Game review, 2014: Chattanooga

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Box score

This isn’t going to be lengthy, because it doesn’t have to be…

I do not understand why a team is not ready to play a football game. There aren’t that many of them in a season. Shouldn’t players have the required intensity for each and every game?

The lack of fire in the Bulldogs on Saturday was striking, and deeply disappointing. I’ve seen The Citadel lose many games over the years, but rarely have I been as disgusted in the team’s play.

This egg-laying type of performance happened occasionally in Kevin Higgins’ tenure, too, and it was just as infuriating when it happened then. I was hoping that with a new coaching staff, there would never be a question as to the Bulldogs’ effort, or desire.

When the game story in the local newspaper uses the words “sleep-walking” and “drowsy” to describe the home team (and the URL for the webpage includes “sluggish”), you know the team didn’t go about its business in an enthusiastic manner. Spirit and passion are mandatory for players when The Citadel plays a football game. Those qualities did not appear to be present on Saturday.

The lack of sharpness was most evident in the number of missed tackles by The Citadel’s defense. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many missed tackles by the Bulldogs’ D in a game.

Chattanooga ran 67 offensive plays from scrimmage. Based on that, I would guesstimate the Bulldogs missed about 100 tackles, as they seemed to miss 1 or 2 tackles on every play.

The Mocs averaged 7.13 yards per play. There is no telling how many extra yards UTC running backs and receivers picked up after the initial hit.

The entire contest, from The Citadel’s perspective, was bad. Offense, defense, special teams — everything. The missed tackles, though, stood out.

The best on-field performance by a member of the corps on Saturday didn’t come from one of the football players, but by a cadet who was invited to compete in a contest after the third quarter. Cadet Patton (I think that was his name) successfully threw a 25-yard pass through the goalposts, winning $100. Congratulations to him. (Nice toss, too. Good, tight spiral.)

It’s been a tough year for Mike Houston and The Citadel when it comes to officiating, and Saturday’s game brought more of the same.

(Just to make myself clear: officiating had nothing to do with the outcome of the game in any way.)

Carson Smith was ejected from the contest against Chattanooga with a little over nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. He was dismissed for throwing a punch. It was not a good call.

I’ve watched the video numerous times. I have no idea why the umpire (who threw the flag) thought Smith was throwing a punch. It was rather obviously a “football play”, to use a trite (but true) phrase. I would hate to think how many players would be ejected from games for making similar plays during a typical contest.

I’m not even sure Smith could have been called for unnecessary roughness (or a late hit), because I don’t think the whistle had blown and ended the play while he was attempting to punch the ball out of the running back’s hands. Maybe you could argue that.

I doubt anyone is going to claim that an ejection was the correct course of action on that play, because it wasn’t.

Smith, a junior, was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Mocs’ second possession of the game. That resulted in an ejection, which means Smith will have to sit out all of next week’s game at Western Carolina.

Smith appeared to be trying to punch the ball away from Mocs running back Richardre Bagley when he was penalized.

“The deal with Carson really bothers me,” Houston said. “He was trying to strip the ball out, trying to punch it out and everybody in the stadium could see that. That’s deemed a punch at a player and an ejection? I don’t know … I don’t know.”

SoCon commissioner John Iamarino, on hand for the game, said there’s no review of the call unless the officials mistakenly ejected the wrong player.

Houston and SoCon coordinator of officials Jack Childress had a lengthy conversation after the Wofford game. I’m guessing any conversation the two men had on Monday would have been much shorter. There isn’t a whole lot Childress can say.

If you are an official, you have to be very, very sure of what you’ve seen to throw a player out of a game. It’s not the same as calling holding or a false start.

John Iamarino stated that there is no review of the play. I’m assuming he meant during the game itself, which is true. Targeting penalties can be reviewed at halftime in FCS football, and possibly overturned, but that’s a recent NCAA rule change and there is no provision for other kinds of ejections.

However, the additional one-game suspension is not an NCAA stipulation, from what I understand. That’s a league rule.

As such, I see no reason why the league can’t acknowledge an error by a game official and waive the additional one-game penalty. It strikes me as the fair thing to do. Otherwise, Carson Smith will miss almost two full games because an official made a mistake.

We’ll see what the conference does as the game against Western Carolina draws nearer.

This week’s pictures, taken by a bad (and glum) photographer:

 

 

 

 

2014 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel vs. Chattanooga, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 12:00 pm ET on Saturday, October 18. The game will be televised by the American Sports Network (affiliate list), with Darren Goldwater providing play-by-play and Corey Miller supplying analysis.

The contest will not be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network, the league’s new streaming platform. It will also not be available on ESPN3.com.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Mike Legg (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station for The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show that will be hosted by Ted Byrne. The pregame show and game broadcast will be produced by Jay Harper, who will also provide updates on other college football action.

Links of interest:

Game notes for The Citadel and Chattanooga

SoCon weekly release

Mike Houston 10/14 press conference

Mike Houston on the SoCon media teleconference

Russ Huesman 10/14 press conference

Russ Huesman on the SoCon media teleconference

Aaron Miller is the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week

Cam Jackson is the SoCon and (nationally) TSN Freshman of the Week

Brandon Eakins is WCIV-TV’s Athlete of the Week

Mid-season progress report for the Bulldogs

Mocs wary of The Citadel, especially its run game

Let’s talk about television coverage…

Chattanooga-The Citadel will be televised by the American Sports Network. What is the American Sports Network?

A total of 18 live SoCon events, including six football games, are scheduled for carriage by a network of regional Sinclair stations under the banner of the newly formed American Sports Network (ASN).

Sinclair Broadcast Group owns a bunch of stations around the country, including several in South Carolina. Most of the Sinclair stations are located in the southern and midwestern part of the United States.

In terms of the game on Saturday, this is what we’ve got:

- The game will not be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network (which is a fairly standard practice when a game is televised on “linear” TV).

- It’s not on ESPN3.com, either (unlike the Wofford game earlier or the matchup with VMI later in the season).

- It may be on a station near you. Or it may not.

For satellite TV subscribers, probably the best bet for seeing the game is Altitude Sports, which is carrying UTC-The Citadel for the Rocky Mountain region. Altitude is available as part of DirecTV’s Sports Pack; the game is listed in the guide as appearing on channel 681-1 (an alternate feed for Altitude). Dish Network should also have Altitude Sports.

There is always a possibility the game could be “blacked out” in one or more regions, but at this point I tend to doubt it. I think it will be televised nationwide on Altitude.

For cable subscribers, things may be a little trickier if Altitude Sports is not available. A lot of the local affiliates getting the game are actually carrying it on digital subchannels; for example, in Washington, DC, it will be on WJLA’s “MeTV” subchannel (D-2).

There are also certain areas within the SoCon footprint where the game will not be televised by a local affiliate, notably Columbia and Charlotte. It’s rather disappointing no station in either of those markets is getting Chattanooga-The Citadel.

At the same time the action in Johnson Hagood Stadium begins, Western Kentucky-Florida Atlantic will kick off in Boca Raton. That game is also part of the ASN package, and it’s being televised in Charlotte — but the SoCon matchup is not.

I am frankly puzzled that UTC-The Citadel is not being televised in Columbia, especially since Western Carolina-Furman was carried by Sinclair’s Columbia affiliate (WACH) earlier this year.

Obviously, there are a lot of graduates of The Citadel who live in Columbia and Charlotte. They are not going to be very happy about the way this game has been distributed.

It’s a double whammy for them, in the sense that not only is the game not on TV in their area, but they can’t watch it on the SoCon Digital Network either. Some of The Citadel’s far-flung alumni will have the same problem (the same is true for Chattanooga fans, of course).

I understand what the SoCon was trying to do with this arrangement, and I’m not inclined to be overly critical about it. However, at this point I suspect most fans would rather not have the ASN package at all, and simply take their chances with the SoCon Digital Network.

The good news, from The Citadel’s perspective, is that Saturday’s contest will be the only football game involving the Bulldogs carried by ASN this season.

Update, 10/17/2014: The game will also be televised by MASN, a regional network based in the Baltimore/Washington DC area.

Over the years, I’ve written about Chattanooga (a/k/a UT-Chattanooga, a/k/a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a/k/a UTC) and its branding difficulties. The school has a webpage on its varsity athletics website devoted to one essential question: What is a Moc?

 The term “Moc” is short for “Mockingbird.” Mockingbirds are fiercely territorial creatures which protect their homes with courage, determination and skill.

In the past, “Moc” was short for “Moccasin”, and referred to a snake, or a shoe, or an Indian (two of them, actually — Chief Chattamoc and, later, Chief Moccanooga). Now it’s a bird.

Chattanooga is similar to The Citadel’s most recent opponent, Charlotte, in that it has been striving for a number of years to establish a “standard” name for its sports teams, i.e. Chattanooga. In this post, I’ll refer to “Chattanooga”, “UTC”, and “Mocs” when discussing its football program.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I see no harm in repeating it. A lot of people think The Citadel is a private school, though it is not and has never been.

UTC, on the other hand, was a private college for much of its history (the school was founded in 1886). It did not become a public institution until 1969, when it merged with the University of Tennessee.

Last week, Chattanooga lost 45-10 to Tennessee. For playing the Vols in Knoxville, UTC’s department of athletics received $450,000.

It was the second time this season the Mocs had played an FBS opponent, as Chattanooga had opened the season with a 20-16 loss at Central Michigan, a game for which UTC got a check for $350,000. Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman agreed to play a second FBS school this season in part because most of the money received for playing CMU is going to help pay for a new athletics and training center, which has an estimated total price tag of $12-$14 million.

Although still in the planning stages, the new facility, which will be 50,000-60,000 square feet, will include a large team meeting room, academic lounge, expanded offices for the football staff, a state-of-the-art training room and locker room that would be a dramatic upgrade from the team’s current cramped facility.

“The one thing that will allow Chattanooga athletics to take the next step forward, like a Georgia Southern or Appalachian State or North Dakota State, is if we can get an athletics facility built,” [Mocs AD David] Blackburn said. “Given our city and geographical footprint, that’s the only thing we lack. The biggest benefit of having that new facility built is recruiting. This would help us sell the program to the type recruits our staff needs to take that next step.

Of course, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State have made the move to FBS. There is no indication that Chattanooga is in a hurry to join those two schools, though last year it was revealed that UTC was on a list of institutions that were “candidates” for Sun Belt expansion.

One of the results of Chattanooga playing two FBS opponents this season is that the Mocs only have five home games. It does help UTC a little that four of them are league contests (against three road conference matchups).

Next year, the Mocs will play Florida State.

Last year, Chattanooga came oh-so-close to finally making the FCS postseason party, a feat the football program has not accomplished since 1984, when UTC made the playoffs for the only time in school history.

That year (1984) was also the last time the Mocs had won the SoCon until last season, when they tied for the title with Furman and Samford. The Paladins received the league’s automatic bid to the playoffs by winning a tiebreaker, while Samford garnered the conference’s sole at-large berth.

Chattanooga was left home with an 8-4 record (the most wins for the program since 1980). The critical loss was probably an overtime setback at Samford late in the season.

The SoCon’s major postseason awards were split last season, with the media and coaches differing on most of their selections. The Mocs swept the coach’s honors, however, with Russ Huesman (Coach of the Year), Jacob Huesman (Offensive Player of the Year), and Davis Tull (Defensive Player of the Year) all collecting trophies.

Jacob Huesman and Tull both return this year, along with several other fine players from last season’s UTC squad. Given that, along with the upheaval in conference membership, it was no surprise when Chattanooga was picked to win the league by 29 of 30 voting media members.

Chattanooga is 3-3 so far this season. The Mocs opened the year with the aforementioned game at Central Michigan, a contest UTC led 16-0 late in the first half before the Chippewas made a comeback.

In its next game, the home opener, Chattanooga dropped a 26-23 overtime decision to Jacksonville State (which is currently ranked 8th in FCS). UTC didn’t score an offensive touchdown in that game; both of its TDs came on interception returns. The Mocs were held to 111 yards of total offense.

UTC picked up its first victory of the season at Austin Peay, soundly defeating the OVC school 42-6. After a bye week, the Mocs defeated Samford 38-24, winning the turnover battle 3-0 and also returning a punt for a touchdown.

Chattanooga then crushed VMI 55-7, with the Keydets avoiding a shutout by scoring with 36 seconds remaining in the game. In the loss to Tennessee on Saturday, the Mocs turned the ball over three times.

UTC employs a run-oriented offense, having passed the ball (or been sacked attempting to do so) on 37.3% of its plays. However, 46.2% of Chattanooga’s total offense has come via the air.

The Mocs are currently last in the SoCon in total offense, though that is often a misleading statistic. Obviously, UTC’s non-league schedule has included two FBS squads and a top-10 FCS opponent as well, though that is balanced somewhat by games against Austin Peay and new conference member VMI.

Perhaps of more concern to UTC fans is its 4.9 yards per offensive play, the second-lowest average in the SoCon (ahead of only Furman). The Mocs are averaging 4.1 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per pass attempt (Chattanooga is second in the league in offensive pass efficiency).

UTC is converting 35.7% of its third-down attempts, not a particularly good percentage (The Citadel leads the conference in that category, at 49.4%). Chattanooga’s red zone offense has been effective, however, with a TD rate of 70.6%.

The Citadel’s offensive red zone TD rate is 70.3%, a stat buoyed by last week’s performance against Charlotte, when the Bulldogs scored nine touchdowns in nine red zone trips. Samford’s 78.9% TD rate leads the league; Furman’s ghastly 35.3% TD rate is last.

Jacob Huesman is the coach’s son, but he’s not starting because of nepotism. He’s a fine dual-threat quarterback. Earlier this season against VMI, Huesman passed two different career milestones — 2,000 yards rushing, and 4,000 yards passing. He became the first player in program history to attain both marks.

In 2014, the junior signal-caller has completed 62.5% of his passes, averaging 6.38 yards per attempt, with eight touchdowns against five interceptions. Huesman threw a 70-yard touchdown pass against Central Michigan. Against VMI, he tossed four TDs in the first half, ran for another, then opened the third quarter with a 44-yard touchdown run.

Huesman has been sacked eight times this season, with four of those coming against Jacksonville State.

Running back Keon Williams was a preseason All-SoCon selection. He missed last week’s game versus Tennessee with a wrist injury, but is expected to play against The Citadel. In last year’s matchup against the Bulldogs, Williams was injured on the opening kickoff and did not play for the rest of the game.

Williams rushed for 131 yards (on 21 carries) against Samford, his one dominant performance so far this season.

Tangent: in the SoCon weekly release’s “superlatives” section, Williams is credited with 131 yards *receiving* against Samford. That’s a mistake, as all of his yardage in that game came on the ground.

Tommy Hudson has missed the last two games with a turf toe problem, but should be back this week. Mike Houston described him as a “playmaker”, and no wonder.

Hudson is a wideout who also returns punts, and when he returns a punt, he has a tendency to go a long way. He has two punt return TDs already this season (a third TD was called back due to a penalty) and is averaging 32.8 yards per return, albeit on only four attempts.

As a receiver, he is averaging 14 yards per catch, with three touchdowns. He was on the receiving end of that 70-yard TD against Central Michigan thrown by Huesman.

C.J. Board, a 6’2″ sophomore, leads the Mocs with 16 receptions. He is averaging 11.75 yards per catch. The other starting wideout for the Mocs, Xavier Borishade, caught a 33-yard TD pass against the Bulldogs last season.

Faysal Shafaat, UTC’s starting tight end, is a 6’5″, 250 lb. handful. He caught a touchdown pass against The Citadel last year, part of an all-conference campaign (and also scored against the Bulldogs in 2012). This year, the native of Orlando has been hampered by a shoulder injury, but Shafaat has been healthy for the last two weeks, and had three receptions against Tennessee last Saturday.

UTC’s offensive line suffered a blow prior to its opening game when preseason all-conference pick Synjen Herren injured his knee and was lost for the season. Herren has now been replaced at left guard by Corey Levin (who had been the left tackle), one of several moves on the line.

The o-line is fairly big (two-deep average size: 6’3″, 287 lbs.). Starting right guard Chris Mayes, who began his collegiate career at Navy, is a senior who was moved from the defensive line in the spring.

Hunter Townson is a redshirt freshman who has started the last three games at left tackle for the Mocs. Starting center Jacob Revis is also a redshirt freshman, while right tackle Brandon Morgan has made 27 career starts.

While UTC may be last in the SoCon in total offense, it leads the league in total and rush defense, and its average yards/play allowed of 4.2 is the best mark in the conference.

Chattanooga is only allowing opponents an average of 3.1 yards per rush. The Citadel will have to do much better than that if the Bulldogs are to have a chance at winning this week.

The Mocs have 17 sacks on the season, which leads the league. In second place are the Bulldogs with 15, though 10 of those came in one game (versus Gardner-Webb).

Chattanooga opponents have only converted 36.1% of their third-down attempts. UTC’s defense has given up TDs 55% of the time in the red zone; the league leader in that category happens to be The Citadel, at 51.7%.

UTC has forced 12 turnovers, second-best in the SoCon, and has a turnover margin of +3, also second-best in the league. Chattanooga has recovered six opponents’ fumbles and intercepted six passes, returning two of those errant tosses for TDs (both against Jacksonville State, as mentioned earlier).

Against The Citadel’s triple option attack, the Mocs will likely not deviate from their standard front of four down linemen.

Defensive end Davis Tull is the active FCS leader in sacks, with 32.5. He already has six sacks so far this season, with eleven total tackles for loss. Four of those tackles for loss (and two sacks) came against Samford, a game in which Tull also forced a fumble.

UTC has two quality players at the nosetackle position. Daniel Ring is a transfer from Navy who has started 17 consecutive games, while Derrick Lott is a major roadblock for any offense. Lott, who started his career at Georgia, is a 6’4″, 303 lb. wrecking ball with four sacks this year, his sixth as a collegian (he was injured for most of last season and did not play against The Citadel).

Josh Freeman has two sacks this season, and they came last week against Tennessee. The other starter on the d-line is end Zack Rayl. His backup at right end, Keionta Davis, has three sacks and two forced fumbles this year.

Middle linebacker Muhasabi Wakeel leads the team in tackles, with 49. Last year against The Citadel, he was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Week after a 17-tackle performance.

Nakevion Leslie had 17 tackles versus Central Michigan and has 36 stops on the season. Strong safety Cedric Nettles is averaging 6.8 tackles per game.

Redshirt freshman Lucas Webb is the starting free safety. He has three interceptions, two against Samford and a pick-six versus Jacksonville State.

The other player to return an interception for a TD against JSU, cornerback Dee Virgin, is a 5’10” sophomore from Donalsonville, Georgia. He is second in the SoCon in passes defended, with eight.

The other starter at cornerback for the Mocs, Jeremiah Hay, is also 5’10”, and the first junior college transfer to play for UTC since Russ Huesman became the head coach. Hay is a native of Miami who began his collegiate career at Mississippi before transferring to Pasadena (CA) City College.

Chattanooga has excellent special teams across the board. Hudson is clearly a threat to take any punt back to the house. The Mocs also have an outstanding kick coverage unit.

Placekicker Henrique Ribeiro is a native of Brazil who went to high school in Chattanooga, where he discovered football. He is 6-6 this season kicking field goals (with a long of 47), which means this game will feature two kickers yet to miss a FG this season (as The Citadel’s Eric Goins has made all seven of his field goal attempts).

Nick Pollard handles both the punting and kickoff duties for the Mocs. He is averaging 42.2 yards per punt, with no touchbacks. Eleven of his thirty-nine punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Odds and ends:

- Last season, Chattanooga defeated The Citadel 28-24. I guess UTC was lucky that the final margin was four points, since the Mocs have lost 10 straight games decided by three points or less.

- Chattanooga has no players from South Carolina on its roster. The Mocs do have one Palmetto State connection, as linebackers coach Rusty Wright is from Petticoat Junction, SC.

- Aaron Miller’s 197 rushing yards against Charlotte were the most by any SoCon player so far this season. The 553 rushing yards the Bulldogs had as a team in that game were the most for any FCS squad in 2014.

- Per one source that deals in such matters, Chattanooga is a 7 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 49 1/2.

- Earlier this week, The Citadel’s game next season against South Carolina was confirmed. The game will be played on November 21, 2015, and will be the final regular-season matchup that season for the military college.

The Bulldogs will play seven league games next season (four at home) and four non-conference contests (remember, next year the regular-season schedule reverts back to 11 games). The four games The Citadel will play outside the SoCon: at South Carolina, at Georgia Southern (provisionally scheduled for September 19), home against Charleston Southern (on September 26), home against Davidson (the season opener in 2015, on September 5).

This week, The Citadel’s defense will face an offense with a dual-threat quarterback, a quality running back, a big-play threat at wide receiver, and a fairly large offensive line. The Bulldogs encountered a similar cast of characters against Charlotte, and the result was not pretty. As an unwanted bonus, UTC also features a talented tight end who is a serious matchup problem.

The Bulldogs’ D has a major challenge on Saturday. It’s not an impossible one, but it’s difficult.

On the other side of the ball, The Citadel’s offensive line must win the battle up front with an outstanding defensive line, one with multiple playmakers. That will not be easy.

Chattanooga’s special teams units also tend to have the upper hand in most of its games. The Bulldogs must be very sharp in the kicking game on Saturday.

All that said, The Citadel can win this game. It’s an opportunity for the Bulldogs, a chance to make an impact on the conference title race.

It should be a nice, sunny day in Charleston on Saturday. I’m looking forward to an early kickoff at Johnson Hagood Stadium and an exciting, competitive game.

It will be even more exciting if it ends in a Bulldog victory.

 

Game review, 2014: Charlotte

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Game story, The Charlotte Observer

WCSC-TV highlights; also, extended interviews with Mike Houston, Aaron Miller, Rah Muhammad, Cody Richardson, Dalton Trevino, and Cam Jackson

WCIV-TV highlights

Box score

When it was finally over, after Cody Richardson had preserved the victory for The Citadel by batting away Charlotte’s last-gasp pass, I didn’t immediately celebrate. I didn’t shout or jump for joy or high-five everyone around me.

I just sat back down, and put my head in my hands.

That game wore me out. I can’t imagine what it did to the players who played in the game, or the coaches who coached in it.

Someone asked me later how long my game review was going to be. My initial reaction was that the review would be two sentences. “We won. Thank God.”

A complete breakdown of the back and forth of this contest would be so long as to make Tolstoy throw up his hands in despair. I am certainly not going to try.

I do have a few thoughts on the game, though…

- The Citadel ran 100 plays from scrimmage on Saturday, a school record, although the two overtime periods are responsible for it being a record. The old regulation mark of 93 plays still stands, as the Bulldogs ran 92 plays from scrimmage against Charlotte before OT began (and then ran eight plays in overtime action).

Actually, The Citadel ran 102 plays from scrimmage, but two of them didn’t count because of penalties.

Of those 100 plays, twenty-five of them went for ten yards or more. Yes, one-fourth of The Citadel’s offensive plays resulted in a gain of at least ten yards.

That’s almost twice as many as the total number of plays the Bulldogs ran that went for no yardage, or lost yardage. The Citadel had thirteen of those — nine incomplete passes, two running plays for no gain, and two running plays that lost one and two yards, respectively.

The Bulldogs had twenty running plays of 10+ yards, and six other rushes that gained nine yards. That means exactly one-third of The Citadel’s 78 running plays wound up as gains of 9+ yards.

In a way, it makes you wonder why The Citadel threw as often as it did, but I’m not going to question any of Brent Thompson’s playcalling. Why should I? His offense finished with 36 first downs, 689 yards of total offense, an average gain of almost seven yards per play, and nine TDs.

That’s good enough for me. It’s good enough for anybody. I’m just glad it was (barely) good enough to win the game on Saturday.

- Attention, slick coaching move alert: this alert went off late in the fourth quarter, when a trick punt formation by The Citadel forced Charlotte to call its remaining timeout. That lost timeout for the 49ers was arguably crucial in helping the Bulldogs survive until overtime. Nicely done, Mike Houston.

- In my game preview, I referred to Charlotte wide receiver Austin Duke as “very good, and very dangerous.” He was all of that and more against the Bulldogs, despite dropping two potential TD passes during the game.

The 49ers’ season-long propensity for big plays continued unabated on Saturday. Six of Charlotte’s seven touchdowns were thirteen yards or longer; 83- and 71-yard TDs for Duke, a 13-yard reception for Trent Bostick, and touchdown runs by Duke (15 yards), Kalif Phillips (26 yards) and Maetron Thomas (25 yards to open the first overtime period).

In addition to those touchdowns, the 49ers had five other runs of 15+ yards and pass completions of 15, 21, and 28 yards.

- The one thing Charlotte struggled with at times on offense was finishing drives when it got close to the goal line. The 49ers only scored three touchdowns in seven red zone trips (conversely, The Citadel’s nine offensive trips inside the 20 all resulted in TDs).

Charlotte had trouble punching the ball into the end zone the closer it got to it. Duke scored from 15 yards out on the 49ers’ first possession, but UNCC’s third drive bogged down after having first-and-goal from the Bulldogs’ 8-yard line, and Charlotte settled for a field goal.

The 49ers subsequently scored from 13 yards out on a pass to Bostick, and Duke later had a 7-yard TD catch, but Charlotte wasted other opportunities deep in Bulldog territory. The Citadel stopped Charlotte on downs at the 10-yard line on a 4th-and-2 play in the third quarter (when the 49ers were in position to take their first lead of the game). Charlotte was held to another field goal later in the game after having 2nd-and-goal on the Bulldogs’ 4-yard line.

Of course, the 49ers’ other goal-to-go failure came in the second overtime period, with eight plays from inside the 11-yard line (including one that resulted in a Bulldog penalty which gave Charlotte a fresh set of downs at the 3-yard line).

The game’s final sequence may have illustrated the difference between the two teams. If it’s possible to say there was a decisive factor in a 63-56 2OT game, red zone offense and defense might have been it.

- Matt Johnson has been inconsistent at times for the 49ers this season (he entered the game against the Bulldogs with 7 TDs and 8 interceptions), but the Charlotte quarterback hardly put a foot wrong on Saturday. He threw an excellent deep ball and showed good accuracy on short- and mid-range passes.

His decision-making was also good, as he made very few mistakes, none of any real consequence. His most impressive move may have actually been an incomplete pass on the next-to-last play of the game, imaginatively throwing the ball away to avoid a sack by Mitchell Jeter.

- Speaking of people who had a good game, Aaron Miller was exceptional. His performance was essentially a “how-to” guide for playing quarterback in an option offense. He made excellent reads, put the ball exactly where it needed to be on pitches, and threw the ball well all day long.

Miller was at his best when running with the football. I particularly liked how he finished runs, regularly falling forward for extra yardage while maintaining good ball security. All in all, it was a tour-de-force for #12.

- I just wanted to note here that I thought the scattered booing for Kalif Phillips when he got hurt near the end of regulation was unwarranted. Booing an injured player is always wrong, of course.

I understand that some people thought he was faking an injury to stop the clock, but it wouldn’t have affected the game anyway, since the 49ers had picked up a first down on the previous play and the clock had stopped to move the chains. As it happened, any advantage Charlotte may have gained by saving time was lost when the 49ers didn’t immediately snap the ball after the clock was re-started.

Some of the crowd’s ire may have been a result of Charlotte having several players go down (mostly on defense) as the game progressed. Phillips got “blamed” for being the last 49er to leave the field, if you will.

Phillips may have just been worn out. It would be understandable, as he took a lot of hits while toting the ball 22 times. Phillips didn’t return for the overtime periods, though I don’t think his absence affected the game’s outcome. Charlotte’s failure to score in the second OT was (as mentioned above) another example of its game-long difficulties inside the 10-yard line.

- The attendance (10,467) was both unsurprising and disappointing. Jim Senter has work to do.

I thought the amount of people on campus for Parents’ Day was fairly typical. I didn’t think it was possible for that many individuals to be in the campus bookstore at the same time, though.

The number of people tailgating didn’t seem to me to be quite as high as normal, but I could be very wrong about that. I would be willing to listen to other opinions on the subject.

- I don’t know if the coaches were a little disappointed in the limited number of fans cheering on the team during the Dogwalk. I could understand if they were, but it’s a direct reflection of the morning parade ending just prior to the players arriving at the stadium. The timing just isn’t ideal for the big weekends (Parents’ Day, Homecoming).

This week’s photo gallery (seen below) features a smattering of Saturday’s non-football activity, including some shots inside Murray Barracks, the parade, etc. You know the drill by now — the photos are not going to win any Pulitzers, there is an element of randomness, the photographer is beyond hopeless, etc. This time, there are quite a few pictures. Quantity over quality, I guess.

Mike Houston greeted the media after the game by quietly exclaiming, “Holy Cow!”

You said it, coach.

 

2014 Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. Charlotte

Edit 10/12/2014 — The followup post: Game review, 2014: Charlotte

The Citadel vs. Charlotte, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, October 11. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed for free on the SoCon Digital Network, the league’s new streaming platform.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Mike Legg (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station for The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game that will be hosted by Ted Byrne. The pregame show and game broadcast will be produced by Jay Harper, who will also provide updates on other college football action.

Links of interest:

Game notes for The Citadel and Charlotte

SoCon weekly release

Mike Houston 10/7 press conference

Mike Houston on the SoCon media teleconference

Video clip of Brad Lambert’s 10/7 press conference

49ers face undesirable option

Mitchell Jeter is the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week

Profile of DeAndre Schoultz by The Aiken Standard

Mike Houston said of his team and the game against Wofford that “we’re moving on“, and that’s fine with me. That’s not to say the ruling on the game’s final play will be forgotten. There will always be a giant asterisk associated with that contest.

This week’s opponent is Charlotte. I grew up referring to the school as “UNC Charlotte” or “UNCC”.

Now, however, the school wishes to be referred to simply as “Charlotte”, at least for its sports teams. The actual name of the institution remains the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

It might surprise some people to know that the change to “Charlotte” for varsity athletics was actually made in 2000. I think it’s fair to say that it’s taken a while to catch on as the default name. Of course, continuing to call the school “UNC Charlotte” in other arenas has probably made it harder to get everyone on board with the move.

In this post, I’ll mostly call the football team “Charlotte” or the “49ers”. I’ll throw in an occasional “UNCC”, though, in honor of the great Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell.

The city of Charlotte had wanted a public school to call its own since the end of the Civil War, but it had to wait a while. When the State of North Carolina decided to establish a land-grant college in 1887 (after an argument over the terms of the Morrill Land-Grant Act), the location of the new school was in play.

However, Charlotte lost out to Raleigh, which became the home of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. That school is now known, of course, as North Carolina State University.

In 1946, North Carolina opened fourteen evening college centers across the state in an attempt to meet the educational demand created by returning World War II veterans. One of the fourteen centers was in Charlotte.

Three years later, the state closed the schools, but the Charlotte Center was taken over by the city and renamed Charlotte College, operating as a two-year program. That takeover-and-survival happened in 1949, and is the primary reason the university’s sports teams are now called the 49ers.

The college moved to its current campus in 1961, became a four-year school in 1964, and was made part of the UNC university system in 1965. It is now the fourth-largest school in the system and has over 27,000 students, including 21,500 undergraduates.

While this is the second year of Charlotte’s modern-day football program, the school actually fielded teams in 1946, 1947, and 1948. They were known as the “Owls” (due to the students attending classes at night) and played other schools’ JV squads.

In 1947, the Owls played a Thanksgiving Day game against a team called the “Brookland-Cayce All-Stars” in Columbia. The coach that season was a former guard at Clemson named Marion “Footsie” Woods.

Why did the school decide to start (or technically, re-start) a football program? Chancellor Philip Dubois:

This is a long-term strategic plan that will pay huge dividends for students, alumni, faculty and staff at this vibrant university. It will foster a full university experience that many students crave as undergraduates.

It also will help build closer relationships with our growing ranks of UNC Charlotte alumni and the greater Charlotte community. Despite the economic challenges facing us all, this university is growing by leaps and bounds. We expect to have 35,000 students on campus by 2020 and we have strong support for football. We expect that will grow even stronger as we get closer to making it a reality.

Another factor may have been trying to create a common bond among students at what is still in many respects a commuter school (only 24% of undergraduates live on campus). Then there was the sentiment expressed by at least one alumnus:

For us to be a real school, and for us to have a college community that schools with football have, we had to have football.

Originally, Charlotte was going to be an FCS program, with no real designs (at least officially) on moving up to FBS. That changed in a hurry. From May of 2012:

A source with knowledge of the football-driven situation confirmed to the Observer on Tuesday afternoon that the 49ers will return to the league they played in from 1995-2005…

…The timing of Charlotte’s move is not known. The 49ers begin playing football in 2013 as an FCS (formerly I-AA) independent and must stay at that level for at least two years before moving up to FBS. Charlotte’s other sports programs could conceivably join CUSA earlier than that.

That is exactly what happened. (Another move mentioned in the linked blog post that didn’t happen: a CUSA-Mountain West merger. Uh, no.)

Next season Charlotte’s football program will begin competing in CUSA. Is it ready for that jump?

So far, the 49ers’ progress on the gridiron has arguably been a little slower than fellow CUSA startups Old Dominion and UTSA. ODU won seven games against scholarship D-1 programs in its second season, while UTSA won eight games in its second campaign, including five against FBS teams.

To be fair, it’s still early. The rest of Year 2, and the following seasons to come, will tell the tale.

Charlotte was 5-6 in 2013. The 49ers made their debut at Jerry Richardson Stadium with a 52-7 thrashing of Campbell, part of a 4-2 start to the season that included a a 42-21 win at Presbyterian and a dramatic, come-from-way-behind 53-51 victory over Gardner-Webb. In the latter contest, Charlotte trailed by 21 points entering the fourth quarter, but scored 29 points in the final period (including touchdowns on three consecutive offensive plays) to get the win.

The rest of the year was a bit of a struggle, however. Charlotte lost four straight games, including sizable defeats to UNC-Pembroke, Charleston Southern, and Coastal Carolina. The 49ers also lost to Division III Wesley College before closing their initial campaign with a resounding 61-17 victory over Morehead State.

UNCC opened this year by winning at Campbell 33-9, then hammering Johnson C. Smith 56-0. The 49ers followed that up with a 40-28 victory over North Carolina Central, though there were warning signs despite the triumph.

In that game, Charlotte led 40-0 after three quarters, but had to put its starters back on the field later in the fourth quarter to ensure its large lead wouldn’t be completely blown.

The next game was a matchup at Elon, and the 49ers lost their first game of the season 20-13. Charleston Southern then came to town and left with a 47-41 OT victory, a contest that Charlotte trailed 34-17 before making a valiant comeback.

Last week, the 49ers went to Gardner-Webb and lost 27-24, scoring a late TD to pull within three points, but never getting the ball back after the Runnin’ Bulldogs recovered an onside kick. Charlotte is now 3-3 on the season.

The head coach of the 49ers is Brad Lambert, who was a defensive back at Kansas State in the mid-1980s before beginning a career as a college coach. Lambert was on Jim Donnan’s staffs at Marshall and Georgia before taking a job as Jim Grobe’s linebackers coach at Wake Forest in 2000.

Six years later, Wake Forest would win an improbable ACC title and play in the Orange Bowl. The following season, Lambert would become the Demon Deacons’ defensive coordinator. The job with the 49ers is Lambert’s first head coaching position.

On offense, Charlotte runs a no-huddle, hurry-up spread offense. The 49ers run the ball 58% of the time, but 54% of their total yardage has come via the pass.

The pass completion rate is 51%, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. Charlotte has thrown seven touchdown passes, but has been intercepted ten times. The 49ers are averaging 5.4 yards per rush.

In its last three games (all losses), Charlotte really struggled on third down. The 49ers were 5-15 against Elon, 2-9 against Charleston Southern, and 2-14 against Gardner-Webb.

One thing that stands out about Charlotte’s numbers are the number of plays from scrimmage, both for the 49ers and their opponents, particularly in relation to time of possession.

UNCC is averaging 68.3 offensive plays per game, which is not an exceptional amount. However, it’s actually a high rate when you consider that Charlotte has a time of possession average of only 24:40. Opponents have had the ball almost eleven minutes more per game than the 49ers.

Charlotte’s offense is thus running 2.77 plays per minute, which is a very high number. For comparison, Coastal Carolina (which likes to line up and go, too) averaged 2.57 plays per game in 2013.

So far this season, The Citadel’s offense is averaging 2.23 plays per minute (last year, that number was 2.03).

This has a tendency to skew both the offensive and defensive statistics for the 49ers. What it does to the defense on a practical level is open to question. It certainly hasn’t helped the D in its last three games.

Elon had the ball for 36:17 against the 49ers. Charleston Southern’s time of possession was 41:52. Gardner-Webb’s was 36:49.

That can wear out a defense. Charleston Southern ran 89 plays in regulation from the line of scrimmage (not counting plays wiped out by penalty).

Elon ran 97 offensive plays against Charlotte. The Phoenix has not run more than 76 plays in any other game this year, but may have decided to go up-tempo to take advantage of the 49ers’ lack of depth.

Charlotte is a big-play team in every respect. It gets ‘em, and it gives ‘em up. Offense, defense, special teams — 49er games are rollercoaster affairs.

The offense has produced twelve pass plays of 35 yards or more, including three in its last game against Gardner-Webb for 55, 59 (TD), and 80 (TD) yards. The 49ers have had six rushing plays of 40+ yards, including a 77-yard TD run versus Charleston Southern and a 70-yard rush against North Carolina Central.

That tendency to break a long gainer is a major reason why Charlotte has had 11 touchdown drives this season that lasted less than 1:30 in duration. Three of those possessions were one-play scoring drives.

The defense has chipped in with three scoring plays of its own, including a pick-six last week in the Gardner-Webb game.

Conversely, opponents have also had some moments to savor. Charleston Southern had two 45-yard plays, a run and a pass reception (with the run going for a TD).

Gardner-Webb’s scoring plays included a 71-yard reception and a 95-yard kickoff return, and the Runnin’ Bulldogs had two other pass plays of 30+ yards. North Carolina Central’s four 4th-quarter touchdowns included a fumble return by its defense and a 21-yard reception (with a 35-yard completion setting up another Eagles TD).

Charlotte and its opponents have combined to average 4.7 turnovers per game and 16 penalties per contest. Also, while the 49ers have had a solid year kicking field goals (14-18), their opponents are only 5-15.

In other words, Charlotte’s games this season have featured a lot of erratic but entertaining play.

Starting quarterback Matt Johnson has started every game for Charlotte over the past two seasons. He’s a big QB (6’3″, 230 lbs.) who can run or pass. He threw for 335 yards against Charleston Southern, and ran for 150 yards versus North Carolina Central.

Like several of the 49ers’ skill position players, he’s a big-play threat. Johnson can make it happen via the air (eight completed passes of 50+ yards) or the ground (a 70-yard run against North Carolina Central and a 49-yarder versus Gardner-Webb).

In the SoCon media teleconference, Mike Houston described Charlotte running back Kalif Phillips as “dynamic”. He’s a 5’11”, 205 lb. sophomore from Kannapolis.

Phillips is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and almost 100 yards rushing per game. He has ten rushing touchdowns, including a long of 77 yards versus Charleston Southern. Phillips can catch the ball, but has not really been asked to do so this season (only two receptions).

The most difficult individual matchup for The Citadel on Saturday might be 5’9″, 152 lb. receiver Austin Duke, a true blazer from Independence High School in Charlotte.

He caught 62 passes last season for 727 yards and six touchdowns, and is well on his way to exceeding those numbers this year. In fact, Duke is likely to surpass his 2013 reception yardage against The Citadel, as he already has 712 yards receiving through six games (on 44 receptions).

Duke is averaging over 16 yards per reception and has five TDs, including an 80-yarder against Gardner-Webb, a 65-yard score versus North Carolina Central, and touchdowns of 61 and 74 yards against Charleston Southern. His TD catch versus Elon went for a mere 19 yards. He’s very good, and very dangerous.

Fellow wideout Dmarjai Devine is more than capable of picking up the slack if teams pay too much attention to Duke (if it’s possible to pay too much attention to Duke). Devine has caught twelve passes this season, including 55- and 59-yarders just last week against Gardner-Webb.

Will Thomas, who backs up Duke at receiver, was Charlotte’s first official football signee.

The 49ers’ H-back, Justin Bolus, went to James Island High School. He has a relatively modest six catches so far this season, but Bolus bears watching — he burned Campbell for a 62-yard reception. Bolus underwent stomach surgery twice in 2012, but returned to the gridiron and played in all 11 games the following year.

Charlotte has a large offensive line, with both tackles and both guards starting every game this season for the 49ers. Average height and weight of the starters: 6’4″, 304 lbs.

Right guard Daniel Blitch, a redshirt senior, is a transfer from Wake Forest. Blitch and right tackle Danny Book (who started his career at Albany) are both 6’6″; left guard Casey Perry, at 335 lbs., is the heaviest of the starters.

The 49ers operate out of a base 3-4 defense, though how they decide to line up against The Citadel’s triple option attack is another matter. While Charlotte has already played one option team in Charleston Southern, the Bulldogs will present a slightly different look.

“This is truly a triple-option,” said Charlotte coach Brad Lambert…”It’s very similar to what they run at Navy, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern that we’ve seen before. Over the years we’ve played against this kind of offense quite a bit. So we know what we’re getting into.”

[Mike] Houston knows what he’s doing with the triple-option. He rode it all the way to the NCAA Division II championship game at Lenoir-Rhyne last season. After three years as the Bears’ coach, he left for The Citadel in January.

“Mike’s won a truckload of games over the years,” Lambert said. “Wherever he’s been, he’s been a proven winner.”

…[Aaron] Miller “is operating the offense pretty good,” Lambert said. “He’s making better decisions the further they get into it.”…

…“We’ve got to stay fundamental against them,” Charlotte safety Desmond Cooper said. “They’ll be running, running, running, then hit you with a pass.”

Mike Houston described the 49ers’ defense as “tall, lean, and athletic”, adding that “they run very well”.

The defensive line is rangy, with no player on the two-deep shorter than 6’2″. The heaviest member of the d-line is starting nosetackle Larry Ogunjobi, a 275 lb. redshirt sophomore from Greensboro.

Charlotte has had some injury problems in its linebacking corps. The two starting inside linebackers on the season’s first depth chart are both out. Their replacements are both redshirt freshmen; one of them, Dustin Crouser, has two interceptions for UNCC.

Outside linebacker Nico Alcalde (6’2″, 205 lbs.) has started every game for the 49ers over the last two seasons. Fellow outside ‘backer Tyler DeStefani (6’4″, 220 lbs.) is a redshirt senior pursuing a masters’ degree in mathematical finance.

Safety Branden Dozier has a fumble return and an interception return for a touchdown this season. He’s a transfer from Butler County Community College who wears #3, the same number sported by 49ers running back Kalif Phillips.

Fellow safety Desmond Cooper is also a transfer, having started his career at Wake Forest. Cooper is a redshirt senior.

Cornerback Greg Cunningham Jr. has two interceptions this year, one of six Charlotte players with at least one pick. Cunningham is 6’2″, while the other starting corner, the excellently named Tank Norman, is 5’10”.

Placekicker Blake Brewer is 12-16 converting field goals this season, with a long of 50 yards. He also serves as the 49ers’ kickoff specialist.

Arthur Hart, the starting punter, is a freshman from Grafton, Wisconsin. He attended the Model Secondary School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington, DC. Hart has been hard of hearing since birth.

He is averaging 36.6 yards per punt, not a huge number. However, only one of Hart’s 27 punts this season has been returned (for six yards).

Damarrel Alexander is Kalif Phillips’ backup at running back and also the principal kick returner for the 49ers. He has a long return this season of 30 yards. Austin Duke also returns kickoffs for Charlotte (though only one so far this year).

Ardy Holmes, a transfer from Marshall, is the starting punt returner. Holmes took over those duties against Gardner-Webb after regular return man Corey Nesmith suffered a foot injury.

Odds and ends:

- The Citadel is the first SoCon team that Charlotte has played, either this year or last. The 49ers have played six games against Big South opposition (going 2-4) and are 1-1 versus MEAC teams and 0-2 against CAA squads.

- Saturday’s game will, rather curiously, be the last road game of the season for Charlotte. The 49ers will have a bye next week and then play their final four games at home, against James Madison, Coastal Carolina, Wesley College, and Morehead State.

- Charlotte’s tight ends coach, Johnson Richardson, was a tight end at Wofford before beginning his coaching career. He is the grandson of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, for whom the 49ers’ football stadium is named (Richardson gave the school $10 million to help it build the facility).

- For the third time this season, The Citadel will play a gridiron opponent for the first time, with Charlotte joining Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb in that category.

- Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 12-point favorite over Charlotte (as of Thursday morning). As always, keep in mind that FCS odds are often…odd.

- Charlotte is transitioning to FBS status and thus is in the process of increasing its scholarship allotment for football. According to Adam Smith of the Burlington Times-News, the 49ers currently have about 75 players on scholarship. The ceiling for FBS is 85; the limit for equivalencies in FCS is 63.

- In a recent interview, Jim Senter mentioned that under his administration, facility rentals would be a key element in providing incoming funds to the department of athletics.

It is no surprise, then, that a page devoted to such rentals recently popped up on the school’s sports website.

- This weekend is Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel, and as usual there are a lot of things going on all over campus. I don’t know how many people will be in attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, but there is no doubt in my mind that the tailgating areas will be packed to capacity. They always are.

- Congratulations to the seniors who will get their rings this week. As always, a reminder: rings are nice, but diplomas are even nicer.

- I’m also happy for the freshmen who this week will pass the first of many benchmarks in their cadet careers. I’m sure they thought cadre would never end, but it could have been worse.

They could have been freshmen during a cadre period that lasted until November 2. [Involuntary shudder]

- Spike The Bulldog is now 5-1 in the Capitol One Mascot Challenge, having triumphed over Iowa State’s Cy The Cardinal last week. This week, our hero takes on Big Red, the nightmare-inducing mascot for Western Kentucky.

Vote for Spike!

I have two main concerns about this game:

- Charlotte has a lot of talented players. The 49ers may not be the deepest team, but you only have to play 11 at a time.

Will the Bulldogs be able to contain Austin Duke and Kalif Phillips? How does the defense prevent a dual-threat QB like Matt Johnson from having a big game?

Can the offense move the ball consistently and avoid the turnover bug? The 49ers, if nothing else, are a ball-hawking squad.

- The other consideration is more psychological. Mike Houston said “we’re moving on,” and it’s important that the players do just that.

My greatest fear is that the call at the end of the Wofford game winds up costing The Citadel not one but two wins, because of a hangover effect. The coaches must prevent that from happening.

One thing everyone learned over this past week is that The Citadel’s fan base is a passionate group. It demands effort and quality in all areas.

I’m quite sure Mike Houston already knew that, but I suspect new AD Jim Senter may now have a new appreciation for just how much the fans care about the football program (and the school). They can be a boisterous lot, too.

I’ll be in the stands on Saturday, along with a few of my occasionally rowdy friends. I have high hopes for the atmosphere at Johnson Hagood Stadium this weekend.

I also have high hopes for a victory.

Game review, 2014: Wofford

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Box score

Oh, well. What can you do? Aaron Miller appeared to score the game-winning touchdown for The Citadel, only for the SoCon officials to rule he didn’t score, and thus handing the victory* to Wofford.

You could see the end-play debacle by the men in stripes coming, as they seemed unprepared for the Bulldogs’ last-minute push for a TD. The players and coaches on both teams did a good job of handling the time management issues associated with end-game drives, but the officials seemed confused (if not outright chaotic) in their movements.

This was best exemplified by the bizarre “double spike” sequence on first-and-goal, in which Aaron Miller had to repeat spiking the ball on first down because the ball was deemed not ready for play, even though it had been put in play by the umpire. That’s because the clock didn’t start.

I had never seen that happen before, and I doubt anyone else had either.

On the final play, the officials hesitated, then apparently decided “well, he probably scored but let’s just give the game to the home team and get out of here.” Then they quickly ran off the field (no significant discussion necessary), looking a lot like characters from a Mack Sennett movie.

The ruling was very hard to swallow for anyone who supports The Citadel. I can’t imagine how the players and coaches feel (especially as it’s already the second time this season the Bulldogs have lost a game in which poor SoCon officiating played a major role).

It was arguably not as bad as the 2008 Elon game, which featured multiple ludicrous late-game officiating decisions, but that’s small consolation.

The call served as yet another reminder that at least in recent years, the conference has not treated The Citadel very well in a wide variety of areas. One that I’ve written about before, of course, is the fact that no one associated with The Citadel is in the SoCon Hall of Fame, despite the military college being a member of the league since 1936.

When there is controversy over the officiating like there was in Spartanburg on Saturday, what makes the Hall of Fame snub even worse is the knowledge that the league changed its rules for eligibility in order to elect two basketball officiating supervisors to the Hall.

The league is essentially saying that no one from The Citadel is good enough for its Hall of Fame, but those in charge of the league’s oft-maligned officials are more than good enough.

Perhaps the SoCon could have taken the money it allocated for its Hall of Fame and used it to help fix its longstanding officiating problems. Then again, the conference sometimes struggles with long-term decisions, as demonstrated by how it has gradually run the league baseball tournament into the ground.

Ultimately, The Citadel has to win games like this by two or three scores, to ensure the officials can’t play as large a role in the outcome. It’s a tough thing to say, but it’s true.

To have won the game by multiple scores on Saturday, the Bulldogs needed to be a little better in certain areas:

- Wofford converted all four of its fourth-down tries. That made up for the Terriers only going 4-12 on third down. The Bulldogs needed to force a defensive stop on a couple of those fourth down plays, particularly on the long drive in the second quarter.

- The Citadel only averaged 3.7 yards per rush. The longest run from scrimmage for the Bulldogs was 15 yards. Conversely, Wofford had five rushing plays that went for more than 15 yards.

- I wasn’t completely sure about Mike Houston’s decision to eschew a 43-yard field goal attempt on the opening drive in favor of going for it on 4th-and-16 from the Wofford 26. It is possible that 43 yards was on the fringe of Eric Goins’ range, and the wind was against the Bulldogs at the time.

It’s just that 4th-and-16 is a very low-percentage offensive situation. I’ll defer to the coach, though, on whether or not is was still a higher percentage than a field goal attempt would have been.

Positives:

- Well, I’m still alive despite how the game ended. I guess that counts as a positive.

- I thought the team played very hard on Saturday. There is no question that the effort was there. The result should have been there, too.

- I just want to note (and not for the first time) that Spike The Bulldog is a hard-working mascot. As an alumnus, I really appreciate this. I also want to give a shout-out to Spike The Bulldog’s press agent, Cadet Diefendorf, who is never far from Spike’s side.

- It was also good to see General II and Boo X at the game. I wish that for future road trips (or at least relatively short ones), the same can be said for the cheerleaders, and perhaps a small pep band.

- As usual, a lot of alums and other supporters of The Citadel were in attendance. No school in the league has fans who “travel” better.

- Jim Senter’s tie received rave reviews.

Now, The Citadel’s new director of athletics needs to have a long conversation with SoCon commissioner John Iamarino, who was also at the game on Saturday. As usual, Iamarino’s hair was perfect, and his officials were not.

Senter may not know yet (though he’ll soon find out) that basketball officiating in the Southern Conference is even more ridiculed by veteran league observers. The AD should let Iamarino know that the conference really needs to get its act together on all fronts.

This may be unfair or unwarranted, but there is a definite sense among many loyal supporters of The Citadel that the conference takes the military college for granted. The commissioner might want to do something about that.

This week’s crop of mediocre-to-bad photos ends about midway through the fourth quarter, due to battery issues.

2014 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 4. The game will not be televised. It will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Darren Goldwater providing play-by-play and Corey Miller supplying the analysis.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Mike Legg (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station for The Citadel Sports Network. The two-hour pregame show and game broadcast will be produced by Jay Harper, who will also provide updates on other college football action.

Note: this game will NOT be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network.

Links of interest:

Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

Bulldogs “break big”

Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference

Mike Ayers on the SoCon teleconference and at his media luncheon

This is the eighth time in the last nine years the game between The Citadel and Wofford is being televised over the air (SportSouth, SCETV, etc.) or streamed on ESPN3.com. For the third year in the row, the game is on ESPN3.com, and for the third year in the row Darren Goldwater will be handling play-by-play.

Last year, Goldwater worked this game with Paul Maguire. This time, his analyst is former South Carolina linebacker Corey Miller.

Over the past ten seasons (counting this one), The Citadel has only won three times when appearing on television/ESPN3.com, though the Bulldogs did beat Samford last year in an ESPN3 game. The Citadel has to improve its winning percentage in “TV games”, if for no other reason than because the football program is going to appear on television/ESPN3.com more often going forward.

I mentioned in my review of the Gardner-Webb game that even though there were a lot of positives to be taken away from the contest, there is still a lot of room for improvement for The Citadel. I’ll mention just a few things that need to get better, or are cause for concern.

- Placekicking was, by and large, a success story last week. All three field goal attempts were converted, and they were critical to the eventual victory.

The Citadel’s Eric Goins is 5-5 on field goal attempts for the season, which is outstanding. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs are only 4-7 converting PATs (and missed one against Gardner-Webb).

One of the oldest clichés in gridiron lore is that missing a short kick or PAT will “come back to haunt ‘em”. There is a lot of truth to that, though.

Admittedly, I’ll take those three-point FGs over single-point PATs every time. It’s just that in football, teams have to be greedy. They need all the points.

The Citadel has been a little lucky with a couple of deflections, too, although maybe not as lucky as Wofford was in this matchup two years ago (Domonic Jones is probably still wondering how that ball traveled so far).

- It finally happened last week. The Citadel forced a turnover, the first of the season for the defense (a fumble recovery by Joe Crochet after a Carson Smith sack).

However, the Bulldogs still lost the turnover battle to Gardner-Webb 2-1 (yes, the weird de facto onside kick in the first half counts as a lost fumble). The defense has to make those game-changing plays.

I know that’s a tough thing to say just after The Citadel’s D sets a school record for sacks, but turnovers matter. The Bulldogs need to force a lot more of them.

The Citadel only had one pass breakup (and no interceptions) on 35 Gardner-Webb passing attempts. Even given the Bulldogs’ style of secondary coverage (a “don’t give up the big play” strategy), that’s too low a number.

- Despite rushing for 323 yards against Gardner-Webb, The Citadel had a lot of rushing attempts that went for short yardage, and that can be a problem when trying to stay “on schedule”.

The Bulldogs rushed 58 times. On 34 of those occasions, The Citadel gained three or fewer yards. That’s 58.6% of the time, and strikes me as being a little problematic.

Of course, a couple of those short-yardage plays went for touchdowns. Jake Stenson can’t gain more than three yards on a three-yard TD run. That isn’t the issue.

However, 16 of the 26 first-down running plays The Citadel had against Gardner-Webb resulted in gains of three yards or less. That put more pressure on subsequent second (and third) downs.

It didn’t hurt The Citadel much last Saturday, largely because of the success the Bulldogs had on first-down passing plays. Against other defenses, though, The Citadel has to be a little better when it runs the ball on first down.

Last year against Wofford, the Bulldogs rushed the ball 15 times on first down. The Citadel gained three yards or less on ten of those plays, a big reason the Bulldogs were 3-15 on third-down conversion attempts.

For the entire game, The Citadel gained three or fewer yards on 23 of 38 rushing attempts (60.5%; that statistic does not include sacks). The Bulldogs threw the ball 22 times, often in obvious passing situations. In related news, The Citadel did not score an offensive touchdown.

Oddly, while I’ve just written a few paragraphs discussing how The Citadel needs to improve its rushing attack, I suspect the passing game may be the key element again this week…

Wofford is 2-2 entering SoCon play, but trying to figure out if it’s a good 2-2 or a bad 2-2 or even a mediocre 2-2 is not easy. It’s possible that even Wofford fans aren’t entirely sure what to make of their squad this year.

On the SoCon media teleconference, Mike Ayers said that his team could play like “superstar[s]” or like the participants for “some of those Pop Warner teams that play at halftime”.

The Terriers opened the season with a 38-19 loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, but only trailed 24-19 in that game with ten minutes to play. Now, the Yellow Jackets are erratic (and also currently undefeated), but the Terriers should get some credit for holding Georgia Tech to 226 yards rushing.

Wofford outrushed the Jackets and also had the edge in time of possession. Georgia Tech averaged 17.6 yards per pass attempt, however.

All in all, it was a very decent effort by Wofford against an FBS squad.

After taking a week off, Wofford hosted D-2 North Greenville, winning 42-27. This was a rather weird contest that featured two lightning delays. To cap things off, with less than two minutes to play the lights went out in Gibbs Stadium (while a punt was in midair), and everybody decided to just go home. If you include delays, by that point the game had lasted for five hours.

The Terriers piled up the rushing yards (377 on 53 attempts), but were actually outgained on the (very long) night by the Crusaders, thanks to 370 North Greenville passing yards.

Wofford then lost 43-36 at Gardner-Webb. The Terriers were leading 28-14 late in the second quarter, but gave up a TD with seven seconds remaining in the half, and were outscored 23-8 after the break.

Gardner-Webb allowed the Terriers to rush for 322 yards, exactly one yard less than The Citadel managed against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. However, Wofford only ran the ball 47 times against G-W, while The Citadel rushed 58 times.

While Gardner-Webb picked up a relatively modest 232 yards passing against Wofford, G-W was only sacked twice. That was a far cry from the ten sacks it would give up in Charleston a week later.

The passing yardage total also doesn’t account for multiple defensive pass interference calls against Wofford during the game (the Terriers finished with 91 yards in penalties). Gardner-Webb had three passing touchdowns in the game, including the winning score with 2:04 to play.

Last week, Wofford defeated UVA-Wise (a provisional Division II school) 49-15 in Spartanburg. The Terriers dominated early, let the Highland Cavaliers drift back into the game (it was 28-15 midway through the third quarter), then closed out the contest on a 21-0 run.

After the first possession of the second half, Wofford adjusted its pass defense. The Terriers eschewed their traditional man-to-man coverage for more zone, a move necessitated by UVA-Wise’s success throwing the ball.

It worked, as Wofford held UVA-Wise to 35 yards passing on its final four possessions after making the switch, with two interceptions.

Mike Ayers:

We’re not really good at playing man-to-man right now, not with the way things are being called. We just can’t do it. If we defend six times, we’ll probably get four pass-interference calls. You can’t do it that way. It keeps moving the sticks and affords them the opportunity to keep doing it.

You look at the game and it was a carbon copy of Gardner-Webb (43-36 loss in the previous game). It’s going to be that way against anyone that has the ability to throw the football and has a big guy that we don’t match up with very well. We’re not going to play a whole lot of man-to-man from now on. I promise you that.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that The Citadel’s passing attack could be a key factor in this game. I think I’ve illustrated in the last few paragraphs why that is the case.

The Bulldogs simply have to take advantage of what appears to be a weakness in the Terriers’ defense. That is particularly true because other than pass defense, I think Wofford may actually be in good shape for its SoCon campaign.

Wofford’s offense is led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Evan Jacks, the latest in a long line of solid signal-callers for the Terriers. He will provide a major challenge for The Citadel’s defense.

Jacks has rushed 45 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt and is completing just under 60% of his throws, with three TD passes and three interceptions.

Against North Greenville, Jacks threw an 85-yard touchdown pass. He had a 45-yard TD run versus Gardner-Webb.

Jacks is a third-generation college football player, as his father played for Connecticut and his grandfather was a QB at Penn.

The Terriers appear to have found their latest star fullback in the person of sophomore Lorenzo Long, who was lightly recruited out of Pensacola, Florida. It may be that prep running backs in Pensacola are given short shrift because they can’t measure up to the most celebrated high school running back to ever come out of Pensacola — Emmitt Smith.

Long has 318 yards on 51 carries, with six touchdowns. He had 151 yards rushing against Gardner-Webb, and 138 yards versus North Greenville. Long has three runs of 40+ yards this season, and has also returned kickoffs.

Wofford halfback Ray Smith had a 92-yard touchdown run against Georgia Tech, which was (rather amazingly, at least to me) the longest run against the Yellow Jackets in that program’s entire history. Smith’s future children and grandchildren will hear about that gallop many times.

The other starting halfback for the Terriers, Will Gay, rushed for 81 yards in last year’s game against the Bulldogs (on only nine carries) and also caught a TD pass. Gay is Wofford’s primary punt returner as well.

The strength of the Terriers’ offensive line is probably on the right side. Redshirt junior T.J. Chamberlin, a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection, is the right guard. Sophomore Anton Wahrby (a second-team preseason pick) is the right tackle.

Wahrby is a native of Sweden who was a foreign exchange student at Lexington High School. He presumably was one of the larger exchange students in Palmetto State history, as the 6’4″ Wahrby currently tips the scales at 290 lbs.

Will Irwin was on the receiving end of that 85-yard pass from Jacks against North Greenville, He also had a nine-yard TD run in that game on an end-around. Last season, Irwin had a 30-yard touchdown catch against The Citadel.

Wade Francis backs up Irwin at wide receiver. Francis had six receptions (including a TD) against Gardner-Webb.

The defense for the Terriers suffered a blow when starting linebacker Travis Thomas (a fifth-year senior) tore his Achilles’ tendon in the game against Gardner-Webb. He has been replaced by redshirt freshman Daryl Vining.

On the SoCon teleconference, Mike Houston said Wofford defensive end Tarek Odom was probably the best defensive lineman The Citadel will have faced (outside of Florida State’s DL group) this season. He was “all over the field” against Georgia Tech, and is explosive “with a great motor”.

Odom was a first-team All-SoCon choice after last season, and was a preseason all-league pick this year. He is joined on the line by nosetackle E.J. Speller, a tough 290 lb. junior who also drew praise from Houston.

Inside linebacker Kevin Thomas leads the Terriers in tackles through four games. He was second on the team in tackles last season, a year in which he also had 8.5 tackles for loss.

Both of Wofford’s starting cornerbacks were preseason second-team All-SoCon selections. Bernard Williams started all eleven games for the Terriers last season, forcing three fumbles and leading Wofford defenders in passes broken up.

Chris Armfield also started all eleven contests in 2013, and led the league in interceptions with three. Armfield intercepted a pass against UVA-Wise and returned it 60 yards, setting up a touchdown.

Backup cornerback Brion Anderson has two interceptions this season.

Free safety Jaleel Green has started all four games this season for Wofford, and has an interception return for a TD to his credit (versus UVA-Wise). The strong safety position has been a bit of a revolving door, with three different Terriers having started in that role.

Redshirt freshman David Marvin had a very impressive debut against Georgia Tech, converting both of his field goal attempts (one a 51-yarder) and punting four times for an average of 43.5 yards per kick. He also handled kickoff duties for the Terriers.

Unfortunately, Marvin suffered a sprained knee during the game, which led to Wofford having to scramble for a replacement (or three).

In his stead, reserve defensive back Michael Sarafianos handled extra points, while Brian Sanders punted (and continued to hold on placekicks). Also appearing for the Terriers: backup soccer goalkeeper Ben Bruggeworth, who performed the kickoff duties. When he kicked off for Wofford against North Greenville, it was the first time Bruggeworth had appeared in a high school or college football game.

Marvin is back as the team’s placekicker (resuming those duties last week), with Sanders remaining the first-team punter and Bruggeworth the kickoff specialist. Michael Comer is the Terriers’ veteran long snapper.

Odds and ends:

- Wofford doesn’t have a band, so it usually brings in a “guest band”. This week, for the first time, Gibbs Stadium will be graced by the presence of the band from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, a/k/a the “Orange Pride“.

The Orange Pride Marching Band is greatly renowned, and always resplendent in the O-W school colors of maroon and orange. It will easily be the smartest group of high school students to ever provide musical entertainment at Wofford.

- At halftime, Wofford will recognize its 2014 Hall of Fame honorees.

- It will be “Family Weekend” at Wofford.

- Scheduling info: Wofford will play games at Clemson and at Idaho in 2015. I have no idea what Wofford is getting out of the Idaho game, to be honest.

In 2016, the Terriers have a game at Mississippi.

- Per at least one site that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a two-point favorite on Saturday, which just goes to show how much attention is paid to FCS games by oddsmakers (and bettors in general). That is to say, almost none.

The over/under is 51.5, incidentally.

- Spike The Bulldog is 4-1 in the Capital One Challenge. This week, he is battling Cy The Cardinal, the mascot for Iowa State.

Vote for Spike!

This is a game that a lot of us upperclassmen and guys who were here last year have been waiting for. I think there is a little bit of a revenge factor.

I’m going to return to this quote. First, let’s talk about the importance of the game against Wofford on Saturday.

It’s important because The Citadel needs to win more games, establish momentum, and successfully compete in the Southern Conference. It’s not important because of what happened in 1916 or 1959 or 1987 or 1998 (and I say that as someone with a great respect for history).

Aaron Miller and Rah Muhammad shouldn’t care about any kind of losing streak. Whatever happened when John Zernhelt or Ellis Johnson or Don Powers were at The Citadel doesn’t matter. This year matters.

I know that a lot of our alums want to see us beat Wofford. Heck, I do too. I want us to beat Wofford every year. I want us to win all of our games every year.

By paying too much attention to the recent past, though, there is a risk of playing against history rather than facing the here-and-now. If prior events are overly emphasized, a team can be psyched out rather than psyched up.

Wofford is a solid, well-coached squad. It isn’t perfect, as the defensive problems I’ve outlined above suggest, but it’s fully capable of beating any team in the league. I don’t want the Bulldogs to play last year’s Wofford team, or 2004’s Wofford team, or any of the teams in between.

I want the Bulldogs to play the 2014 edition of the Terriers. I also want the Bulldogs to win.

It’s important not to get too wound up about things like a streak or some kind of “revenge factor”.

Oh, that quote above? That’s not from any of The Citadel’s players. It’s a comment made by Wofford linebacker Drake Michaelson before the Terriers’ game against Gardner-Webb.

Michaelson was talking about Wofford playing Gardner-Webb this year after losing the game to G-W last season. The Terriers may have been waiting for another shot at the Runnin’ Bulldogs, but in the end Gardner-Webb won again.

Ultimately, players should be highly motivated to play each and every game. It’s not that long a season, after all.

I plan on being in Spartanburg on Saturday, and I hope a lot of fellow blue-clad fans also make the trip. From a scheduling perspective, one thing the SoCon has done which I appreciate is stagger The Citadel’s annual games against Furman and Wofford, so that there is one game in the Upstate each season, instead of two in one season and no games in the next.

This year, that game is at Wofford. It should be a very nice day. It would be a really nice day if the Bulldogs could pull off a victory.

Game review, 2014: Gardner-Webb

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

School release

Game story, The Shelby Star

Video from WCSC-TV, including interview with Mike Houston

Box score

It’s good to win, especially when the month of September is coming to a close and you haven’t won yet. The victory over Gardner-Webb was cathartic for both the team and its fans.

The Citadel did a lot of things right on Saturday night, but the Bulldogs weren’t perfect. I’m going to discuss a few things that could stand improvement when I preview the Wofford game later in the week.

Having said that, there were a lot of positives in this game, on the field and off. What follows are a few observations (and the usual assortment of motley pictures).

- I wrote this at the beginning of my preview of the Gardner-Webb game:

The Citadel is averaging 3.36 yards per pass. This is obviously not good enough. Neither is a pass completion rate of 24.2%. The Bulldogs currently rank last in FCS football in passing yards per game.

Obviously, The Citadel is not going to throw the ball all over the field in its triple option offense. However, when the Bulldogs do pass the ball, they need to make it count. Not only must they complete more passes, they have to go for more yardage. The longest completion so far this season has been 24 yards.

The Citadel turned things around in the passing game by changing its approach at the beginning of the contest, throwing the ball on the first two plays from scrimmage. Gardner-Webb was caught flat-footed by the Bulldogs’ Air Raid attack, and before all the cadets had filed into the stands, The Citadel had its first lead of the season.

The Bulldogs averaged 12.4 yards per pass attempt, which will usually get it done. Aaron Miller’s second throw of the day went to Rudder Brown, who caught the ball and then crisscrossed the field for a 47-yard gain. That almost doubled the previous long reception of the season (24 yards).

Ten of The Citadel’s fifteen pass attempts came on first down. Indeed, the Bulldogs threw the ball 28% of the time on first down versus Gardner-Webb, twice as often as the first three games (14%). Breaking tendencies, anyone?

- Aaron Miller completed eight passes during the game, while his counterpart for Gardner-Webb, Lucas Beatty, completed 29. Despite that discrepancy, each quarterback completed passes to six different receivers.

I could describe that as an oddity, but it’s not. The Citadel may not throw the ball a lot, but that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs lack capable pass-catchers. There is considerable depth in that department.

- Through three games, opponents had converted 33% of their 3rd-and-long attempts against The Citadel’s defense, which was obviously too high a percentage. The Bulldogs did a much better job on Saturday, as Gardner-Webb only picked up one first down on seven 3rd-and-long situations.

G-W was 0-6 attempting a pass on 3rd-and-long (with three of those plays resulting in sacks by The Citadel). Gardner-Webb’s only successful 3rd-and-long conversion was a run by quarterback Lucas Beatty after he broke containment.

- It isn’t often a fan can be generally satisfied with his team’s pass defense when the opposing quarterback is 29-35 through the air, averages eight yards per attempt, and is not intercepted. That was the case on Saturday, however. Of course, recording ten sacks (and the accompanying 70 yards of lost yardage for G-W) does make a difference, especially when four of those sacks come on third down. Recovering a fumble on one of those sacks helps, too.

- There was one coaching decision during the game I questioned, although not for long. During the second quarter, Gardner-Webb began a possession at The Citadel’s 35-yard line after a fumble recovery-and-return (the fumble was bogus, but whatever).

After starting the drive with an incomplete pass, Beatty was sacked by the law firm of Thomas & Jeter on second down. That left G-W with a 3rd-and-18 situation.

On third down, a completed pass returned the ball to the original line of scrimmage. However, G-W was called for holding on the play.

Mike Houston then had the option of accepting the penalty, and setting up 3rd-and-28 from the Gardner-Webb 47; or declining the penalty and taking the result of the play, which would leave G-W with 4th-and-10 from The Citadel’s 35. He chose to decline the penalty.

I would have been inclined to take the penalty, myself. It was obvious Gardner-Webb would go for it on 4th down in that situation (Carroll McCray certainly wasn’t going to have his placekicker attempt a 52-yard field goal).

It would have been tough to decline the penalty, and then have Gardner-Webb pick up the first down. Ten yards wasn’t that unmanageable, either.

At least, that’s what I thought, and then on 4th down Tevin Floyd raced through the G-W offensive line and sacked the quarterback in 0.7 seconds. I immediately shouted, “Good decision, coach!”

Score one for Mike Houston.

- The 1960 throwbacks were a hit with the crowd. Very sharp. If you want to buy one, check out the auction.

I’ve been critical of The Citadel’s constant uniform tinkering in the past, but the helmet tweaking for Military Appreciation Day was excellent. You can see the uniforms up close in The Post and Courier‘s photo gallery.

- I also appreciated the small (and not so small) touches for Military Appreciation Day, including the red-white-blue end zone motif. I thought that on the whole, the school did a very nice job on that front.

- Hey, the band played more than twice during the game! It was noticed, too.

There are still a few things to get worked out. Twice during the second quarter, the videoboard went into sound-explosion mode just as the band started to play, so a little more coordination is still needed.

I gather the band will need time to expand its repertoire, so it may be next year before the ideal is reached, but that’s okay. Baby steps.

They did play the theme from “Hawaii 5-0″, although I’m not sure everyone heard it. The acoustics at Johnson Hagood Stadium are a bit of an issue.

- I thought the freshmen were in good form on Saturday. Some (not all) of the upperclassmen weren’t quite as spirited.

One thing all the cadets (and other supporters) did like was the placekicking contest following the third quarter. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as watching a fellow member of the corps attempt a 35-yard field goal in his shined leathers.

I would advocate more cadet-oriented contests. There should be at least three such events during the game.

- In my opinion, the cheerleading squad makes a difference, and was badly missed during its hiatus. Also making a difference: the omnipresent Spike The Bulldog, surely the hardest-working anthropomorphic mascot in college athletics.

- Attendance was low, officially announced as 8,573. I think that was an accurate total.

There were a lot of factors at play: South Carolina played a home game at the same time, Clemson was on TV at the same time, the weather was threatening, Gardner-Webb didn’t bring many fans, and the home team was 0-3. That said, it was the smallest crowd at Johnson Hagood Stadium I could recall since the Thursday night game against Benedict in 2004.

Improving home football attendance is just one of the many tasks for new AD Jim Senter, but it’s an important one. Longtime fans can remember when attendance at The Citadel’s home games was significantly higher.

In the game program on Saturday was a blurb with the headline “On This Day in Citadel Football History”, which noted that on September 27, 1980, The Citadel defeated UT-Chattanooga 29-13 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Attendance for that game was 18,345 — almost 10,000 more than showed up at Johnson Hagood Stadium for a game exactly 34 years later.

Below are some pictures I took before and during the game. Some of them are actually in focus.

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