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VMI Has Momentum

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Now 2-1 after finishing with two wins in each of the past five seasons, the Keydets have eight straight league games to finish the year.

I'm just excited, a total team victory, and the first time we've won back-to-back road games in 35 years.
~Scott Wachenheim

After a thrilling triple-overtime victory over Bucknell, Virginia Military Institute has now won back-to-back games for the first time since 2005. The Keydets have topped Morehead State and the Bison in consecutive contests, giving the program, ready for Southern Conference play, potentially-powerful momentum ahead of its defining stretch. VMI hosts Mercer this Saturday in Lexington.

For second-year head coach Scott Wachenheim, the impressive opening has been an important one. Early success has come with validation. 

“We have this wristband with the team, "TPF" for trust, play, finish. The kids trusted each other, they trusted their coaches, they trusted their preparation and played to win and then they finished," he explained. "I couldn't be more proud of the players."

Last Saturday marked a seminal moment for VMI. After a go-ahead score by Bucknell late in the fourth quarter, the visiting Keydets responded with a 15-play drive that ended in a game-tying field goal by Reed King with less than a minute remaining. In three overtime sessions, the VMI defense did not allow a single point and secured the triumph on Daz Palmer's second touchdown run. The Keydets finished with 27 first downs, nearly 450 total yards and a very important victory.   

The end result was notable positive traction for a program making meaningful strides. 

"The O-line and Daz Palmer found a way to win. The defense and the defensive line came back; they were running the ball on us in the second half but they found a way to bow up in overtime," Wachenheim continued. "I'm just excited, a total team victory, and the first time we've won back-to-back road games in 35 years. It's pretty special."

Now 2-1 after finishing with two wins in each of the past five seasons, the Keydets have eight straight league games to finish the year; there, additional progress will be measured.

VMI will begin its run through the SoCon with two straight home contests, Mercer and East Tennessee State. This weekend will mark the program's first home game of 2016, a formal introduction upcoming with great excitement. Later in the slate, the Keydets will also host Furman and rival The Citadel at Foster Stadium. The series with the Bulldogs is one of the top rivalries in the FCS.  

Improvement is already on the books, with eight upcoming chances at more. VMI's focus now shifts to conference play, where the Keydets lost four games by six points or less a season ago. The hope is that the fast start, for VMI, is a sign of things to come.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com'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: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports