Wednesday, August 5, 2020

2020 Football Preseason Preview: VMI Keydets

Throughout this preseason, Purple & Gold will preview all of Western Carolina's 2020 football opponents.

For the ninth game of the season, the Cats remain in Cullowhee to face the VMI Keydets.

The Cats have won all six games against the Keydets since their return to the Southern Conference in 2014, can we make it seven in a row?

Game #9 - VMI Keydets

When: Saturday, November 7 - Time: TBA
Where: E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
TV/video: TBA

The Series: Western currently leads the series with VMI, by a 22-3 margin. The Cats and Keydets first played on the gridiron in 1978, and the Cats currently own a sixteen game winning streak over the Keydets, having swept the Keydets since their return to the Southern Conference.

The last game played vs. VMINovember 2, 2019 Spencer, Offense Spark Catamounts Past VMI, 43-35  Lexington, Va. – Tailback Donnavan Spencer accounted for 247 yards of offense and three touchdowns while the defense and special teams combined for five takeaways including four fumbles and QB Reece Udinski's first interception of the season as Western Carolina halted a myriad of winless droughts with an impressive, 43-35, victory over VMI in Southern Conference action Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium.

Head Coach: Scott Wachenheim -Entering his sixth season as VMI’s head football coach, Scott Wachenheim continues to guide the program toward new heights in one of the toughest conferences in FCS. Wachenheim guided the Keydet football team to five wins overall in 2019 – the most since 2003 when VMI posted a 6-6 mark. The Keydets closed out the regular season with a 31-24 win over Chattanooga to finish with a 4-4 mark in SoCon play which marked the first time since 1979 that the VMI had secured four conference wins in a season. The Keydets also reclaimed the Silver Shako trophy for the first time in 13 meetings after an October win over The Citadel in the Military Classic of the South. Wachenheim was voted 2019 Southern Conference Coach of the Year by the league coaches and became the first VMI coach to achieve the honor since Cal McCombs in 2002. He was also named one of 15 finalists to the STATS FCS 33rd annual Eddie Robinson Award which honors the FCS Coach of the Year.

Last Season's Record (VMI): 2019 - 5-7 overall, 3-3 home, 2-4 away,  4-4 SoCon - The Keydets has conference wins over ETSU, the Citadel, Samford, & Chattanooga.

Offensive Formation: Air Raid
-2019 Offensive: 30.8 ppg. (35th in FCS)
Defensive Formation: 3-4
-2019 Defensive: 37.8 ppg. (117th in FCS)
Starters returning/lost:    14   /   11
Offensive starters - Returning/Lost:  7   /  4
Defensive starters - Returning/Lost:   6   /   5
Specialist - Returning/Lost:    1    /    2
Letterwinners Returning: 61

-QB Reece Udinski (306 cmp., 3,276 yards, 19 TD)
-WR Jakob Herres (72 rec., 1,091 yards, 8 TD)
-WR Leroy Thomas (54 rec., 594 yards, 3 TD)

-LB Ethan Casselberry (70 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 12 PBU, 1 QB hurry)
-DB AJ Smith (67 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT, 11 PBU)
-DL Jordan Ward (53 tackles, 12.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 6 QB hurries)

Seven Keydets were named to the Phil Steele Southern Conference preseason all-conference teams. Senior quarterback Reece Udinski and junior receiver Jakob Herres were named to the First Team Offense while senior A.J. Smith was named to the First Team Defense. Junior kick receiver Korey Bridy and junior long snapper Robert Soderholm were selected to the First Team Special Teams unit. Senior defensive lineman Jordan Ward was picked for the Second Team Defense while offensive lineman Nick Hartnett was slotted for the Third Team Offense.

Udinski is coming off his junior season where he compiled several record-setting numbers directing the VMI "air raid" offense. He led the SoCon in passing and broke his own VMI single-season passing record with 3,276 yards. His 19 touchdown passes were the second-most in school history and he began the season with an FCS record 368 consecutive passes without an interception. He also set new VMI single-season records for total offense (3,155 yards) and best pass completion (63.9%) and tossed for 200 or more yards in 11 games in 2019, also a new school single-season record.

VMI junior Robert Soderholm was named a HERO Sports FCS Preseason All-American

2019 VMI Statistics
Rushing Offense: 1448 yards
Yards per game: 120.7
Yards per rush: 3.8 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 90
TDs rushing: 25
Passing Offense: 3439 yards or 286.6 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 6.8 yards
Passing 1st downs: 154
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 321-507-6
TDs Passing: 25
Total Offense: 4887 yards or 407.2 yards per game
Fumbles-Lost: 15-11
3d Down Conversions: 71 of 183 (39%)
4th Down Conversions: 18 of 29 (62%)
Field goal attempts: 4 - 7
PAT-Attempts: 15 of 22
On-side kicks: 1-3
Red Zone Scores: 42 of 47 (89%)
Red Zone Touchdowns: 31 of 47 (66%)
Punts - Yards: 58 - 2428 - Avg per punt: 41.

Game predictions:  Per the Massey Ratings, the Cats have a 40% probability of winning (31-34) over the Keydets.