The Collegian
Saturday, July 04, 2020

Richmond at VMI Football Game Preview

Storylines:

1) The last win before last week- Prior to last week's convincing victory over Garner-Webb, Richmond hadn't won a game since last season's contest with these same VMI Keydets. Some might argue last season's game with VMI was the beginning of the end for the Spiders, who lost several key defensive players to injuries that day and almost let a huge lead get away from them in the second half. Richmond went on to lose its next nine games, including eight straight to finish the 2011 season.

2) Laub v. VMI, round 2- With the Spiders ahead, 34-3, in the third quarter of last year's game, then-Richmond coach Wayne Lineburg opted to put John Laub in at quarterback to give starter Aaron Corp some rest. Laub was not welcomed kindly, getting sacked and losing a fumble on his first series and going three-and-out on his second series. All of a sudden, the Keydets had come back to make the score 34-17. Lineburg then brought Corp back out to finish the game. Laub should be better prepared this time around, but many on this VMI defense have seen him before and know they can get to him with pressure.

3) Bit of a rivalry- Richmond and VMI have played 87 games against each other, with the first coming in 1893. The Keydets' campus is about 2-3 hours from Richmond's in Lexington, Va. While Richmond has owned the series recently, last losing in 1996, the overall record is still close, with the Spiders holding the slight edge, 42-40-5. Even with the long winning streak, Richmond has always been given a tough test by VMI.

What to Look for:

1) The Kordenbrock Show- VMI's junior quarterback Eric Kordenbrock has thrown for 500 yards combined during his first two games this season. Richmond's defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 480 combined yards through its first two games. Obviously, level of competition plays a big role in those statistics, but Richmond's secondary has definitely looked vulnerable early this season, and Kordenbrock has the talent to make plays with his arm, throwing for 231 yards and two scores against Richmond last season.

2) Spider pressure- As well as Kordenbrock can throw, he doesn't have the ability to make plays with his legs. If Richmond can consistently get pressure on the VMI quarterback, the Keydet offense will be in for a long day, and Spider defensive coordinator Bob Trott knows this. Look for a few blitz packages, perhaps sending linebacker Darius McMillan up the middle or safety Cooper Taylor from the outside. Mostly though, Trott can just rely on his talented defensive line, led by Kerry Wynn and Evan Kelly.

3) Wild Spiders?- Last Saturday, Richmond's offense ran a play out of the formation traditionally known as the "Wildcat," with tailback Jovan Smith lined up in the quarterback position with fullback Kendall Gaskins next to him. The play resulted in a 54-yard run by Smith. It should be interesting to see if this formation becomes more prevalent in Rocco's offensive system. It could depend on how well Gaskins and Smith continue to compliment each other in the run game.

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Bold Predictions:

1) Fisher makes a big play- Not many people outside the Richmond locker room had ever heard freshman fullback Seth Fisher's name before the season, but he's made his mark on both of the Spiders games so far this year, catching a touchdown against Virginia and forcing a turnover with a big hit on kickoff coverage. He's making the most of the opportunities he's being given, and Saturday in Lexington shouldn't be any different.

2) Richmond will have to overcome a special teams mistake- Aside from Fisher's forced fumble, special teams has been a sore spot for the Spiders so far this season. There's been two botched snaps that have resulted in safeties, a missed extra point and a couple long kickoff returns. Both teams made special teams errors in last season's contest. Richmond really needs this unit to improve before CAA conference play, but don't expect the problem to be fixed yet.

3) Gaskins goes for 3+ TD's again- Gaskins looked dominant in last week's four-touchdown performance, with Gardner-Webb consistently needing three or four defenders to get him to the ground. VMI hasn't allowed opposing backs to break many long runs yet this season, but that won't help them if Richmond gets near the goal line, where Gaskins shines.

Final Score Prediction: UR- 34, VMI- 13

Contact staff writer David Weissman at david.weissman@richmond.edu

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