LEXINGTON, Va. - The VMI Keydets closed the gap to 23-20 late in the third quarter, but a 17-yard touchdown run by The Citadel's Jonathan Dorogy capped the scoring early in the fourth as The Citadel held on for a 30-20 win in The Military Classic of the South Saturday in Lexington, Va. With the victory, the Bulldogs retained possession of the Silver Shako for the 10th consecutive time.
The Citadel (10-0, 8-0 SoCon) had raced out to a 23-7 lead, but VMI (3-7, 1-6 SoCon) stormed back behind reserve quarterback Jake Paladino, who had begun the season as the fourth-string QB.
Paladino - who entered for Austin Coulling late in the second quarter - completed his first six pass attempts, including a 27-yard fade to Aaron Sanders with 3:40 left in the third to cut the margin to 23-14. A Tyain Smith TD run just over two minutes later brought the 8,251 fans to their feet as the deficit was cut to three.
The Bulldogs however, one of just two undefeated teams left in FCS, stormed 84 yards in eight plays for the game's final score. Dorogy ran it in from 17 yards out on 4th and 3 to cap the scoring. The Keydets could not move the ball into Citadel territory for the remainder of the game.
Paladino finished the game 9 of 13 for 100 yards and a touchdown, while Coulling went 5 of 7 for 33 yards before leaving due to an undisclosed medical situation.
The other story of the day for VMI was linebacker Allan Cratsenberg, who finished with 20 tackles. That was just the eighth 20-tackle game in school history and the first since Matt Kluk in 1999.
VMI limited the nation's top rushing offense to just 90 yards on the ground in the first half, and got on the board early in the second quarter. Ryan Swingle threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Coulling off a lateral, a play that made it a 10-7 contest. Dominique Allen had a seven-yard touchdown run on The Citadel's next drive, however, and the visitors went into the locker room up 17-7.
The Bulldogs then added six points midway through the third to take their largest lead of the day at 23-7, and set the stage for VMI's attempted rally.
After Smith cut the margin to three, Dorogy had 51 yards rushing, including the 17-yard touchdown run, to put the Bulldogs up 30-20. After a Keydet punt, the Bulldogs used 6:40 of game clock time up on their next drive and VMI managed just four plays the rest of the way.
Allen led the way for The Citadel with 133 yards passing and 113 yards rushing, as the Bulldogs posted 233 yards on the ground despite their first half difficulties.
VMI football wraps up the 2016 season next weekend, when the Keydets take on Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. Action gets underway at 1:30 p.m.
Quotes - VMI Head Coach Scott Wachenheim
“I want to give credit to Brent Thompson and The Citadel football team. They're an outstanding team and extremely well-coached. Everyone talks about their triple option offense but they also play defense as well as anyone in the country. Dee Delaney in their secondary does a fantastic job and their corners do a great job in man coverage. They stuff the box and make it difficult to run on. I wish them the best against North Carolina next week and in the FCS playoffs. They're a fine representation of military institutions and for the Southern Conference.”
“We fought extremely hard and I'm very proud of the team. I love my players. They never said die and they kept fighting and gave us a chance to win.”
“Our kids overcame adversity and gave us a chance to win. Jake Paladino did a very nice job and Tyain Smith gave us a spark. On his touchdown run he just willed it into the endzone. Aaron Sanders competed his tail off. Dane Forlines tried to help us at quarterback and his nice punt return gave us a spark.”
“We played the game we wanted to play it. We didn't want them running 94 snaps like they did against Samford and had only 60 against us to our 59.”
“I can't say enough about this VMI football team. I'm proud to be their coach and I love these guys.”
“I'm proud of the way Jake Paladino played. He's a walk-on to our team and started the year as a fourth-string quarterback. He did a fantastic job against the conference's best defense.”
“We played against a top-five team and we played to win - not to play it close. I'm very proud of the way we fought and we never gave up. You've got to finish. We have one more game left against a great opponent and we want to go out with a victory.”