Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Game #6 - VMI Keydets

For the Catamount's third spring game and sixth of the 2020-21 season, the Cats return to Cullowhee for the first home game since the new turf replacement to face the VMI Keydets.

The Cats have won all six games against the Keydets since their return to the Southern Conference in 2014, but the Keydets surprised nationally-ranked Furman last weekend with a 1 point win over the Paladins.  

Game #6 - VMI Keydets

When: Saturday,March 6, 2021- Time: 1:00 pm
Where: E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
-announcers:  Gary Ayers
TV/video: ESPN+
-announcers:  Daniel Hooper, 

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.

This Season's Record (VMI):  2021 - 1-0 overall, 1-0 home, 0-0 away, 1-0 SoCon
Last Season's Record (VMI): 2019 - 5-7 overall, 3-3 home, 2-4 away,  4-4 SoCon

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)

Senior QB Reece Udinski was selected as the SoCon Preseason, Offensive Player of the Year. Along with Udinski's First Team Offense honors, offensive lineman Nick Hartnett as also selected first team. On the defensive side, lineman Jordan Ward and safety AJ Smith were named to the First Team Defense. Junior wide receiver Jakob Herres was named to the Second Team Offense and junior kick returner Korey Bridy was named to the Second Team Special Teams unit. VMI was tied with Mercer, picked to finish in 6th place in the standings.

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.

In the Furman upset game last weekend, the VMI defense looks to be strong this year, as they stopped three Paladin drives in the fourth quarter, one on a fourth-down stop, one on a punt and the last on a fumble with 47 seconds left with Furman threatening at the VMI 24. The Keydets were able to kneel on the ball and run out the clock following Furman's first turnover of the contest.

The Keydets registered nine sacks on the day, many off the blitz. Connor Riddle had a team-high 13 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks. Stone Snyder had 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and 11 total stops, while Ethan Casselberry recorded 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. Carter Johnson had nine tackles, one sack and pounced on the late Furman fumble to seal the win.   After a standout performance against No. 10 Furman on Saturday, VMI redshirt senior Connor Riddle has been named the Stats Perform National Defensive Player of the Week and SoCon Defensive Player of the Week announced Monday afternoon. Riddle earned a career-high 13 tackles, including four solo and nine assisted takedowns.

The offense seems to be very one-dimensional, with the ground game only completing 20 yards on the ground, while passing for 248 years, in 38 attempts for 37 completed passes. Both of the Keydet touchdowns were passing TDs.

2021 VMI Statistics (1 game)
Rushing Offense: 20 yards
Yards per game: 20
Yards per rush: 0.9 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 4
TDs rushing: 0
Passing Offense: 248 yards
Avg. per pass: 6.5 yards
Passing 1st downs: 10
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 27-38-1
TDs Passing: 2
Total Offense: 268
Fumbles-Lost: 0-0
3d Down Conversions: 5 of 15
4th Down Conversions: 1 of 1
Field goal attempts: 0 - 1
PAT-Attempts: 15 of 22
On-side kicks: 1-3
Red Zone Scores: 2 for 2
Red Zone Touchdowns: 2 for 2
Punts - Yards: 7 for 274 - Avg per punt: 39.1