LEXINGTON, Va. – Charleston Southern sophomore Larry Jones III had five catches for 103 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the second half as the Bucs improved to 7-0 with a 25-17 win at VMI on Saturday.
The Buccaneers secure a winning season with the perfect 7-0 start and open Big South play with a win for the first time in seven seasons. VMI falls to 1-5 and 0-1 in Big South play.
The Bucs answered the bell in the second half after falling behind 17-16 following a VMI field goal in the third. CSU scored the game's final nine points and heads to Colorado next Saturday as one of the FCS' final six unbeatens.
CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell and the Bucs keep their perfect start intact, despite starting in on their "second season" as conference play begins.
"Anytime you go on the road in conference, it's going to be a tough game no matter who it is and VMI played really well and had a good game plan," Chadwell said following the win. "We started out really well early and had a chance to put it away, but gave them some chances to get back in it and they made some plays."
The Bucs raced to a 13-0 lead behind a couple of big plays early, but found themselves in the midst of a battle following the opening quarter. Then the Bucs' defense went to work.
"We regrouped at halftime and really controlled the ball on offense and played well," Chadwell continued. "The defense found a way to get the ball back when we needed them, so (it's) a solid win on the road and we're 1-0 and that was our goal."
CSU turned back VMI on downs twice the fourth quarter and held the Keydets to only three second-half points.
The Bucs were steady throughout as they continued on their perfect start. Freshman Danny Croghan III completed 18-of-27 passes for a career-high 245 yards and two TDs. He found teammate - Jones III - up top for the decisive score as CSU pushed the game to a max one-possession lead.
"I thought Danny did really well because on that play, specifically, he had some people in his face and stood in there and made a nice throw," Chadwell said of the Bucs' final touchdown. "I thought he handled the offense well and got us in some plays to help us move the ball. Considering first time on the road for him in a situation like this with a good crowd, I thought he did well and got us a win and that's the ultimate."
Jones III proved to be the catapult to the Bucs' seventh-straight win. The Keydets had no answer for the Bucs wide out, who missed the season's first two games. He had five catches, including the game-clinching snag on the final play of the third quarter.
The Buccaneers piled up 456 yards of offense on 76 plays and wore down VMI to sneak away with their seventh win of the year. CSU did not commit a turnover, but did force one on the game's opening play.
Safety Corbin Jackson intercepted VMI quarterback Eric Kordenbrock on the game's opening play and returned it 30 yards to set the Bucs up in VMI territory just second into the game.
CSU would go right after the Keydets as Croghan found Kevin Glears on a post for a 27-yard touchdown as the Bucs' took a lead on their first snap from scrimmage, 7-0.
The Buccaneers would move ahead 13-0 on a 4-yard plunge from Christian Reyes. His sixth TD of the year gave the Bucs a two-TD lead and the junior moved within 49 yards of the CSU single-season record for rushing yardage on the day. He had 45 yards on 11 carries.
A 31-yard pass from VMI quarterback Eric Kordenbrock to Burton cut the Bucs' lead to 13-7. VMI would snag the lead late in the half with a 15-yard pass from Kordenbrock to Nicholson as the Keydets took a 14-13 lead at the break.
CSU rallied with a pair of 22-yard field goals from Mark Deboy to build a 25-17 lead. A 48-yard throw-and-catch from Jones III to Croghan III seal the win for the Bucs.
Kordenbrock was 21-of-38 for 263 and two TDs and two INTs for the Keydets.
CSU returns to action next Saturday againbst Colorado. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. (ET).