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The Keydets, who are coming off a disappointing loss to a Division II foe, have not had a winning season since 1981.
Courtesy Chuck Steenburgh | VMI
VMI receiver Samuel Patterson (right) hauls in a touchdown pass over North Greenville defenders late in Saturday’s game in Lexington. The Keydets, who lost to the Division II team, play at ACC member Virginia this weekend. VMI wide receiver Samuel Patterson (red jersey) pulls in a TD pass over North Greenville defenders Nigel Gay (#29) and Leo Dendy late in.
Monday, September 16, 2013
LEXINGTON — Last weekend, the VMI football team lost by double digits to an NCAA Division II foe.
So the FCS lightweight could have plenty of trouble Saturday at Virginia, an FBS team that funds 85 scholarships to the Keydets’ 62.
“We’re getting ready to play a great opponent,” VMI coach Sparky Woods said Monday. “[But] if I were a young man, I’d like an opportunity to play at Virginia and have a chance to be in that stadium and compete there.”
VMI (1-2) has not had a winning season since 1981, but last weekend’s defeat was a low point even for the Keydets’ moribund program. It was VMI’s first loss to a Division II opponent since a 1986 loss to then-Division II member Central Florida.
“The expectations should be higher than what our record is right now,” Woods said. “Boy, I was disappointed Saturday.
“Do I see progress in our program? I absolutely do. To just put [the loss in terms of] classifications or scholarship numbers would probably be not a good measuring stick to where people are.
“I can gauge whether we’re making progress … and unfortunately it’s not as simple as winning.”
VMI funds almost three times as many full football scholarships as North Greenville’s 21.
“There’s more things to consider other than just scholarship money. What’s the pool of people available when you talk about entrance requirements?” Woods said. “Often times Division II schools have a lot more leniency in terms of recruiting players than a school in our situation.”
It is not easy is to recruit quality football players to a small military school with high academic demands.
North Greenville “had a lot of good players that we would like to have here that couldn’t come here if they wanted to,” Woods said. “So the pool is just smaller.”
VMI freshmen must endure the emotional and physical rigors of the “rat line” during their freshman year.
“If the rat line was the best way to win football games, Alabama would have the toughest rat line in the country,” Woods said.
Many football teams benefit from the addition of transfers, but it is rare for VMI to get one. Transfers must go through VMI’s rat line too.
“It’s really not a very attractive school for somebody transferring,” Woods said.
North Greenville (2-0) is coming off a 5-6 season but made the Division II playoffs for the first time in 2011. The Crusaders knocked off Presbyterian, one of VMI’s Big South rivals, in 2010.
VMI, which was without two injured linebackers, allowed 504 yards of total offense to the Crusaders.
“They were fast. If you just went out and took their team and took our team, they might run faster than we do,” Woods said. “It doesn’t mean they should win.”
Two weekends ago, VMI needed a goal-line stand to fend off Division II member Glenville State 34-27.
Woods is 14-44 in six seasons at VMI. He is in the next-to-last season of his contract.
“I would’ve hoped that we would be winning more games at this point,” Woods said of his reign.
The Keydets have suffered nine straight losing seasons since Cal McCombs steered them to 6-6 records in 2002 and 2003. McCombs was fired after the 2005 season and was replaced by Jim Reid, who won three games in two seasons before leaving to become an NFL assistant.
VMI lost to The Citadel 70-28 in Reid’s final game. Woods said the talent level at VMI is better than it was when he replaced Reid.
“No question our team is better,” Woods said. “We’re not getting beat 70 to .”
The man who hired Woods, Donny White, is retiring as athletic director in November and will be replaced by Dave Diles.
Does Woods feel pressure to impress Diles this season so he can keep his job?
“Football is a volatile business. I’ve been in it a lot of time and I’ve been fired,” Woods said. “If I was afraid of that, I shouldn’t get in this business.”
VMI lost to UVa 48-7 when the teams last met in 2010.
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