As the Bulldogs charge into the home stretch of the football season, the schedule for the Bulldogs is not getting any easier.
Samford (3-4, 2-3) heads into the weekend with a road trip to Lexington, Virginia, as the Bulldogs face the VMI Keydets (5-2, 3-1). VMI is 3-1 in conference play, and they are coming off of a 45-7 drubbing of Mercer. To make matters more challenging for the Bulldogs, VMI had a bye week before the game against Samford.
However, the Bulldogs have plenty to fight for this weekend.
Liam Welch continues to pace the dynamic Samford offense, as he is averaging around 350 passing yards per game and has thrown 15 touchdowns this season. Furthermore, the Samford offense averages around 40 points per game, which makes Samford the highest-scoring team in the Southern Conference. Liam Welch is also top five nationally in passing yards in the FCS, proving that the offense of the Bulldogs can compete with any team in the country in Division 1-AA football.
Unfortunately, Samford’s defense continues to be a question mark.
The defense is giving up around 35 points per game, allowing 241 rush yards per game and 237 passing yards per game. This makes it challenging for a talented offense like Samford to compete in difficult conference road games. The offense could potentially underperform down the stretch, so it is essential for head coach Chris Hatcher and Defensive Coordinator Nick Benedetto to find new strategies to make the defense more competitive.
When one looks at the stats for VMI, nothing really pops off the page. The Keydets are scoring around 32 points per game and giving up around 29 points per game. Most of their games this season have been tough battles; their average margin of victory is exactly 14 points.
However, the big story for VMI this year is their star wide receiver, Jakob Herres. The senior from Easton, Pennsylvania, is one of the finalists for the Walter Payton Award. Herres is also a first-team FCS All-American, and he has accumulated 36 receptions this season for 367 yards and four touchdowns. With statistics like these, we could potentially see Herres playing on Sundays down the road.
Along with Herres, the Keydet secondary has been exceptional all season.
VMI has allowed the least amount of passing yards per game (165) out of any team in the conference. Conversely, Samford has the most passing yards per game in the conference (347.2), nearly 100 yards per game more than the second highest, which is WCU with 266.3.
VMI’s rush defense will likely be targeted by Hatcher, as they rank dead last in the conference in rush yards allowed per game 245.4. A pass-heavy Bulldog team will need their running back core to contribute their fair share of production this Saturday.
Overall, Samford faces a formidable road opponent in VMI. For the Bulldogs to pull out the win, their defense will have to match the competitiveness and intensity of the offense, and they will have to lock down Jakob Herres. The Bulldogs play the Keydets Saturday, Oct. 30 at 12:30 p.m. in Lexington, Virginia.