SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Wofford Athletics) – The Wofford College football team took the lead with 1:43 left against VMI on Saturday afternoon at Gibbs Stadium, but the Keydets drove the field and scored the game winner with 35 seconds on the clock for the 36-31 victory.
The Terriers took a 17-10 advantage at the half and there were five lead changes in the second half.
Wofford is 1-3 overall and VMI is 5-0 on the season. The Terriers had four running backs with 50 or more yards, led by Nathan Walker with 81 yards and a touchdown. Landon Parker had four catches for 98 yards and the touchdown with 1:43 left in the game. Jimmy Weirick was 10-of-22 passing for 170 yards. Seth Morgan started at quarterback for VMI in place of the injured Reece Udinski and was 25-of-34 passing for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Jakob Herres had 207 receiving yards on 15 catches.
“I thought that we played with good effort and that is what is expected here,” said Wofford head coach Josh Conklin. “We had enough opportunities out there to win the game. We were fortunate to get a score on a heck of a play by Landon Parker and it was great to see that explosive play. You hope that the momentum will help get your defense off the field in three of four downs but we didn’t. We didn’t make plays when we needed to make plays and couldn’t get it done.”
T.J. Luther took the opening kickoff back 100-yards for a Wofford touchdown and an early 7-0 lead. The Keydets had three first downs on their first possession before turning the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass on fourth-and-four. Wofford had four first downs on their next drive but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Walker Gliarmis for a 10-0 lead with 6:07 on the clock in the first quarter. The Keydets responded with a drive that was capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Grant Swinehart to make it a 10-7 game at 2:03 in the first quarter.
Wofford had a drive that consumed over ten minutes and had six first downs on the way to a two-yard touchdown run by Irvin Mulligan for a 17-7 lead with 6:37 left in the second quarter. The Keydets next drive was impeded by a holding call and they went three-and-out and punted. Wofford gained one first down on the ensuing drive before punting. The Keydets punted on a three-and-out and the Terriers had one first down before failing to convert a fourth-and-long. VMI took over with 42 seconds left in the half but a 36-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
To open the second half, the Keydets had a long kickoff return to begin the drive at the 20-yard line. On fourth-and-one, John Beckley and Michael Mason stopped the runner short and Wofford took over on downs. The Terriers went three-and-out and Landon Parker had a 64-yard punt. The Keydets used a couple big plays to set-up a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jakob Herres. The point after was missed and the score was 17-13 with 9:13 on the clock in the third quarter. Wofford then went three-and-out and punted.
The Keydets had two first downs and a pass interference call to move the ball to the 20-yard line. On second down, a 17-yard pass to Chance Knox gave VMI a 20-17 lead with 5:57 left in the third quarter. Wofford responded with a 12-play drive that covered 75 yards and was capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Nathan Walker where he carried defenders the final five yards. The Terriers had a 24-20 lead with 14:51 on the clock in the fourth quarter. After VMI went three-and-out and punted, Wofford had a first down before having to punt after a holding penalty.
On the next drive by the Keydets, they took advantage of a defensive holding call and a pass interference call. Jakob Herres then had a juggling reception for 35-yards and he scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass to give VMI a 27-24 lead with 9:20 remaining. Wofford then went three-and-out and punted. The Keydets had a pair of first downs on penalties and then were faced with a fourth-and-four. A pass interference flag on the incomplete fourth down pass moved the ball inside the 20. The drive ended with a 35-yard field goal with 1:58 left in the game as the lead was extended to 30-24. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Jimmy Weirick found Landon Parker on a slant route as he evaded a tackle and then sprinted down the far sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. Wofford had a 31-30 lead after the point after with 1:43 on the clock. With the ball back, VMI had a first down and then a first down on a pass interference call. A 14-yard touchdown catch by Jakob Herres – his third of the day – gave the Keydets a 36-31 lead with 35 seconds remaining after the two-point conversion attempt failed. Wofford ran four plays before time ran out.
Wofford had 440 total yards, with 270 rushing yards. VMI had 502 total yards, 375 of which were passing. VMI had a 28 to 22 advantage in first downs. Wofford was 8-of-16 on third down and VMI was 5-of-12 on third down. The Terriers were 1-of-2 on fourth down and the Keydets were 0-of-2 on fourth down. Wofford was called for 14 penalties to four for VMI. The Terriers had a 34:07 to 25:53 time of possession advantage.
Wofford vs. VMI Post-Game Notes
The Keydets defeated the Terriers for the first time since 2002 and ended a streak of eight straight wins by Wofford in the series.
The kickoff return for a touchdown by T.J. Luther is tied for the longest in school history at 100 yards and was the first returned since November 12, 2016 at Chattanooga (Lennox McAfee). Nick Colvin (2015 at Idaho) was the only other player with a 100-yard kickoff return.
The Terriers were called for 14 penalties for 150 yards, both being the second-most in school history (16-for-228 in 1979 vs. Catawba).
Landon Parker’s 75-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was the longest of his career and the seventh-longest in school history.
Brandon Brown led the team with nine tackles, while John Beckley had two tackles for loss which included a sack.
Game captains were John Beckley, Brandon Brown, Al Hogan and Darron Paschal.
Attendance at Gibbs Stadium was 1,159.
The Terriers will be back at home on Saturday, April 3, as they host The Citadel in the final regular season spring game at Gibbs Stadium.