SAMFORD AT VMI
1:30 p.m. Saturday, WWCW
The Keydets, who have not enjoyed a winning season since 1981, are 3-3 overall. They have already matched their highest win total of the decade; VMI went 3-8 in 2010 and 2016.
VMI is 2-1 in Southern Conference play — its most league wins since finishing 2-4 in Big South play in 2011.
“[At] my press conference when I was first hired, I asked everybody to be patient. I told them it was going to take time,” fifth-year coach Scott Wachenheim said Tuesday. “I knew what it took to turn around a team that hasn’t had success. It takes great recruiting. You have to install a culture that is adopted and the kids totally believe in. And those recruits have got to mature. And you’ve got to also learn from the mistakes you make along the way, which I’ve made my share.
“Those lessons that we learned, the maturity of our culture, and the kids buying in has helped us to be a better football team.”
After allowing a total of 82 points in back-to-back losses to Robert Morris and Wofford, VMI won 34-21 at The Citadel last weekend. VMI held its option-oriented rival to 78 yards rushing.
“We played … as physical a ballgame defensively as we’ve played in my five years at VMI,” Wachenheim said.
Both of VMI’s SoCon wins this year have come on the road.
“We like playing on the road,” Wachenheim said. “We like to get out of Dodge and go stay in a nice hotel and eat with air conditioning and [have] a real bed and eat hotel food.”
Samford (3-3, 2-1) is 6-0 in the series with VMI, including a 73-22 win last fall. But the Bulldogs no longer boast 2018 Walter Payton Award winner Devlin Hodges, who is now a rookie quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
South Florida transfer Chris Oladokun has thrown for 1,291 yards for the Bulldogs. Samford, which has beaten Wofford and The Citadel in SoCon play, is averaging a league-high 38.5 points.
“They do an excellent job getting the ball out fast, so it’s difficult to sack them,” Wachenheim said.
VMI QB Reece Udinski, who was picked off 16 times last fall, has not thrown an interception this year. He has thrown a league-record 252 straight passes without being picked off.
“This summer we made Reece be the teacher to the two incoming freshman quarterbacks,” Wachenheim said. “You learn a lot more when you’re forced to be a teacher.”
VMI’s Jakob Herres, who is 6-foot-4, leads the SoCon in receiving yards (442).
“He’s a mismatch because of his size,” Wachenheim said.
SYRACUSE AT N.C. STATE
8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Neither Syracuse (3-2, 0-1 ACC) nor State (3-2, 0-1) has beaten a Power Five team this year.
State is tied for last in the league in forcing turnovers with a total of five.
“We just need to get more takeaways,” State coach Dave Doeren said. “That’s a huge goal.”
Doeren wants to boost his team’s aerial attack, so Bailey Hockman will replace Matthew McKay as the starting QB.
“We’re not explosive in the pass game right now,” Doeren said. “We’re not getting pass interference calls on downfield plays, so we feel like this gives us a shot.”
Like State, Syracuse is dealing with injuries.
“We are getting hit in some areas that are really affecting our football team,” Orange coach Dino Babers said.
FLORIDA STATE AT CLEMSON
3:30 p.m. Saturday, WSET
The No. 2 Tigers (5-0, 3-0) have beaten FSU the past four years.
The Seminoles (3-2, 2-1) rank third in the ACC in scoring offense (33.2 ppg). They averaged just 21.9 points last year.
“Last year was the first time a lot of these guys ran the style of offense that we played,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “Before, they were huddling up in the pro style, and so we brought a different style of offensive play, and it took some adjustment for a lot of them, and a lot of guys were young and playing. So there was a lot of mistakes, and now you see guys having a better understanding of what we’re doing now and being able to execute a lot better.”
LOUISVILLE AT WAKE FOREST
7:30 p.m. Saturday, ACC Network
The No. 19 Demon Deacons (5-0, 1-0) have won seven straight games dating back to last year, matching the school mark set in 1944.
The Cardinals (3-2, 1-1) already have more overall and ACC wins than they had all of last year.
GEORGIA TECH AT DUKE
12:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC Sports Washington
Duke (3-2, 1-1) beat Georgia Tech the past two years.
The Yellow Jackets (1-4, 0-2) rank last in the league in scoring offense (15.2 ppg) and scoring defense (30.2 ppg).
VILLANOVA AT JMU
1:30 p.m. Saturday, MASN
JMU (5-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) is ranked No. 2 in both FCS polls. Villanova (6-0, 3-0) is No. 5 in one poll and No. 7 in the other.
Villanova, which has won four road games this season, is 6-0 for the first time in 16 years.
JMU has beaten Villanova the past four years.
OLD DOMINION AT MARSHALL
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Stadium (WSET Digital 13.2)
Marshall (2-3, 0-1) ranks second in Conference USA in total offense (427.4 ypg), while ODU (1-4, 0-1) ranks last in that category (268.4 ypg).
GUILFORD AT FERRUM
1 p.m. Saturday
Ferrum RB Brian Mann (Giles), who left last week’s loss at Washington and Lee with a knee injury, will not play Saturday.
Joe Burris will start in his place, with fellow freshman Frank Ross seeing action off the bench.
Ferrum (1-3, 0-2 ODAC) is on a three-game losing streak.
“We’ve got to finish drives,” Ferrum coach Rob Grande said of his offense. “We’ve got to get touchdowns out of those opportunities. We just haven’t been able to unlock that.”
Guilford (1-4, 0-3) is also on a three-game skid.
Quakers sophomore QB Derrien Phillips made his starting debut in last week’s 34-21 loss to Randolph-Macon; he threw for 183 yards and ran for 80 yards. Former starting QB Alex Manley was moved to the secondary.
“This kid gives you a little more with his legs,” Grande said of Phillips.
EMORY & HENRY AT SOUTHERN VIRGINIA
1 p.m. Saturday
The Wasps (2-2, 1-1 ODAC) are coming off a 56-17 win over Hampden-Sydney; the 56 points were the most the Wasps have scored in that series since putting up 68 in a 1968 game.
“I’m concerned about their ability to … score and our inability to stop the scoring, to stop the bleeding,” Knights coach Edwin Mulitalo said.
SVU (2-2, 1-2) allowed 601 yards of total offense in last week’s 42-14 loss at Shenandoah. It was the second straight week SVU surrendered at least 40 points.
The Knights have been held to a total of 20 points in back-to-back losses at Bridgewater and Shenandoah.
“We’ve got to block better,” Mulitalo said of his offensive line’s pass protection woes. “If that means we’ve got to run the ball more, … then that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Derrick Yates had a school-record 265 receiving yards for the Wasps last week in the win over Hampden-Sydney.