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VMI Faces NC State in Clash of 5-0 Teams

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VMI Faces NC State in Clash of 5-0 Teams

VMI in training. Michael Parsons.

Bragging rights in the Cardinals Conference are up for grabs Saturday as 5-0 VMI takes on 5-0 NC State.

While in the end this is most likely just the first meeting between the two - the conference ends with a final four on November 5 and 6 - this is the game that sets the tone. 

Virginia Military Institute, long an outfit that powered over and through opponents, has unleashed a more elusive, more slick backline attack this season. Sophomore flyhalf Jackson Mitchell has been at the center of that, but, alas, for this weekend he is out injured. Fullback Eric Maudhuit has been excellent, as well, and effective as the team's goalkicker. He will likely don the #10 jersey for Saturday. In the midfield, Paul Conteh loves to make tacklers miss, and he does it a lot.

"This is the first year that I have a backline that is highly skilled and can catch and pass and run and do it at pace," said VMI Head Coach Wayne Howe. "Normally we're a team that bulldozes you. Not this year."

NC State, meanwhile, is new in the conference after the DI ACRL fell apart. The Wolfpack had hoped to join a DI version of the Cardinals Conference, but when that didn't happen (partly because of the formation of the new Chesapeake Conference), NC State was left without options, and is playing in DII. All Head Coach Brian Kethcem's team can do now is play what they see in front of them.

"It's mostly about playing a rugby game on Saturday - that's what the guys want to do," he said. "We try to play at a high level, but we do it by making it fun. The practices are competitive, but they're also fun, and we are just happy to be able to play."

NC State has been pretty dominant in a conference that has some disparity in strength between the top and the bottom. The Wolfpack has enjoyed some good work up front from the likes of brothers Tom and Jack Kiernan, and the always tough TJ Dixon. In the backs, Kyle Morris has excelled, but, added Ketchem, it's been a different player each week that has stepped in to make plays.

NC State will be without a couple of players due to injury, and will have a couple more just coming off the injured list. It's all a question now.

"We don't know that much about VMI, so we're just going to go out and play hard and do our best," said Ketchem.