LEXINGTON, Va. – The VMI Keydets made a goal-line stand in the game’s final seconds to preserve a dramatic 34-27 victory over the Glenville State Pioneers in non-conference NCAA football action Saturday at VMI’s Foster Stadium. The game served as VMI’s home opener, the Keydets’ eighth win in their past nine first games at home and was the first meeting between the programs.
With the Keydets (1-1) leading by seven and just over five minutes remaining, David Eberhardt boomed a punt well over the head of the Glenville State (0-1) returner. The ball backspun at the two-yard line and GSC took over at the six. That proved to be a huge kick by the VMI punter, as the Pioneers promptly marched 90 yards, getting to the VMI three-yard line with 1:30 left to play. Two one-yard rushes put the ball on the Keydet one and led to GSC’s final timeout, but a pair of final rushing attempts, the last of which was stymied by Justin Smith and Ty Garvin as the clock ran out, were turned aside and the Keydets prevailed.
Before the dramatics in the final seconds, the story was Keydet quarterback Eric Kordenbrock, who went 23 for 30 with a career-high four touchdowns and 314 yards. The 23 completions allowed him to surpass Joey Gibson ’03 for the school record in completions in a game that saw him start a perfect 9 for 9. VMI also had success on the ground, as Derrick Ziglar more than doubled his previous career high by running for 109 yards on just 13 carries. It made him the first Keydet to rush for over 100 yards since last year’s season opener, when David Turner ran for 101, and Ziglar also had a 56-yard touchdown reception to total 187 all-purpose yards.
Defensively, Alex James had 15 total tackles to set a career-high for the second straight game, while Weston Reber was also in double digits with 11. Glenville State was led by sophomore running back Rahmann Lee, who had 146 yards on 23 carries, while backup quarterback Steffen Colon started and went 22 for 38 for 310 yards.
The Keydets jumped on the board quickly, scoring on their first drive. Kordenbrock went 5 for 5, including a 26-yard completion to Aaron Sanders, and capped the drive with an eight-yard scoring strike to James Rogers for a 7-0 lead. They then made a fourth-down stop of GSC after a 13-play, 69-yard drive by the visitors stalled in VMI territory, and struck again early in the second quarter. Kordenbrock found Mario Thompson for a 38-yard touchdown just 35 seconds into the period, putting the Keydets up, 14-0.
The Pioneers immediately responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive, boosted by a 23-yard run by Lee that had a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on. Just six plays after that 38-yard effort, Colon pushed it in from one yard out to cut the Keydet lead to 14-7.
After an exchange of punts, the Keydets took possession with 4:48 left and Ziglar took command. Four rushes in a six-play span, efforts that totaled 31 yards, helped set up a Kordenbrock one-yard run that pushed the margin back to 14, 21-7, with just 55 seconds left in the half. The touchdown run by the senior quarterback was the first rushing touchdown of his career, and would cap the first half scoring.
The Keydets grabbed their biggest lead of the day just three plays into the second half. On a first and 10 from the VMI 44, Kordenbrock found Ziglar on a short sideline pass. The Keydet running back did the rest, barreling through the GSC defense for a 56-yard touchdown and, after a missed extra point, a 27-7 VMI lead.
That lasted just 1:55 however, as the visitors went 55 yards in five plays and Colon found Delvon Purvis for a 24-yard touchdown that made it 27-14, VMI, with 11:45 left in the third period.
The teams then exchanged punts, but the Keydets still appeared in firm control as they took over at the 4:35 mark. Beginning at the VMI 15, Kordenbrock hooked up with Deon Watts and Matthew Nicholson to lead his team near midfield and on the next pass, found Thompson cutting over the middle. The pass set the new VMI record for career completions, but Thompson fumbled the football and GSC took over at its own 49. Lee then ran 51 yards on the next play, and despite a missed point after, the lead was 27-20 headed to the fourth quarter.
A 10-yard TD grab by tight end Bradley Hann pushed the lead back to 14 less than two minutes into the fourth, but once again, the visitors responded. A 10-play, 81-yard drive capped by a 36-yard Colon to Lee pass made it 34-27 with 6:48 left, setting up Eberhardt’s punt and the end of game excitement.
The Keydets finished the day with 458 yards of total offense, their most since Nov. 5, 2011 at Liberty. Interestingly, that game marked Kordenbrock’s previous career high in touchdowns, as he threw three that day and went on to earn conference player of the week honors. The four touchdowns Saturday were the most by a Keydet QB since Jonathan Wilson also threw four against Gardner-Webb in 2005.
VMI football will return to action next Saturday, taking on North Greenville at Foster Stadium. Opening kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.
QUOTES – VMI Head Coach Sparky Woods
"I'm really happy with the win and want to commend Glenville State. They came in with the attitude of winning and they played well and made it a heck of a ball game. ... Overall, I thought we got some outstanding play from our players and we're happy to get the win, however, we'll look to limit the errors that would keep us from beating a Big South opponent."
"We're looking to win a Big South Conference championship this year, but we're going to need to play better. We can't turn the ball over as a result of mishandling it and dropping it. That was a concern. And the penalties; the face mask penalty, the roughing the passer, running into the kicker. What we should have down was come in a block the punt. The snap was really high, we just needed to put a body or hands on the ball and that could have taken this game a long way."
"It was a good victory. I was really proud of our defense at the end, with the fight and to stop them on the goal line."
Sideline during the goal line stand
"Everyone was doing their business. I felt sure they'd go for two points if they scored which would have made it a three-yard difference after that instead of a one-yard difference. We were talking about it while they had the drive going; do we go into a hammer offense and run the clock out or do we try move the ball? They (Glenville State) were committed to stopping the run in our last series or two. The other thing we were thinking about was going into a two-minute offense if they scored."
"Extra points show up. We missed one, but luckily they did too, so it turned into an interesting game."