Game Preview: Can VMI end on high note in season finale with Western Carolina?

vmi footballVMI (2-8, 1-5 Southern Conference) has a chance to head into the spring with some momentum with a Saturday season finale at home with Western Carolina (6-4, 4-2 SoCon).

The Keydets have, by and large, gotten more competitive as the 2015 season has gone on under first-year coach Scott Wachenheim, even if that hasn’t shown so much in the won-loss ledger.

VMI gave eighth-ranked Chattanooga everything it could handle in a 33-27 loss in Lexington on Oct. 17, and also had chances late in losses to Bucknell and Furman, plus a loss at FBS Ball State in the season opener in a game that was a tight contest into the fourth quarter.

Western Carolina is licking its wounds after a 41-17 loss at FBS Texas A&M last weekend. The Catamounts have lost two of their last three after a mid-season four-game winning streak had put them in contention for an FCS playoff bid.

VMI offense vs. Western Carolina defense Al Cobb missed the 35-14 loss at The Citadel on Nov. 7 with an undisclosed medical issue, and backup Hayden Alford struggled, throwing four interceptions as the Keydets limped to 212 yards of total offense in the loss. Cobb is back Saturday, and he’s the top passer in the SoCon (2,505 yards, 14 TDs). He also leads the league in interceptions (18), so a key is cutting down on mistakes. Wideout Aaron Sanders leads the conference in receptions (79) and receiving yards (857). The Western Carolina defense ranks seventh in SoCon in scoring defense (28.4 points per game) and gives up 423.4 yards per game, sixth in the conference. The D is seventh in the conference in rushing defense (211.1 yards per game) and eighth in pass-defense efficiency (137.2 opponent passer rating).

Western Carolina offense vs. VMI defense The Catamounts are middle of the pack in the SoCon offense stats: fifth in scoring (27.7 points per game), total offense (410.0 yards per game) and rushing (181.9 yards per game), third in passing (228.1 yards per game). QB Troy Mitchell has thrown for 2,037 yards and 12 TDs. Tailback Detrez Newsome has run for 968 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and eight TDs. Top wideout Karnorris Benson has 37 receptions for 563 yards and five TDs. The VMI D is the league’s worst in scoring (36.1 points per game), total defense (438.0 yards per game), and pass defense (232.0 yards per game).

Special Teams VMI punter Hayden Alford averages 39.5 yards per kick with six of his 40 punts downed inside the 20. Placekicker Dillon Christopher is 9-of-11 on field goals with a long of 40. Watch out for the VMI return game: Dane Forlines averages 12.9 yards per punt return and 20.4 yards per kick return, and Greg Sanders has a kickoff return for a TD and averages 28.7 yards per kick return. Western Carolina punter Ian Berryman averages 43.9 yards per kick with 21 of his 53 punts downed inside the 20. Placekicker Logan Howard is 11-of-13 on field goals, including 3-of-3 on kicks of 40+.

– Preview by Chris Graham

         
 

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