VMI Football Tops The Citadel 17-13 in Military Classic of the South

VMI Keydets reclaimed the Silver Shako with a 17-13 victory over The Citadel in the Military Classic of the South game Oct. 14, 2023.—Photo courtesy VMI Athletics.

Keydets Reclaim Silver Shako for First Time Since 2020

The VMI football team visited Charleston for the annual Military Classic of the South Oct. 14, 2023, holding on for a 17-13 victory and reclaiming the Silver Shako.

The win not only moved the Keydets to 3-3 and 2-1 in the Southern Conference but also snapped a two-game losing streak in the series to reclaim the Shako.

“It means an awful lot. This was a great atmosphere, and it was obvious how important it was to a lot of people,” said Danny Rocco, head coach, on the Silver Shako win. “Our alumni, our cadets, our comms staff, Major General Wins [’85], our athletic department, and obviously my staff and our football team.”

Key Stats

  • Hunter Rice ’25 rushes for 111 yards and two touchdowns, marking his third career multi-touchdown game and second this season
  • Chance Knox ’24 has a season-high 98 yards on nine receptions, the most receiving yards since logging 114 last season against The Citadel
  • Tahj Summey ’24 registers the second interception of his career
  • Josh Knapp ’24 leads the way with 9.0 tackles; Evan Eller ’24 registers 8.0
  • Jack Culbreath ’24 punts three times, including a 49-yarder, and twice pins the Bulldogs inside their own 20
  • Caden Beck ’25 earns a new career-high with his 50-yard field goal in the second quarter

Catching up with Coach Rocco

On setting the tone with a touchdown on the first drive:

“We wanted to be very aggressive today. We went for it on fourth down on that first drive, which led to a touchdown. We had our mind[s] made up that we were going to be aggressive today. It would have been nice to duplicate that in the second quarter, but we got one in the end when we really needed it.”

On the play of Rice and other veteran leaders:

“The seniors played really hard, and I saw how much it meant to them. At the end of the day, it was a team win. We made some plays in the kicking game. Jack had some big kicks that flipped the field and gave us good field position. We’re excited to get home and build on this one and be home for the next two games.”

A Closer Look

The Keydets held the ball for nearly seven minutes to open the game, picking up fourth-down and third-down conversions before Rice bowled into the endzone for his second touchdown of the season.

The Citadel would clang their first field goal attempt off the upright (no good) but hit their second to get on the board. After the Bulldogs attempted an onside kick, Beck hit a 50-yarder to make it 10-3 with 11:34 remaining in the half. The Citadel would tie the game up and were driving for the go-ahead score, but a hit by Eller led to an interception by Summey.

The teams traded possessions to start the third, with The Citadel taking its first lead (13-10) at the 4:57 mark in the third quarter.

VMI ultimately earned the win in the fourth quarter by going on a 12-play, 86-yard drive in the middle of the period that took up 6:13 of valuable possession time. The winning drive was capped by a 19-yard touchdown scamper by Rice around the corner with just 4:42 to play as the junior extended his arms out to hit the pylon and cross the plane of the endzone for the winning score.

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