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What you need to know about Saturday’s VMI-East Tennessee State game

seth morgan vmi
Seth Morgan rolls out to pass in VMI’s 41-14 win over Mercer. Photo courtesy Chuck Steenburgh/VMI.

Saturday’s game between East Tennessee State and #10 VMI at Foster Stadium in Lexington is effectively the 2021 SoCon championship game.

The matchup features the conference’s second-best defense in ETSU (18.0 points, 281.5 yards per game) and the second-best offense in VMI (26.4 points, 443.6 yards per game).

The only difference you see in the games against common opponents: the Bucs lost 17-13 to Furman, with VMI beating Furman, 14-13.

Really not much difference there.

ETSU (3-1) beat Samford and Western Carolina by identical 24-17 scores, and also has a 28-21 win over The Citadel.

VMI (5-0) beat Samford 38-37 in OT, beat Western Carolina 30-7, and also has wins over Mercer (41-14) and Wofford (36-31).

Breakdown: East Tennessee State

Offense

The Bucs do just enough on offense: producing 22.2 points and 312.5 yards per game.

One thing that stands out: just six turnovers in four games.

They don’t give you much.

Brock Landis is the QB, after coach Randy Sanders decided to change things up, putting the 6”4” JUCO transfer into the lineup last week in the win over Western Carolina in place of Tyler Riddell, who had started the first four games.

Landis was 8-of-16 for 55 yards in the win, but the offense had a different look and feel with Landis taking the snaps.

The Mocs rang up 350 yards on the ground in the win, with 6’1”, 216-pound redshirt junior Quay Holmes going for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, and 5’11”, 190-pound junior Jacob Saylors adding 136 yards on 15 attempts.

A running game like that can be a perfect complement for a stout defense.

Landis does have two deep threats – 6’3’ sophomore Will Huzzie (14 catches, 177 yards, 12.6 yards per catch, 1 TD) and 6’2” freshman Juliun Lane-Price (10 catches, 178 yards, 17.8 yards per catch, 1 TD).

Saylors (11 catches, 81 yards, 7.4 yards per catch, 1 TD) and Holmes (8 catches, 47 yards, 5.9 yards per catch) are also targets out of the backfield.

You’re also likely to hear the names of 6’0” sophomore slot receiver Isaiah Wilson (8 catches, 49 yards, 6.1 yards per catch), 6’3” redshirt freshman tight end Noah West (4 catches, 61 yards, 15.3 yards per catch) and 6’3” tight end Nate Adkins (4 catches, 42 yards, 10.5 yards per catch) at least a couple of times,.

Defense

The Mocs rank second in the SoCon in rush defense (116.5 yards per game, 3.0 yards per carry).

The pass defense ranks second in pass defense efficiency (114.3).

The leading tackler is 6’1” redshirt senior linebacker Jared Folks (31 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 QB hurries).

Other names you’ll hear Saturday:

  • 5’11” sophomore defensive back Mike Price (26 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 1 pass defensed)
  • 5’11” senior defensive back Tyree Robinson (23 tackles)
  • 6’1” redshirt sophomore linebacker Donovan Manuel (23 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries, 2 INTs, 2 passes defensed)
  • 5’11” redshirt freshman defensive back Elijah Huzzie (23 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INTs, 5 pass breakups, 7 passes defensed)

Special teams

Sophomore placekicker Tyler Keltner is 4-of-6 on field goals with a long of 54 and averages 57.5 yards on kickoffs with eight touchbacks on 19 kickoffs this season.

Sophomore punter Garrett Taylor averages 41.0 yards per punt, with four of his 19 kicks going for 50+.

The kick returns are primarily handled by Holmes (21.0 yard average, with a long of 32).

Alijah Huzzie averages 15.4 yards per punt return, with a long of 59.

Breakdown: VMI

Offense

The offense is now in the hands of redshirt freshman Seth Morgan, who got the start last week in the win at Wofford after VMI lost three-year starter Reece Udinski for the season to a torn ACL in the Samford win.

Morgan didn’t let the prolific Keydets offensive unit miss a beat, throwing for 375 yards and four TDs in his debut.

The ground game is putting up 137.2 yards per game, led by 6’0”, 204-pound junior Korey Bridy (33 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 4 TDs) and 5’10”, 185-pound freshman Rashad Raymond (139 yards, 3.6 yards per carry).

Prolific 6’4” junior wideout Jakob Herres (48 catches, 583 yards, 12.1 yards per catch, 6 TDs) is averaging 116.6 yards per game through the air.

Other targets for Morgan include 6’1” sophomore Max Brimigion (24 catches, 205 yards, 8.5 yards per catch), 6’2” junior Michael Jackson (22 catches, 246 yards, 11.2 yards per catch, 2 TDs), 5’11” sophomore Leroy Thomas (22 catches, 184 yards, 8.4 yards per catch, 1 TD) and 5’10” freshman Chance Knox (14 catches, 19 yards, 9.2 yards per catch, 2 TDs).

Defense

VMI ranks fourth in the SoCon in rush defense (128.4 yards per game, 3.2 yards per carry) and sixth in pass defense efficiency (142.4).

The guys whose names you’ll hear most often Saturday:

  • 6’1” redshirt freshman linebacker Connor Riddle (46 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 QB hurry, 1 INT, 1 pass breakup,
  • 6’3” sophomore linebacker Stone Snyder (43 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 QB hurries)
  • 6’2” senior safety A.J. Smith (33 tackles, 2 pass breakups)
  • 6’0” freshman cornerback Alijareek Malry (31 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
  • 6’4” junior spur Ethan Caselberry (30 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 6 pass breakups)

Special teams

Freshman placekicker Jerry Rice is 7-of-9 on field goals with a long of 32.

Freshman punter Jack Culbreath averages 38.6 yards per punt with 10 of his 21 punts downed inside the 20.

Kick returns go to Bridy (17.4 yard average, with a long of 30) and Knox (31.5 yard average, with a long of 70).

The line

VMI -2.5, O/U 47.5

Story by Chris Graham


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