the Keydets a first and goal at the 1-yard line, and Turner ran it in on the very next play to push the VMI edge to 17-0 with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter.
The Blue Hose tried to respond, as a lengthy drive moved them to the Keydet 15. On third down from that yard line, however, PC was whistled for a 15-yard tripping penalty, and was forced into a field goal attempt from Mayes. The try sailed wide left once again, keeping the visitors off the scoreboard. Unfortunately for VMI, PC would intercept Kordenbrock on the next VMI drive, as Antarius Terrell picked off the VMI QB with 9:23 left. The Blue Hose then marched 47 yards in just five plays, and Griffin found McKie for a 23-yard strike and a touchdown, making it a 17-7 contest with 7:41 to play.
After a Keydet punt, Presbyterian would get the ball back once again with 3:52 to go. Griffin completed passes of 15 and 29 yards, both to Anderico Bailey, and after an incompletion, the PC quarterback found his target with a pass on each of the next four plays to move his team to the VMI 33.
Griffin was 6 for 7 on the drive, but on the eighth play, was hit by Shawn Chapman in the backfield. The ball came loose and Reber recovered, allowing the Keydets to run a great deal of time off the clock and seal the victory. Griffin was intercepted by Staib on a deep pass to close out the contest.
In addition to his fumble recovery, Reber had a career-high 10 tackles while James Fruehan posted 11, also a career high. John Washington also became just the second current Keydet to post two sacks in a game, joining Chapman, who accomplished the feat last season.
The win was VMI's third in a Big South opener in the past five seasons, and fourth in six all-time meetings with Presbyterian College. The Keydets are now 4-2 in Big South home openers, including three wins under current head coach Sparky Woods.
VMI football will return to action next Saturday, as the Keydets travel to N. Charleston, S.C. to take on the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.
Quotes - VMI Head Coach Sparky Woods
"I want to commend Presbyterian on fighting the whole time. They are a competitive team and we saw them come back on film against Furman from a 21-point deficit. We knew we were going to have to battle the whole game. I thought it was a great team win."
"I thought that our football team did a lot of great work in all stages. We still didn't play well at times; we left a lot of opportunities on the field but we made some plays too. I was impressed with our defense, I thought we were going to have a shut out there if we hadn't turned the ball over."
On turnover margin:
"We forced four turnovers which is what you need to do to win these games, end in the plus category in that area, and that's positive. There were a number of players who made plays ... We missed some opportunities to make plays and we made some plays. I'm really happy for our team and happy for all of VMI."
On wind and direction:
"We knew that the beginning of the third quarter was huge. They (Presbyterian College) won the toss and they deferred, as we would have, and then they surprised me and kicked into the wind, so they wanted the wind and the had it in the last two quarters (second and fourth). Coming into the second half, we knew we would have to kick to them and so we went ahead and took the wind so we could try and get the ball down near the end zone and get them stopped so we could get the ball back."