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VMI Gets Statement Victory

By BJ Bennett
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The Keydets aren't just here to play, but to contend as well.

VMI had not played a football game since November of 2019. The Keydets, in their highly-anticpated return to the field, promptly looked like one of the best teams in the FCS on Saturday, beating 10th ranked Furman 14-13 for their first win over a ranked opponent in nearly 20 years. It was a signature performance from VMI, one of the most most memorable victories in a generation. It was also a statement, a win that shakes up the Southern Conference.

The Keydets aren't just here to play, but to contend as well. 

Saturday's historic triumph featured a leading second half performance from the VMI defense. The Keydets shutout a Furman team in the second and third quarters that had just scored 35 points against Western Carolina in week one. The Keydets secured the victory with a Carter Johnson fumble recovery with less than a minute remaining as Furman was driving just outside the VMI redzone. Simply put, this team found a way to win against one of the best teams in the country. 

It was a sequence, Scott Wachenheim and company, that could prove to be a springboard for a program on the rise.

The Keydets absolutely dominated in the trenches defensively over the weekend, recording an astonishing 15 total tackles for loss and nine total sacks against a proven physical front. Connor Riddle, Stone Snyder and Ethan Caselberry led the way in combining for a remarkable 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, respectively. VMI's unrelenting work in the offensive backfield resulted in Furman losing 81 yards of rushing production. Correspondingly, the Paladins finished at just 2.3 yards per rush. 

Literally and figuratively, the Keydets drew a line in the sand.

Star quarterback Reece Udinksi, who entered this season with 6,790 career passing yards, 41 career passing touchdowns and with an FCS record 368 consecutive passes without an interception, was instrumental as usual. He threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Chance Knox late in the third quarter for what proved to be a game-winning 19-yard touchdown pass. Perhaps not just a game-winner, Udinski to Knox could be a game-changer. 

VMI, which lost to Furman 60-21 the last time the two teams played, now has college football's attention. Fresh off a top ten win, the Keydets will next face Western Carolina and then Mercer, Samford and Wofford to round out of the month of March. Three of the next four contests will be on the road. Already, VMI, along with Chattanooga, is one of just two undefeated teams in the SoCon. One game into the spring season, the Keydets should now be getting national consideration. The Furman victory has a chance to help VMI challenge the status quo.

The Keydets stepped into the spotlight on Saturday. It's a place where they just looked the part.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports