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Rivalry Showdown for Citadel, VMI

By Manning Snyder
SouthernPigskin.com
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Manning Snyder preview's the spring finale for The Citadel, a contest at rival VMI.

Overview
The Citadel is on the road Saturday as they face VMI in Lexington, Virginia. The Bulldogs (2-9, 2-5) have won two straight contests against in-state rivals Wofford and Furman, and are looking to build on their momentum with a victory against VMI. The Keydets (5-1, 5-1) are atop the SoCon standings and ranked #15 in the FCS Top 25 Poll. With a win against the Bulldogs, VMI will clinch the conference championship. The Citadel has nothing left to play for but pride. According to Coach Thompson in the locker room last weekend, the last three games of the season (Wofford, Furman, and VMI) are the most important of the year. Not only are you playing for bragging rights––in Saturday’s game, for the Silver Shako––but they are also looking for positive results to build upon for the fall season only 143 days away. Although a line has yet to be announced, VMI will be heavy favorites heading into the weekend.

Why To Watch
It’s arguably one of the best college football games on television (ESPN+) Saturday. With opt-outs and players resting for the fall season, many of the FCS games that are played have lost their entertainment value. But there is no quit in these Bulldogs. Despite a catastrophic start to the spring season with injuries and suspensions, The Citadel battled forward. Their perseverance and determination paid off, as they secured two straight wins and a chance to prevent VMI from a championship. Before last week’s Furman contest, many Bulldog fans debated whether VMI or Furman were more bitter rivals.  The “purple makes me puke” crowd against the “Military Classic” crowd. Regardless of who is right, I can tell you one thing: The Citadel can’t stand VMI. And VMI detests The Citadel. The stage is set for Saturday...

The Citadel Player To Watch
K Colby Kintner
The freshman kicker for the Bulldogs has had a rough fall and spring season. The Windemere, Florida, native is 4-12 on field goals (two of them coming Week 1 against USF) and 13-15 on PATs. In order for The Citadel to knock off the Keydets, Coach Thompson has to trust Kintner to make his attempts. After missing badly from 37-yards last week, Coach Thompson elected to go for it on fourth down, even if they were in Kintner’s field goal range. For a kicking position that is all about confidence, nothing would help Kintner more than nailing a long field goal against VMI.

VMI Players To Watch
RB Korey Bridy
The junior running back leads the Keydets in total rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. It’s all about “4s” for the Chesterfield, Virginia native. Bridy averages four yards a carry and has scored four touchdowns in four games this fall (he sat out one game). Bridy balances out a VMI passing attack that throws for over 300 yards per game.

LB Stone Snyder
The sophomore linebacker is the centerpiece of the Keydet defense. The Richmond, Virginia native leads the team in total tackles (55), sacks (six), and quarterback hurries (four). Snyder is tall for his position at 6’3, but he uses his length and athleticism to disrupt offenses. The Keydets allow less than 130 rushing yards per game. The defense will be tested against the rushing attack of the Bulldogs on Saturday.

Keys to Game
While The Citadel seemingly has the same “keys to the game” every week––time of possession and reducing turnovers––I  believe there are other important goals for the Bulldogs this weekend. After eleven games this season, The Citadel is 1-8 when trailing at halftime. While they tend to be a “second-half” team, playing better in the final thirty minutes, the Bulldogs need to come out strong against VMI. Similar to the halftime stat, The Citadel has only scored one touchdown (no field goals) on their first offensive possession this season. The Bulldogs need to score––a field goal or touchdown––on their first possession Saturday simply to set the tone for what could be a chippy game.

Manning’s Fun Fact
Coach Thompson, like the players themselves, has truly endured a chaotic season. He should be applauded for the past two Bulldog performances, as motivating a team that is 0-9 is not an easy task. For the fun fact,  Coach Thompson is 3-1 as a head coach in his career against VMI (two games on the road, two games at home). Let’s see if he can make it 4-1 on Saturday. 

Conclusion
The Bulldogs are still UNDEFEATED in the month of April––2-0. I can’t reiterate enough how much bad blood there is between these two programs. A win for either team will be paramount––a conference championship (for VMI) or a monumental step in the right direction (for The Citadel).

Manning Snyder - A Charleston, South Carolina-native, Manning Snyder covers The Citadel and Southern Conference football.