Dover, DE - Nick Elko ran four yards for a touchdown with 45 seconds left to lift Delaware State to a 17-10 season opening win over VMI at Alumni Stadium this afternoon.
The touchdown capped off a nine-play, 55-yard drive that consumed a minute-45 seconds.
VMI drove to the Delaware State 38-yard line on the game's final possession, but Erik Kordenbrock's desperation pass was intercepted by DSU's Ronald Robinson in the endzone as time expired.
Delaware State led 10-0 at halftime, but VMI scored a touchdown in the third quarter and added a field goal with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
After VMI tied the game, DSU's Malcolm Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Hornet 45-yard line to jumpstart the game-winning touchdown drive.
The Hornets faced a fourth-and-one at the VMI 46 when Williams rushed two yards to sustain the drive.
On the next play, Elko completed a five-yard pass to Justin Wilson to the VMI 39. A VMI personal foul on the play gave the Hornets a first down at the Keydets' 26. Two plays later, Elko and Travis Tarpley connected on a 14-yard pass to the VMI 12.
Delaware State faced a second-and-goal at the four when Elko faked a hand-off then scampered around the right end to the endzone to give put the Hornets ahead 16-10. Mitchell Ward tacked on the extra point to give DSU a seven point lead.
"I'm really proud of our guys for not hanging their heads after VMI came back to tie the game," said DSU head coach Kermit Blount, who improved to 2-0 vs. the Keydets. "Our defense came up with some big stops deep in our territory to keep VMI from taking the lead and the offense had some great execution on the winning drive."
The game was scoreless for almost the first 24 minutes, although the Hornets had two long plays called back because of penalties. Malcolm Williams' 46-yard return of the opening kickoff and an 80-yard touchdown pass from Elko to Wilson each were wiped out due to holding calls.
Delaware State broke the scoreless tie thanks to a VMI miscue. Four plays after Olusegun Ayanbiola recovered a Keydet fumble at the VMI 16, Mitchell Ward kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Hornets a 3-0 lead with 6:01 left on the second quarter clock.
DSU added to its lead with a touchdown right before the half. Elko and Travis Tarpley connected on a 26-yard scoring pass to give the Hornets a 10-0 lead with 42 second left in the second quarter. Elko completed 6-of-7 passes for 79 yards during the eight-play, 80-yard drive. He connected twice with Wilson for 29 yards and Joe Ceravolo had three catches for 24 yards before the Tarpley touchdown. Ward's extra point gave the Hornets a 10-0 lead at the half.
VMI began its comeback with a late third quarter touchdown on a fourth down play to cut the Hornets' lead to 10-7. David Turner capped off the nine-play, 46-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge on fourth down with 2:24 left in the third quarter. Turner rushed for a game-high 101 yards on 23 carries. He also led the Keydets with seven receptions for 83 yards to give him 184 all-purpose yards for the game.
The Hornets drove to VMI's 35 on its next possession, but failed to score.
The Keydets appeared headed for a go-ahead touchdown after consuming seven-minutes-41 seconds off the clock during a 17-play, 75-yard fourth quarter drive. VMI had a first down at the DSU four, but had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Jeff Sexton to tie the score at 10-10 with 2:35 left to play.
Delaware State was outgained 383 to 239 in the game. VMI had 158 yards rushing and 225 yards by the pass.
The Hornets rushed for 83 yards, while recording 156 through the air.
Elko completed 18 of 33 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. Williams led the Hornets with 76 yards rushing on 13 carries. Wilson had a game high eight catches for 71 yards.
Terrick Colston and Davon Moore were DSU's top defenders with career-highs of 12 tackles each. Colston had seven unassisted tackles and a pass break-up, while had four solo stops.
Delaware State will return to action next Saturday (Sep. 8) at the University of Delaware in the First State Rivalry. Game time is 3:30 p.m. at Tubby Raymond Field in Newark. The game will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network.
Wilson is now fourth on the Hornets' all-time list with 130 career receptions … Tarpley had three catches for 43 yards to move into ninth place on the Hornets' all-time list with 98 career receptions … Elko surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark at DSU (he now has 3,086 career passing yards to rank fifth on the Hornets' all-time list) … Delaware State has won its last two season openers (each vs. VMI) to improve to 6-2 in opening games in the last eight years.