Football feels at home in second straight down-to-the-wire victory

Liam Moore, Contributing Writer

Coming off a bye week after a victory at Cornell Sept. 19, the Bison stampeded south to defeat the Virginia Military Institute Keydets for the third season in a row. Quarterback R.J. Nitti ’17 rushed for his fourth touchdown of the season in the latter half of the first quarter.

That early advantage would not last long. The Keydets responded with a touchdown barely three minutes later on a goal line pass, tying the game at seven apiece. For a while, the game would remain quiet. The VMI defense allowed very little ground to the Bison offensive attempts, and the defense, which remained on the field for a large majority early in the game, reciprocated. That was until VMI led themselves to the goal line once again, culminating in another 1-yard pass with under a minute left in the second quarter.

A silver lining for the Bison amidst surrendering the lead occurred when the VMI kicker missed the extra point attempt, keeping the score 13-7 instead of 14 at the end of the first half. The difference may have seemed trivial at the time, but that one small error on the part of the Keydets would play a role through the remainder of the match.

The third quarter was very much the same as the second, with each team’s defense stepping up. The Bison frontline took control, providing immense pressure and getting into the backfield for a handful of sacks. After a full quarter without a score, the Bison faithfully awaited an offensive spark.

That spark would come, albeit from the Keydets. A perfectly run reverse play shook the stolid Bison defense into a frenzy, and VMI’s wide receiver made his way 42 yards down the field for a score that should have sealed the game at 21-7 after a two-point conversion with less than 11 minutes remaining.

That pesky missed extra point from the second quarter forced VMI to change their offensive calculus, so they attempted a two-point conversion to make up for their earlier mistake. The Bison shut down the attempt, leaving the score at an odd, and slightly more encouraging 19-7.

After a weak kickoff to give possession back to the Bison, running back and return-man Joey DeFloria ’18 snagged the ball with momentum and sprinted out to the right sideline before finding the end zone 85 yards later. At that point, the momentum shifted. Not long after, Nitti and his offense had the ball in their hands again, and made a miraculous drive down the field, highlighted by graceful catches by DeFloria, and fellow offensive threat Will Carter ’17. Carter’s catch, a beautiful fade route into the back of the end zone, put the Bison back on top, and a cunning two-point conversion call surprised the VMI defense, leaving the score at 22-19.

VMI did not give up, and managed to knock in a field goal as time expired to tie the game up, forcing overtime. The momentum was on the Bison’s side, and this being their fourth overtime game in the past eight–dating back to last season—the Bison had ample preparation for a longer fight. The Orange and Blue won the coin flip and elected to give the Keydets possession to start the extra period. The decision quickly paid dividends, as a missed field goal set Matt DelMauro ’16 to end the game on a high note. With starting running back C.J. Williams ’17 out for much of the game with an injury, DelMauro stepped in, taking a handoff from Nitti and bursting through the line of scrimmage towards a 23-yard touchdown and a wild celebration to culminate another incredible away victory.

Another hard-fought game left the Bison gleaming. They will take their 3-1 record back to campus, where conference rivals Lehigh will be visiting Oct. 10.

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