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Preview of Lehigh/VMI

After a seemingly-endless week off after the bye week, Lehigh resumes play this weekend down in Lexington, VA against VMI. The only broadcast of the game will be on AM 1230 and AM 1320 in the Lehigh Valley, and on the internet through Yahoo! Broadcast or I'll be listening to the game in dibs and dabs over the internet, as we've got company over that day.

Lehigh Injury Report
DB Daynin Blake (Ribs, Questionable)
FS Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Questionable)
CB Andrew Nelson (Hand, Questionable)
DB Brendan VanAckeran (Knee, Questionable)

Although Lehigh seems to have healed up well from the hard-hitting Delaware game, it seems like all our injuries are still concentrated in the secondary. Nelson is the only starter who is hurt, however, and sophomore DB Aaron Gilliard will get the nod once again as the starter. Should Blake, Elder, or VanAckeran be unable to go, junior DB Devin Dobson, sophomore DB Julian Ahye, and junior DB Calvin LaMont will be on the field.

10 Things You Didn't Know About VMI
1. Founded in 1839, the Virginia Military Institute is the first state-based military college founded in America. It occupied a former arsenal used in the War of 1812, and provided a place for the students defending our military assets to also get an education.
2. The school nickname "Keydet" is derived from a southern drawl pronunciation of the word "cadet," which puts VMI on the cutting edge of misspelled and mispronounced school nicknames. Using this vernacular, Lehigh's "Mountain Hawks" could instead be called the "Mahntun Hacks".
3. Confederate Major General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson did not attend VMI as a student (he instead was near the top of his class at West Point), but he did teach classes at VMI from 1851 to 1861. He was not a beloved teacher - aloof and dour, he was frequently the subject of student pranks. Only when he was on the battlefield did his mastery of motivation and tactics highlight his military brilliance.
4. Along with "Stonewall" Jackson, many VMI graduates ended up serving the Confederate army as officers and generals. One general who served under Jackson, James A. Walker, was a former student of Jackson's at VMI and was expelled from the school after insubordination in his class. When he was in confinement, he challenged Jackson to a duel.
5. VMI's biggest game of the year is the "Military Classic of the South" versus the Citadel Bulldogs. This year they will be competing for the "Silver Shako" trophy against a team coached by former Lehigh coach Kevin Higgins.
6. The last time VMI had a winning record, incredibly, was in 1981, when the Keydets compiled a 6-3-1 record. It's hard to picture being a VMI fan with that sort of New Orleans Saints-esque lack of winning tradition. What do you root for? "Let's get closer to .500 this year!"
7. VMI's most famous football alumnus would have to be former Super Bowl head coach and current Army coach Bobby Ross. As a QB and DB in 1959, he captained the Keydets to a 8-1-1 record and a SoCon championship. That year, along with a win over Virginia Tech 37-12, the Keydets beat Lehigh 7-6 at Taylor Stadium.
8. VMI's last win over Lehigh came in Lexington in 1960, beating the Engineers 18-14. That year Lehigh was 4-5, including wins over Delaware and Lafayette, but also including losses to Tufts and Davidson.
9. The VMI Mascot is a kangaroo. There's no really good reason why it is a kangaroo, being that Lexington, VA is about as kangaroo-free as you can get. Apparently some cheerleaders thought it would be a cool idea, and then proceeded to "procure" one to roam their sidelines.
10. There's no evidence that Citadel fans taunt VMI fans by singing "Tie me Kangaroo Down, Sport", but dammit, they should.

VMI, out of the Big South, is a team that has struggled to win for quite a while. But they are methodical, disciplined, and don't kill themselves with penalties - a source of pride for the Keydets. They are also in the midst of trying to bring back the winning ways to Lexington, and they would like nothing better to start that tradition by knocking off nationally-ranked Lehigh. Let's see whay the Keydets have to offer.

Offensive Breakdown
Junior QB Jonathan Wilson is an extremely accurate short-range pocket passer, completing 69.2% of his passes for 2 TDs. He doesn't appear to air it out too much, when he does pass it tend to be underneath - no receiver has a catch for more than 25 yards this year. He also doesn't seem very mobile, which could be a problem for the Keydets.

His favorite target is senior WR Zohn Burden, who already has 16 receptions in 3 games for 142 yards. Senior WR Gary Price is on the other side, who has 9 receptions for 65 yards. TE John Fox seems primarily to be a blocker.

VMI appears to try to balance the run and pass fairly well, and the three-headed RB of senior Sean Mizzer, sophomore Nate Jackson, and junior Colby Hollingsworth are the guys who get all the yards. They combine for more than 100% of the Keydets' rushing yards - yes, you heard right - as all their other backs net negative yadage.

Compared to Lehigh's "O" line, VMI's line is a bit undersized, averaging only 277 lbs across. Senior LG Jeremy Ward is 300 lbs, and is probably the best on the line.

Defensive Breakdown
The Keydets play a strange defense with 3 safeties and a mix of roving linebackers and linemen. Similar to Albany's strange defensive alignment, you could call the Keydet defense a variation of the "Big Nickel" defense where there are almost always 5 DBs on the field at one time. As a result, the Keydets have lacked a consistent pass rush. That also could open the way for a big day running for Lehigh should our gameplan choose to exploit it.

The "D" Line's best athlete is senior DT Vichael Foxx, their biggest lineman at 6'4, 280 lbs. Behind him are the strength of the team, the linebackers. Most impressive is senior LB Justin Huggard, who is averaging 10 yards a game. Not far behind is senior LB Todd Baldwin with 7 tackles per game.

The defensive backfield has held teams to less than 200 yards passing a game, so this would appear to be a position of strength for VMI. Senior SS Kamau Hull is averaging 9 tackles a game and also has an interception this year.

Special Teams Breakdown
Sophomore PK Barrett Way hasn't been really proven under pressure, but junior P Adam Peters is decent with a 41 yard average. Senior CB Titus Green is averaging over 21 yards a return, so he will have to be covered well on kicks.

Keys To The Game
1.Stick to the plan. It looks like Lehigh should be able to establish their gameplan on top of the Keydet defensive plan. Plugging away with a balance of rush and pass should be able to be effective.
2.Key on the RB. They are balanced, but shutting down the running game and forcing Wilson to pass deep should keep VMI grounded.
3.Keep mistakes down. VMI does not kill themselves with stupid penalties. Giving the game away with stupid mistakes and penalties could absolutely spell an upset possibility.

Fearless Prediction
Lehigh rolls. A focused and balanced Lehigh team, still mad about the Delaware defeat, goes to Lexington and shows I-AA nation that it means business for a Patriot League title.

Lehigh 46, VMI 14


Anonymous said…
The injuries to the secondary is bothersome. Nelson hasn't played a down, yet, this year and while Gilliard has shown himself to be a tough kid with potential, he's no Nelson and teams have picked on that corner. I suspect a short pass game with three-step drops will be part of their plan to avoid our pass rush. W&M's offense seemed to have an easy time moving the ball,as should we. My pick is LU 42-10.


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