While moving to 7-0 with Saturday’s 25-17 win over VMI, the most important number for Charleston Southern head coach Jamey Chadwell is one. CSU opened Big South Conference play with a win and 1-0 is what pleases the coach most.
“We are still a young football team and we still make mistakes, but the thing I am most pleased with is that we are finding a way to overcome adversity and win games,” said Chadwell. “Winning a conference game on the road with a young quarterback and two offensive linemen out is huge. We say it every week. We appreciate every victory.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Croghan, making his first start on the road, completed 18 of 27 passes for a career-high 245 yards and two touchdowns to lead a CSU offense that racked up 456 total yards.
Sophomore receiver Larry Jones III caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in his best game of the 2013 season.
Charleston Southern’s defense limited VMI to only 44 yards on the ground while quarterback Eric Kordenbrock passed for 263 yards and two scores, however CSU did intercept him twice. Safety Demaris Freeman led the defense with 10 tackles.
The Buccaneers wasted little time taking early control of the game. Corbin Jackson intercepted Kordenbrock’s first pass and returned it to the VMI 27. On the next play, Croghan hit Kevin Glears on a 27-yard scoring pass and CSU led, 7-0, less than a minute into the game.
CSU intercepted Kordenbrock twice in the first period. The Bucs went up 13-0 later in the first on Christian Reyes’ four-yard run, a score set up by freshman Mike Holloway’s 42-yard run, the longest of his brief career. Holloway finished the game with a team-high 59 yards rushing.
After managing only 27 yards in offense in the first quarter, VMI and Kordenbrock got untracked in the second quarter. The Keydets amassed 131 total yards and Kordenbrock led VMI on a pair of late scoring drives to give VMI a 14-13 halftime lead.
Kordenbrock, VMI’s career passing leader, hit Doug Barton on a 31-yard toss with 5:44 to play. Late in the half, with 1:06 remaining, the senior combined with Matt Nicholson on a 15-yarder.
“I think we may have relaxed a little with that early lead and VMI made some plays,” said Chadwell.
CSU opened the third quarter with one of its most impressive drives of the season, using 17 plays to cover 70 yards in 7:56 before settling for a Mark Deboy 22-yard field goal, giving the Bucs a 16-14 lead.
VMI answered on its first possession of the second half, converting twice on third down to set up a Dillon Christopher 45-yard field goal, pushing VMI ahead, 17-16, with 2:06 to play.
Croghan went right back to work on the next CSU possession. He completed a key third down pass to Larry Jones III for a first down at the VMI 48. On the next snap, the pair combined on a 48-yard score, putting CSU back on top, 22-17, with one second remaining in the third quarter.
The Bucs’ defense ended VMI’s string of three consecutive scoring drives by forcing a punt early in the fourth quarter. The CSU offense responded with a 10-play drive but again was stopped inside the VMI 10-yard line and settling for another 22-yard field goal from Deboy for a 25-17 lead with 7:38 remaining in the game.
“We have to be able to finish drives better but in those situations, field goals gave us a lead and then put us up by eight,” said Chadwell. “The defense really played well in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. We got a lead and that made it hold up.”
VMI failed on fourth down at the CSU 15, turning the ball over to CSU with 4:24 remaining, but the offense failed to gain a first down, punting to VMI with 3:34 left in the game.
Kordenbrock hit Doug Burton with a 40-yard pass to the CSU 45, but the Bucs’ defense held strong, aided by Malcolm Jackson’s sack on third down.
Charleston Southern will hit the road for the sixth time in eight weeks as the Bucs visit Colorado next Saturday.