UVA Football: Beware that VMI game on Sept. 12

uva footballVirginia opens its 2020 season in Atlanta against a likely Top 5 Georgia team. Then, five days later, the Cavaliers get VMI at home.

First thought I had when I saw this: JMU at Virginia Tech, way back in 2010.

That one featured a Hokies team coming off a Labor Day Night loss to Boise State and a JMU team that wouldn’t even make the FCS playoffs that year.

But on that Saturday in Lane Stadium, well, you’re a UVA fan, you know what happened.

A Drew Dudzik 12-yard TD run put the Dukes ahead early in the fourth quarter, and JMU ran the clock out after recovering a Darren Evans fumble.

Final: JMU 21, Virginia Tech 16.

The Hokies would go on to win 11 straight and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

JMU would slump to a 6-5 finish.

Back to 2020: Georgia on Labor Day Night, then VMI at home.

You might know that I’ve been the radio play-by-play man on VMI Football home games for the past four seasons.

The program is coming off its best season in decades, a 5-7 finish in 2019 that earned head coach Scott Wachenheim, a former UVA assistant, a contract extension.

Now, yes, the schedule included two games against FBS teams, and the Keydets got waxed in both – losing 56-17 at Marshall on Aug. 31 and losing 47-6 at Army on Nov. 16.

There was also a 34-21 win over The Citadel, which happened to win at Georgia Tech, who you remember played Virginia into the fourth quarter in an uncomfortably close November ‘Hoos win.

VMI will have Reece Udinski back for his third season as QB1, on the heels of a 2019 season in which he threw for 3,276 yards and 19 TDs and just five INTs.

The status of All-American running back Alex Ramsey (1,326 yards, 22 TDs in 2019) is up in the air with Ramsey putting his name into the transfer portal in December, but the fact that Ramsey was able to put up those kinds of numbers should be an indication of what VMI can do offensively.

Defense is the problem for VMI. The Keydets allowed 494.8 yards and 37.8 points per game in 2019, and it’s on the defensive side of the ball that usually makes it hard for FCS teams to be able to compete with Power 5s.

Which is why you schedule this game, if you’re Virginia.

The ACC gives you the Labor Day Night slot opposite Georgia, and you don’t want to take a bye Week 2, so you schedule VMI and don’t even consider it a roll of the dice.

That week will be a challenge, though. The team gets back to Charlottesville in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, and has to ramp back up with light game prep on Wednesday.

Not a lot of time in there between Wednesday and Friday to do much in terms of game-plan installation, not to mention just recovering from Georgia, licking the wounds, so to speak, and the like.

The thinking is that VMI is a perfect comedown opponent, and actually, when this game was thrown onto the schedule a couple of years ago, when VMI was in the throes of a 1-21 stretch encompassing the 2017 and 2018 seasons, yeah, made sense.

I don’t know that a full-strength UVA has any trouble with VMI, but I’m pretty sure the ‘Hoos won’t be anywhere near full-strength when they tee it up on Sept. 12.

Story by Chris Graham

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