The Keydets finished the 2021 season 6-5, 4-4 in conference play, finishing 5th. This was VMI’s third consecutive five win season which is a first since the 1960s. Due to the 2020 season being played in the Sprint, 2021 gave the Keydets their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1961-1962. VMI also earned its first ever FCS National Ranking and first playoff berth in program history.
The Keydets and Demon Deacons have met seven times previously, having last played in 1944. Wake Forest leads the series 3-2-2 and is coming off an 11-3 season in which they won the Atlantic Division and advanced to the ACC Championship game. The Demon Deacons come into Thursday’s matchup ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and return a multitude of starters from last season. Unfortunately for Wake Forest, they will be without signal caller Sam Hartman who is out indefinitely due to a non-football related medication condition. They will have to rely on redshirt freshman Mitch Griffis who has only appeared in eight games. On the flip side, four of the front seven for Wake Forest have 34 or more games played in their career.
For VMI fans this will be their first glimpse at pretty much an entire new coaching staff. Former offensive coordinator Billy Cosh got hired by Richmond and defensive coordinator Tom Clark resigned. Former quarterbacks coach Patrick Ashford will replace Billy Cosh and Nick Reveiz from Division II Albany State in Georgia will replace Tom Clark. Coach Ashford will be without Jakob Herres, who leads active FCS wide receivers in career catches as he transferred to Richmond. Coach Reveiz will have All SoCon and Preseason All American Stone Snyder (LB) at his disposal along with a couple other defensive players receiving All-SoCon second team honors.
Due to VMI not having a grad program, they saw a lot of their starters on both sides of the ball transfer elsewhere after graduating. A big question mark for this season will be, can VMI bounce back from losing more than ten players to the transfer portal and a brand new coaching staff. There is some hope on the horizon as running back Korey Bridy has elected to return for his COVID-granted extra year of eligibility and will be a part of VMI’s rotation of running backs with Rashad Raymond and Hunter Rice. Furthermore, they get Chance Knox back from injury and will look to pair him with leading receiver Leroy Thomas (55 catches for 557 yards and 3 touchdowns) and get the air raid offense rolling.
A win for VMI over Wake Forest would be their first ever win over a nationally ranked FBS opponent in program history. It would also be their third consecutive season-opening win and first opening-season road win since Charleston Southern in 2002. Can the Keydets pull off an upset in Winston-Salem?