A season for the ages, the 2020-21 VMI football campaign will forever be one of the best on record.
Guiding his team during a COVID-19 shortened season, Scott Wachenheim, VMI head coach, was named the 34th annual Stats Perform FCS Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year in May. Wachenheim led the Keydets to a 6-2 overall record for the year, the program’s first Southern Conference title in 43 years (1977), and the program’s first-ever FCS playoff appearance. Named the AFCA Region 2 Coach of the Year, Wachenheim also received the Touchdown Club of Richmond’s Bobby Ross Coach of the Year award, given to the top Division I college football coach in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Keydets earned the program’s first winning season since 1981 and were nationally ranked as high as No. 10 in both the coaches’ and media polls after defeating Wofford College March 27 to move to 5-0 on the year. This was the Keydets’ best start since 1960. Before this season, VMI had never been nationally ranked since joining the FCS ranks in 1982.
VMI triumphed in all three road tests to finish the regular season with an undefeated road record for the first time since 1922. They topped Samford 38-37 in overtime, with Reece Udinski ’21, senior quarterback, returning to play after an injury. The injury put Udinski out for the remainder of the season. Seth Morgan ’23, redshirt freshman quarterback, filled the spot for the rest of the season. All three away wins (Western Carolina, Samford, and Wofford) occurred where VMI had never won before. The Keydets’ win over No. 10 Furman to open the season marked VMI’s first over a nationally ranked team since the 2002 campaign.
The Keydets won the first Southern Conference title since the 1977 season by taking down rival The Citadel by a 31-17 score April 17 at Foster Stadium. As the SoCon champions, the Keydets earned an automatic bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs for the first time in program history. The Military Classic of the South victory also ensured that the Silver Shako will stay in Lexington, as VMI has won two straight contests over the Bulldogs.
The Keydets, ranked No. 11, were matched against the No. 1 James Madison University Dukes, one week after beating The Citadel. The Big Red ended their stellar season with a 31-24 loss to the Dukes in Harrisonburg April 24.
Jakob Herres ’22, wide receiver, was named the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and Stone Snyder ’23, linebacker, was named the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year in both the coaches’ and media polls following the season. Morgan was named the SoCon Freshman of the Year in the coaches’ poll.
Just days removed from being named Stats Perform All-Americans, Herres and Snyder added to their collection of prestigious honors as multiple organizations named the duo to their respective All-America teams.
Herres was named to the NACDA/FCS Athletic Directors Association All-America Team in addition to being named a First Team All-American by both the Associated Press and American Football Coaches Association for offense. Snyder was recognized with Herres by the Associated Press and was listed as an AP First Team All-American on the defensive side of the ball. Herres finished fourth among finalists for the FCS Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in FCS football, while Snyder finished third among voters for the FCS Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in FCS football. For the most up-to-date awards information, visit vmikeydets.com.