CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern (1-4, 0-1) will play their first home-game in over a month when the VMI Keydets (2-3, 1-0) come to Buccaneer Field on Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
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Saturday will mark the twelfth all-time meeting between the Bucs and the Keydets with VMI leading the series 6-5. Last season, Charleston Southern trailed 14-0 at the half against the Keydets, but put together an impressive comeback in the fourth quarter. The Bucs returned a blocked punt for a touchdown while scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter but came up short in a 21-17 loss a season ago.
“VMI is a very good football team,” CSU head coach Jay Mills said during the week. “They have a veteran quarterback in Eric Kordenbrock who is very talented and has the potential to create problems for us. They also have a young running back, Jabari Turner, who has had an outstanding start to his season.”
CSU is coming off a 49-7 loss to Stony Brook while VMI comes into Saturday’s matchup 1-0 in Big South play after a 17-7 win over Presbyterian last week. VMI took advantage of four turnovers while controlling the football for over 37 minutes in the win.
Although the Buccaneers only had seven points against Stony Brook last week, CSU gained 308 yards of total offense which is the most since the Jacksonville game where they collected 345 yards almost a month ago. Charleston Southern’s 162 yards through the air were also the most since the Jacksonville game. While CSU had several successful drives moving the football, the Stony Brook defense stiffened-up when backed up into their own territory. The only Charleston Southern touchdown came on a 28-yard pass from Malcom Dixon to Will Hunt. The touchdown reception was Hunt’s first catch of the season. Hunt spends most snaps as a defensive end.
The Bucs will look to continue their run-heavy attack against VMI on Saturday. Charleston Southern has never used fewer than seven ball-carriers this season while using a season-high nine players to carry the football on several occasions. Dixon threw 18 passes a week ago at Stony Brook, but look for CSU to be less aggressive through the air against a VMI-defense that is second in the Big South in takeaways with nine.
The Keydets are still trying to piece together an offense that lost six starters to graduation after last season. Some of those starters include Chaz Jones and T.J. Talley who accounted for 90% of the team’s rushing yards and four of the five starting offensive linemen from last season. The young offense is sixth in the Big South in both points scored per game (12) and yards per game (365). VMI does have one key, returning starter with quarterback Eric Kordenbrock. The junior-quarterback has thrown for close to 1,000 yards with three touchdowns but has also thrown eight interceptions. Kordenbrock leads the Big South in interceptions thrown despite throwing only nine interceptions during the entire 2011 campaign.
VMI has struggled to establish the run in their first five games. The Keydets are sixth in the league in rushing yards per game (99). Jabari Turner, a sophomore running back, has the led the Keydets with two rushing touchdowns and 48 yards rushing per game. Redshirt-junior David Turner picked up 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games of the season, but has not played due to injury since week two.
Turnovers look to be the key in Saturday’s game. The Bucs turned the ball over four times against Stony Brook with a minus five turnover margin on the season (sixth in the Big South). The Keydets have a conference-high thirteen turnovers. If Charleston Southern can hold on to the football and methodically drive down the field, they will put themselves in position for a Big South victory.
The Bucs’ defense struggled a week ago against Stony Brook. The 481 yards allowed by CSU were the most yards they have allowed since The Citadel collected 527 yards of total offense in the season opener. Charleston Southern did not have an answer from Stony Brook’s play-action fakes, causing the defense to become susceptible to the deep pass. The Bucs allowed 263 yards through the air along with five passing touchdowns which matched a season-high.
VMI has shown a strong defense at the start of the season despite losing five defensive starter from last season. The Keydets currently rank second in the Big South in points allowed per game (25.8) and third in total defense. The secondary is led by the reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Week, Adam Morgan. The junior-safety intercepted two passes last week during the win against Presbyterian. Morgan began his career at VMI as a quarterback but was transitioned to the defensive side of the ball during the pre-season.
The Keydets do not have a strong running game, which will allow the CSU defense to put more of an emphasis on defending the passing game. If the Bucs can control the running game with mostly their front-four against an extremely young VMI line, some of the pressure will be taken off the secondary. With the running game bottled up, the Bucs can drop more bodies into coverage and try to take advantage of Kordenbrock who has already thrown eight interceptions this season.
Both the Bucs and VMI are in the middle of the Big South in kick returns and punt returns with neither team scoring a special teams touchdown this season. Charleston Southern will have to improve in their punting game especially if field position plays an important role late against VMI. The Bucs are currently last in the Big South in yards per punt (34) while VMI ranks third (39.9 yards per punt).