ITHICA, N.Y. -- Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Collin Ironside passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score to lead VMI to a 31-21 nonconference victory over Cornell in the Big Red's season opener on Saturday.
It was Cornell's first game in 665 days after the Ivy League declined to play in 2020 amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
VMI (2-1) grabbed a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, scoring on Korey Bridy's 1-yard plunge after Stone Snyder's fumble recovery set up the 30-yard drive. Cornell pulled even at the 11:08 mark of the second quarter when Richie Kenney fired a 45-yard scoring strike to Thomas Glover. The defense set up the Keydets' second score — stopping the Big Red on a fourth-and-2 at the Cornell 36-yard line. Ironside, who took over when sophomore starter Seth Morgan was injured in the first quarter, capped the six-play drive with a 16-yard TD pass to Jakob Herres and a 14-7 lead. Cornell appeared to forge a halftime tie after Eric Diggs picked off an Ironside pass that led to SK Howard's 3-yard TD run with 20 seconds remaining. But VMI returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to set up Jerry Rice's 41-yard field goal as time expired for a 17-14 lead.
The Keydets upped their advantage to 10 points on Ironside's 4-yard run on third-and-goal with 6:19 left in the third quarter. Cornell pulled within 24-21 on the ensuing drive with Curtis Raymond III scoring on a 17-yard catch-and-run pass from Kenney. But Ironside put the Keydets in the driver's seat with an eight-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a 7-yard TD toss to Herres with 6:57 left to play.
Ironside completed 27 of 42 passes with one intercepion for VMI. Bridy ran for 96 yards on 20 carries, while Herres finished with seven catches for 60 yards.
Kenney was 18-of47 passing for 263 yards and two scores for Cornell. Glover had seven receptions for 149 yards and a TD — all in the first half.
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