Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wofford set for homecoming match with returning VMI

The last time that the VMI Keydets took the field at Gibbs Stadium, the year was 2005. On October 15th of that year, the Terriers hosted the Keydets from Lexington, Va., in a relatively pertinent, yet non-conference tilt that was won by the home squad, 38-23. While the victory helped bring an unusually vapid and substandard 6-5 campaign a bit of redemption, this game meant something more. It would be the final time that these two teams--squads that had grown quite familiar with one another--would meet until rejoined as conference members once again, playing on a homecoming Saturday a momentous nine years later.

Wofford and VMI met on the field every year from 1997-2002, as both were SoCon members, and two additional inter-conference meetings in 2004 and 2005. First, we'll take a look at the SoCon years.

The Terriers had just made the transition from Division II to play as an independent I-AA club. An ever-small, modest run-based program, the Terriers soon entered the Southern Conference, an antique collection of programs that Wofford had already been meeting on the gridiron for many years. The first opponent on that 1997 slate? None other than the VMI Keydets.

In that milestone of a contest, held in Spartanburg on September 6, 1997, Wofford set the tone for several years of SoCon success--which came rather easy for the strong, proven Terriers, unlike some other programs--in a 23-13 disposal of the Keydets.

And so it began.
Wofford edged VMI, 19-18, in 2004.

Although that first season as a member of the SoCon looked rather dissatisfactory, the Terriers' record gradually improved (or at least stayed consistent) in every one of the first four years in the conference, picking up the pace from a 3-7(2-6) start in 1997 to 4-7(3-5) in 1998, 6-5(5-3) in 1999, and finally 7-4(5-3) in 2000.

The Terriers took care of the Keydets, 42-20, in a 1998 contest played in Lexington. Next season's encounter didn't seem much different, as Wofford posted a 55-10 win at home. The Terriers won 45-28 in 2000, and 59-14 in 2001, before VMI finally bit back in a 27-16 defeat in Lexington in 2002. That would be the Keydets' final meeting with the Terriers as a member of the SoCon.

Wofford took on VMI, then a fledgling member of the newly-formed Big South Conference, in 2004, defeating the Keydets by a single point--19-18--in Lexington.

In the Terriers' home game against VMI in the ensuing season of 2005, Wofford, as mentioned above, won 38-23, and has yet to see any trace of the Keydets on the gridiron since.

That will change this weekend, as the Terriers will host VMI, again a member of the SoCon, on homecoming Saturday.

The Keydets are coming off a heartbreaking 47-41 double-overtime loss at the hands of Gardner-Webb, who effectively disposed of the Terriers earlier this season. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs haven't been quite the same squad since the 43-36 win over Wofford on Sept. 20th.

VMI, however, has seemingly kept on a tradition of maintaining a predominantly-mediocre record, despite the conference they're in. Samford (63-21), Mercer (27-24), and the league-leading Chattanooga Mocs (51-14) represent the SoCon games dropped so far by the Keydets (1-7).

However, last week, Keydets quarterback Al Cobb passed for six touchdowns and 351 yards total on 34 passes. Of those throws, the high was only 25 yards.

Yes, VMI is a mainly pass-based squad, although they were still substantially outgained last Saturday in Lexington. Those short and methodical passes from an excellent player in Cobb, though, may prove to be the Terriers' downfall.

Wofford's defense has made some major adjustments, and racked up several great accomplishments--like the impressive goal-line stands--in the process. Will they be able to fend off the returning Keydets, who haven't met the Terriers in nearly ten years?

Wofford 35, VMI 21

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