VMI Football Battles Bucknell to the End,
Falls 21-13

VMI Keydets battled to the end, but ultimately, fell to Bucknell University 21-13 at Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Sept. 9, 2023.—Photo courtesy VMI Athletics.

Trailing 7-0 for the majority of the game, the VMI football team (1-1) scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but could not complete the comeback as host Bucknell University answered with two scores to secure a 21-13 win over the Keydets at Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Sept. 9, 2023.

Bucknell (1-1) scored a touchdown at the 1:30 mark of the first quarter to go ahead, 7-0, but neither team could find the end zone again until the final period. In the third quarter, Chance Knox ’24, receiver, returned a punt to the house that would have tied the game, but a holding penalty on VMI negated the play.

“Well, it was a very disappointing outcome,” said Danny Rocco, VMI football head coach. “We certainly didn’t come up here thinking that we wouldn’t find a way to win, but Bucknell played a really good game.”

Key Stats

  • Collin Ironside ’24 throws for 220 yards, two touchdowns
  • Evan Eller ’24, Josh Knapp ’24 collect 9.0 tackles apiece
  • Christian Dunn ’24 totals 8.0 tackles (0.5 TFL), Alex Oliver has 7.0 (0.5 TFL)
  • Hunter Rice ’25 has 57 yards on the ground, Rashad Raymond ’24 has 43
  • Knox hauls in six catches for 88 yards, totals 46 yards on punt returns
  • V.J. Johnson ’24 scores touchdown for second consecutive game, 32 yards

A Closer Look

With just over 10 minutes left in the game, VMI employed some trickery on a flea flicker as Ironside, quarterback, found Aidan Twombly ’24, tight end, for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Caden Beck ’25, kicker, converted the extra point to knot the score at 7-7 all.

Bucknell responded with a four-minute touchdown drive of their own to go back ahead, 14-7, with 6:22 on the clock. VMI’s ensuing possession stalled deep in its own territory and Bucknell blocked the kick from Jack Culbreath ’24, punter, causing the ball to roll out of bounds at the VMI nine-yard line to set up first-and-goal for the Bison. Rushawn Baker, running back, punched it in from a yard out to extend the Bucknell lead to 21-7 with 3:26 to play.

VMI’s Ivan Thorpe ’26 returned the Bucknell kickoff to the Bison 39-yard yard for a 50-yard return to set up a short field in VMI’s comeback bid. The Keydets took advantage of the opportunity as Ironside found Johnson, receiver, across the middle for an 18-yard touchdown. VMI failed the two-point conversion with 1:31 left in regulation.

The Keydets attempted an onside kick, but Bucknell secured the ball and managed to run out the clock for its first win of the year.

Catching up with Coach Rocco

On the Defense:

“I was proud of our defensive kids and their effort all game. Bucknell had a good scheme, they had a good quarterback, they had a good run plan, and they were able to get the ball down the field vertically, but our defense fought hard for the full 60.”

On the Offense:

“We were big in a couple moments of the game, but we just didn’t sustain any drives.”

On moving forward:

“Our special teams had a great punt return for a touchdown that was nullified by a holding call, and we had a blocked punt so you’re not going to win many games when that happens. So, we got a lot to clean up. I think the encouraging thing is how hard we fought, and I felt our guys believed they’d find a way to win this thing. We just came up a little bit short.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published at