Big Game Preview: VMI hosts Mercer in SoCon action

vmi footballVMI, on the heels of a 52-50 loss at Western Carolina this past weekend, enters Week 5 as a six-point favorite at home against SoCon rival Mercer.

The Keydets (0-4, 0-2 SoCon) have had a pair of near-misses in conference play. ETSU escaped Lexington with a 27-24 win on Sept. 14, getting three stops on VMI drives inside the Bucs’ 35 in the fourth quarter.

Last week, VMI lead at Western Carolina at halftime, then rallied in the final minutes after falling behind two touchdowns.

A pair of Reece Udinski touchdown passes in the final 4:01 got the Keydets back to 52-50, before a two-point conversion attempt with 22 seconds left failed, and VMI failed to get possession back on an onside kick attempt.

The Air Raid offense of first-year offensive coordinator Bryan Sheppard is finally hitting on all cylinders. Udinski, a sophomore, was named the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 491 yards, completing 43 of his 73 pass attempts, with four touchdowns and a pick-six INT.

Tailback Quan Myers also had a big week for VMI in the loss, gaining 82 yards and scoring three touchdowns on the ground.

Javeon Lara had 143 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches, as Udinski connected with nine different receivers.

The defense is still a work in progress. Western Carolina gained 553 yards, including 324 on the ground, and on the season, VMI is giving up 538.2 yards and 51.0 points per game.

VMI vs. Mercer

Sat, Sep 29 | 1:30 PM
ESPN3 | Watch Live | Tickets

Mercer (2-2, 1-1 SoCon) is coming off a 38-31 loss at home to The Citadel, a week after pulling off an upset at #9 Samford a week earlier.

The offense gains 356.8 yards per game, sixth in SoCon. Redshirt freshman QB Robert Riddle has a nice passer rating, 149.8, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 851 yards, six touchdowns and three INTs in four games.

The run game is a two-man act: 5’10”, 204-pound senior Tee Mitchell is averaging 71.8 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, and 5’8”, 233-pound sophomore Tyray Devezin is putting up 49.3 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry.

The Bears also have a pair of big-play receivers: 6’3”, 216-pound senior Marquise Irvin is averaging 15.3 yards per catch with a team-best 23 receptions, and 5’9”, 161-pound senior Stephen Houzah gets 15.2 yards per catch on his 12 catches to this point.

The Mercer D is a bit porous, giving up 465.8 yards and 32.8 yards per game, and is particularly susceptible to the passing game, with an abhorrent 179.9 opponent passer rating, with opposing QBs completing 69.1 percent of their passes.

Preview by Chris Graham

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