Game Recap: Football | 4/24/2021 6:37:00 PM
HARRISONBURG, Va. – VMI’s historic 2020-21 season came to a close on a rainy Saturday afternoon as the #11 VMI football team fell by a close 31-24 score to #1 James Madison at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Down 31-17 with 2:18 left in the game, the Keydets made a furious attempt to rally and completed a 12-play 75-yard drive in 2:09 to cut the deficit to 31-24, but the final onside kick attempt fell into JMU’s hands as the Dukes held on for the victory.
VMI junior wide receiver Jakob Herres finished the game with 13 grabs for 171 yards, marking his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game and 12th of his career. He also had a touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter, which was the 21st touchdown reception of his VMI career to move him past Mark Stock’s all-time program record of 20 from 1984-88.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Morgan ended the contest going 30-for-50 for 286 yards and two touchdown passes, marking his fourth straight game with over 200 yards through the air since taking over the reins of the offense.
After forcing a punt on JMU’s first possession, VMI took quick action as freshman receiver Chance Knox took a reverse for 63 yards down the sideline to the JMU 11-yard line. The drive was stalled, however, when Morgan’s pass was intercepted in the end zone to give the ball back to the Dukes at their own 20-yard line.
On VMI’s next possession, Morgan faked a 4th-and-1 and pooch punted the ball that was downed at the JMU 1-yard line. Unfazed, JMU running back Jawon Hamilton took the ensuing handoff and sprinted 99 yards down the JMU sideline for the Dukes’ first score of the game to give JMU a 7-0 advantage at the 6:13 mark of the opening quarter.
The Keydets responded quickly as Morgan connected with receiver Jakob Herres for a 37-yard reception that gave the Keydets the ball at the JMU 31-yard line. The drive was stalled by the JMU defense to set up a 44-yard field goal for freshman Jerry Rice, who nailed the opportunity for a new career-high and cut the JMU lead to 7-3 with 4:11 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, JMU running back Percy Ogyei-Obese capped an eight-play, 83-yard drive with a 2-yard rush up the middle to increase the Dukes’ lead to 14-3 with 10:54 before the half.
On the Keydets’ ensuing possession, Morgan was picked off by JMU DB Taurus Carroll at the JMU 23-yard line. The Dukes took advantage of the turnover and went down the field to eventually score on a 10-yard TD reception to receiver Kris Thornton to give JMU a 21-3 lead going into the break.
Early in the third period, VMI forced a JMU punt that Chance Knox fair caught at the VMI 15-yard line with a JMU interference penalty. Shortly after, Morgan connected with Michael Jackson on a 4-yard catch that resulted in a JMU personal foul, advancing the ball to the JMU 44. Morgan then connected with Herres on a 25- yard pass and a 12-yard pass moments later. Morgan would eventually score on a 1-yard bull rush to cut the JMU lead to 21-10 with 6:29 to go in the third quarter.
JMU responded with Johnson connecting with Antwane Wells for a 62-yard touchdown reception to put the score at 28-10 with 3:20 to play in the third quarter.
On the ensuing VMI drive, Morgan hit Herres on three separate occasions, including a 4th-and-2 conversion, to set up an 11-yard touchdown grab in the corner to cut the JMU lead to 28-17 with 13:43 left in regulation. Morgan also had a 9-yard rush and and 15-yard flea flicker to Knox on the drive.
The Keydets forced a punt on JMU next possession following an eight-yard sack by senior DT Jordan Ward. Misfortune struck again when JMU defensive lineman tipped up a Morgan pass to himself and made the interception to give the ball back to the Dukes at the VMI 30 with 9:03 to play.
VMI struck back when SPUR Ethan Caselberry picked off Johnson in the endzone to give VMI the ball back trailing 28-17 with 6:13 on the clock. The Dukes held VMI to a punt on the possession, however, to put a halt on the VMI comeback attempt.
The Dukes would go down the field and convert a 32-yard field goal by Ethan Ratke to extend the Dukes’ lead to 31-17 with 2:10 left.
Sophomore linebacker Stone Snyder, who was named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week, finished with a game-high 12 tackles. Seniors Connor Riddle and A.J. Smith finished with 11 takedowns apiece and sophomore Josh Sarratt ended up with nine.
Quotes from VMI Head Coach Scott Wachenheim
“I’m very proud of the VMI football team. We fought and we never said die. We competed to the very end. James Madison is a tremendous football team. The difference in the game was the turnover battle, which JMU won. Our kids fought extremely hard. Our defense got much better in the second half. They’ve got some really talented backs and we struggled tackling them in the first half. Our defensive coaches made some great adjustments to tackle their ball carriers with more efficiency.
“Offensively, we learned the speed of the game. JMU is very fast and they run to the football extremely well. We struggled to finish at times and we didn’t have any short fields to work with. I couldn’t be more proud of our team – they fought hard, the coaches kept fighting and we were there until the end.”