Big Game Preview: VMI football set for home opener with ETSU

vmi footballVMI football enters Week 3 coming off a pair of ugly road losses, but with hopes that the home opener with ETSU can represent a clean slate.

The Keydets (0-2, 0-1 SoCon) lost 59-14 at seventh-ranked Wofford in their conference opener last week, getting gashed for 672 yards, including 451 on the ground.

ETSU (1-1, 0-0 SoCon) lost 59-3 to Tennessee last week, after posting a 28-7 win over Division II Mars Hill in its season opener.

The Buccaneers finished 4-7 in 2017, including a 24-6 win over VMI in Johnson City in November.

First-year coach Randy Sanders took over after the retirement of Carl Torbush, who was 11-22 in three seasons at ETSU.

Sanders had stints as an assistant at Tennessee, his alma mater, and Kentucky before a five-year run as the quarterbacks coach at Florida State, where his QBs included Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

His work is cut out for him in terms of the rebuild. Temple transfer Logan Marchi beat out incumbent Austin Herink for the starting QB job, but his numbers through two games (50.9 percent completion rate, 114.3 passer rating) are pedestrian.

The defense, honestly, isn’t bad – a year ago, the Bucs allowed 345.8 yards per game, third-best in the SoCon, and through two games in 2018, the unit has improved, allowing 338.5 yards per game, second in the conference.

VMI is still working in a new-look offense under first-year offensive coordinator Brian Sheppard, whose Northern Arizona offense averaged 30.2 points per game in 2017.

The Air Raid is currently under the direction of sophomore QB Reece Udinski, who has thrown for 332 yards in two starts in 2018.

The Keydets were winless in 2017 in coach Scott Wachenheim’s third season at VMI, in which 30 first-year eligibility players – true and redshirt freshmen – saw action over the course of the season.

The two-deep is young again in 2018, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where Wachenheim lost his top four tacklers from a year ago, including All-SoCon linebackers Allan Cratsenberg and Brian Lipscomb and All-SoCon safety Greg Sanders.

Preview by Chris Graham

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