The Citadel at Charleston Southern, a/k/a the Larry Leckonby Bowl, to be played at Buccaneer Field, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 20.
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 game broadcast will be produced by Jay Harper, who will also provide updates on other college football action.
In addition, the game will be streamed by the Big South Digital Network (link).
This preview will be broken up into two distinct parts: a review of the Florida State game, and the fallout from that contest; and a preview of the Charleston Southern game, including a discussion about the fact The Citadel is the road team on Saturday.
There won’t be as much statistical minutiae in this post as usual. There will be more commentary, though.
First, however, the links.
Links of interest:
Some observations about the Florida State game, followed by a few thoughts about the story that developed afterwards:
- Despite a rainy afternoon (and the threat of more thunderstorms to come), Doak Campbell Stadium was packed. Florida State had announced on Friday that the game was a sellout, and FSU fans (along with a hardy band of Bulldog supporters) showed up in a major way for the Seminoles’ home opener.
During an ESPN GameDay segment in which there was discussion about the day’s relatively high number of small school/big school matchups, Kirk Herbstreit moaned about FBS schools playing FCS teams, running off a list of reasons why those games should not be played. Included in his diatribe was a comment that “fans aren’t going to these games”.
Well, they went to one in Tallahassee, Kirk — just like they went to one at Clemson last season when The Citadel played the Tigers.
- Mike Houston wasn’t all that excited about facing Florida State (as I wrote about in my game preview). However, he clearly gave some thought on how to approach the matchup with the Seminoles.
The result was, in my opinion, an exceptionally well-managed game by The Citadel’s head coach.
It was always going to be a struggle for the Bulldogs to hold back FSU’s offense. However, The Citadel did a fine job of keeping Jameis Winston and company off the field, controlling the clock throughout the contest.
Florida State finished the game with only nine offensive possessions, and one of them began with only twelve seconds remaining in the game, so in effect FSU only had the ball eight times the entire night. The Citadel had the edge in time of possession by over seven minutes, which led to the Seminoles running 67 plays on offense (contrast that with, say, the South Carolina State-Clemson game, where the Tigers ran 93 plays en route to a 73-7 victory).
On Saturday night, Aaron Miller routinely let the play clock move under five seconds before receiving the snap from center. That was excellent game management.
- The Bulldogs were unafraid to run the ball on third-and-medium and third-and-long situations (a feature of Brent Thompson’s offensive philosophy for any game, not just this one), and it paid off on more than one occasion. That said, The Citadel actually passed the ball a little more often than I expected — and with some success. There may not be many teams that register two TD passes against FSU’s defense this season.
Aaron Miller threw the ball well after a couple of errant tosses at the beginning of the game. The pass to Alex Glover was of particularly high quality.
Okay, about the Victor Hill situation…
I agree with the “indefinite suspension”. Hill will not play this week against Charleston Southern, and I think that is appropriate.
Mike Houston may choose to reinstate Hill after this weekend, or he may wait another week or two. I’m on board with whatever decision Houston makes on that front.
I’ll be rooting for Hill when he comes back. He’s a good player, and is also a civil engineering major. He’s smarter than his comments made him out to be.
There are Bulldog supporters who disagree with the decision, believing that Hill should not miss any games at all. After all, he didn’t do anything. No FSU players were injured by illegal blocks (as noted by, among others, Jimbo Fisher). Hill just talked (or rather, typed).
My response to that viewpoint (which I understand) is that while Hill didn’t hurt any FSU players, he did hurt his teammates, his coaches, and his school.
The Citadel’s football program (and by extension, the college as a whole) got roasted in the days immediately following Hill’s ill-advised post. Even though it wasn’t true, the less-educated elements of the mob reached a verdict: “dirty team”.
That is the kind of thing that can have a lasting effect, possibly for an entire season. If you’re Mike Houston, and you’re trying to establish a program, you cannot afford to have your offense labeled in such a fashion two games into your tenure.
Triple option teams are constantly having to defend their reputations against “cut block/chop block” naysayers. Hill’s comments won’t help. I’m sure the Bulldogs will be called for several imaginary chop blocks during the SoCon season, just because officials will be looking for penalties, even when they aren’t there.
That’s why Hill’s suspension was justified. It was based on what is best for The Citadel.
The hysterical rantings of the much-mocked “FSU Twitter” horde were not a factor. That is a good thing.
Opinions from various members of the FSU fan base ranged from laughable (demanding an NCAA investigation and the “death penalty”) to scary (a poster on SBNation’s FSU site openly wished that Hill’s family would get killed in a car accident; that comment was quickly deleted by the moderators, along with other odious statements).
There is a reason #FSUTwitter is a frequently-used hashtag (and not a complimentary one). A few wannabe trolls even tweeted at me.
Those encounters tended to confirm that a lot of fans don’t know the difference between a cut block and a chop block. One determined Seminole supporter even produced a photo, claiming it showed an illegal block (it didn’t, of course). I have to wonder how much football some of these people actually watch.
It was amusing to watch the column on my Tweetdeck application devoted to “Citadel” mentions, as seemingly desperate FSU fans would constantly tweet the same thing over and over to various college football writers and personalities, demanding attention (or a reaction) and some sort of frontier justice. One goofball even called Tim Brando’s SiriusXM program to whine, only to be more or less eviscerated by Brando and Tony Barnhart.
Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. Jimbo Fisher’s comments probably helped in that regard, to his credit.
This week, the shoe has been on the other foot for Florida State fans, thanks to the continuing misadventures of Jameis Winston, who seems to be an unusual combination of immense talent, charisma, and complete obliviousness.
A video of Winston appearing to punch a Bulldog during the game didn’t get much traction (despite the efforts of a bunch of Clemson fans on Twitter, basically mimicking the actions of FSU twitterers from the week before). However, Winston’s bizarre (not to mention offensive and vulgar) shouting near Florida State’s Student Union certainly did. He’ll miss the first half of the Seminoles’ game against Clemson.
That may not matter, though it should be pointed out that after Winston left the game against The Citadel, the Bulldogs scored four times as many points as FSU…
Now, about the Charleston Southern contest:
The story surrounding the game this week is as much about where it is being played as it is the action on the field.
…there is some question as to exactly how enthusiastic Bulldog fans are about making the trip to CSU Stadium, located in North Charleston off U.S. Highway 78 near Interstate 26. The Citadel ticket office sold just 170 of the 530 tickets it received from CSU for consignment, returning 360 to Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs also received 250 complimentary tickets for the 6 p.m. game.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m not sure of why that is,'” [The Citadel's director of athletics, Jim] Senter said of the returned tickets. “I’m not sure if people were not aware we had tickets to be purchased, or if people think it’s sold out, or if people think Charleston Southern’s stadium is too small to accommodate Citadel fans.”
To answer one of Jim Senter’s questions, I think it is highly likely that most Bulldog fans did not know the school had tickets available for the game. I know a few people who bought tickets from Charleston Southern as soon as they could, not knowing that The Citadel also was selling tickets for the contest.
As for Senter wondering if people think CSU’s stadium is too small to accommodate The Citadel’s fans: yes, people do think the stadium is too small. They think it is too small because it is too small.
CSU Stadium has a capacity of 4,000 seats, and Charleston Southern announced last week that it would add about 700 seats to the visitors’ side of the stadium, expanding that side to 1,628 seats and the total capacity to 4,700. CSU Stadium can also accommodate standing-room only crowds, which explains last year’s record of 6,135 fans for a game against Coastal Carolina.
CSU athletic director Hank Small said Tuesday that there is not a “sell-out” limit on the number of tickets available for Saturday’s game.
“We had very large crowds last year for our Charlotte and Coastal games and did not ‘sell out’ due to the fact that we will continue to sell general admission tickets,” Small said in an e-mail. “We have very large standing room areas that will accommodate general admission. People need to plan to arrive early to be assured of a general admission seat or to purchase a reserved seat.”
After reading Hank Small’s comments, I’m guessing a significant number of hardcore Bulldog supporters made other plans for this weekend.
The previous games between the two schools were played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, with 12,000-14,000 fans in attendance for each of those contests. Now the game is being held at a 4,000-seat facility with a less-than-optimal parking/access setup and a brutally reviewed restroom situation. No one is going to be enthused about “large standing room areas”, either.
The administration at Charleston Southern probably anticipates (if not hopes) that many Bulldog fans will pass on making the trip. If the usual number of “regulars” (8,000-9,000) were to actually show up, it is hard to imagine the general infrastructure (and game management staff) being anything other than completely overwhelmed.
Incidentally, I’m not entirely sure the 4,000-seat capacity (to be increased to 4,700 for the game against The Citadel) is the “real” number. In a recent press release, Charleston Southern officials referred to “plans to add permanent additional seating over the next five years increasing stadium capacity from 3,562 to 5,320.” So is it 4,000 or 3,562?
That leads to another question, a fairly obvious one: why is this game being played at Buccaneer Field now? Why not at least wait and attempt to host the game after the next phase of stadium expansion is completed?
There is little argument as to what benefit The Citadel gets out of playing this game away from Johnson Hagood Stadium. It gets no benefit.
This game should have been played at a stadium capable of holding the usual number of fans who would have attended it. The fact that it is not is considered by many loyal Bulldog fans to be a metaphorical slap in the face, one administered by Larry Leckonby, the former AD at The Citadel.
The fact Leckonby left his position a few months later (giving the impression he already had one foot out the door when he scheduled the game) also doesn’t sit well with some observers.
All that being said:
I would urge Bulldog fans to attend this game. The reason to go to this game is to support the players and coaches who will be representing The Citadel. They deserve our support, and our presence.
Will fans have to make some adjustments? Yes. Check out the parking situation carefully before starting your drive. Make a quick trip to a place with a restroom before arriving.
(From the linked review of the facilities, which was from last year’s heavily attended game against Coastal Carolina: “On the visitor side, there are no plumbed bathrooms. Rather, the university brings in approximately fifteen port-a-johns and one larger bathroom ‘truck’…found both the [truck] toilet and faucet to be inoperable.”)
Prepare to be as patient as possible when it comes to anything and everything, especially with the threat of bad weather (bring your poncho). Keep in mind that CSU’s campus is alcohol- and tobacco-free.
Put on your light blue clothing and gear, and go to the Larry Leckonby Bowl. Go, and bring as many friends and family members as you can, and cheer like crazy for the Bulldogs.
Charleston Southern’s starting quarterback at the end of last season was Daniel Croghan, who started the final six games of the season for the Buccaneers after Malcolm Dixon was injured. Croghan was 5-1 as a starter, including wins over Charlotte and Coastal Carolina.
This year, Croghan is the backup quarterback, with UAB transfer Austin Brown taking over as Charleston Southern’s top signal-caller. Brown started fifteen games over two seasons with the Blazers, including a win over Tulane his freshmen year in which he threw for 409 yards.
Brown played the first three quarters for the Buccaneers in their season-opening romp over Point (final score: 61-9). He went the distance in CSU’s 16-10 victory against Newberry, and played all but three series in Charleston Southern’s 34-10 win versus Campbell.
In the game against the Camels, Croghan played the third series of the first half, and the sixth series of the second half.
For the season, Brown is completing 60% of his passes, averaging 10.9 yards per attempt, and has thrown six touchdown passes against one interception. Brown can also run the ball (a necessity for a QB in Jamey Chadwell’s spread option offense). He is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and had a 50-yard run against Campbell.
Christian Reyes returns as the primary running back for the Buccaneers. Reyes had 92 yards in last season’s game at Johnson Hagood Stadium, probably more than any other native of Rogue River, Oregon has ever had against the Bulldogs.
Tangent: Rogue River is such a great name for a town/river. “Roundup at Rogue River” could be the title of a Louis L’Amour novel.
Ben Robinson is the “change of pace” back for CSU. While Reyes is a fairly big running back (218 lbs.), Robinson is 5’7″, 175 lbs.
They run behind an offensive line with a good deal of experience, led by right guard Clayton Truitt. CSU also returns last year’s starters at center and both tackle spots.
Charleston Southern has experience at slot receiver with Alex Cruz and Nathan Perera, the latter having been injured for most of the last two years. Also returning: 6’8″ tight end Nathan Prater, who already has two touchdown receptions this season.
As I did last year, I would like to complain about Prater’s jersey number (81). Prater is from Ninety Six, South Carolina. How can he not wear #96?
Talk about a missed opportunity. Bill Voiselle would be very disappointed.
The other wideouts are less experienced, but do have big-play potential (Jared Scotland has three receptions for 20+ yards, including a 52-yard TD against Newberry).
CSU normally plays a 3-4 base defense, but is liable to change things up against The Citadel’s triple option attack, as do many other defenses. Last year CSU used multiple fronts throughout the game against the Bulldogs.
The Buccaneers have experience and depth along the defensive line. Notable performers include end Dylan Black and noseguard James Smith (who is listed as a co-starter on the depth chart with Isaac Lowrance, the latter having started the first three games of the season).
The linebacking corps attempts to confuse its opponents by featuring linebackers Zac Johnston (the middle ‘backer, #25) and Zach Johnson (the “spur”, #22). I bet the sports information staff at CSU can’t wait until those guys exhaust their eligibility.
Zach Johnson is backed up by freshman Bobby Ruff, whose father Brian is arguably the greatest football player in The Citadel’s long gridiron history.
Weakside linebacker Aaron Brown had a very good game against the Bulldogs last season. He currently leads the Buccaneers in tackles through three games, with twenty.
The “bandit”, Gabe Middlebrook, went to West Ashley High School, where he was All-Region in tennis. There are not a lot of Division I starting linebackers who can claim to have been All-Region in high school tennis.
The secondary features veteran free safety Demaris Freeman, a redshirt senior. Freeman leads a group that in general is not as experienced as the other units for the Buccaneers. Starting strong safety Davion Anderson is a freshman.
Charleston Southern returns its punter from last season, Truett Burns, who did a good job last season placing kicks inside the 20. So far this season, four of his thirteen punts have been downed inside the 20, though his average yards per punt (31.9) needs to improve.
Placekicking appears to still be a work in progress for the Buccaneers, with David Kennedy now designated on the depth chart as the starting placekicker, and Bryan Jordan handling kickoffs for CSU. Both are freshmen who went to Summerville High School (though Jordan turns 22 years old in December).
Long snapper Joseph Smith is a native of Easley, but he actually started his collegiate career at Delta State, where his coach was Jamey Chadwell. When the coach took the Charleston Southern job, Smith returned to his home state to continue his football career with Chadwell.
It’s hard to get a handle on how these two teams compare with one another. A statistical summary of the season thus far is probably pointless, because Charleston Southern has yet to play a scholarship Division I program, while The Citadel has played Coastal Carolina and Florida State.
It must be said, however, that Newberry is a solid Division II team (winning nine games last season). Mike Houston suggested that Newberry could hold its own in the SoCon. At the very least, the Buccaneers have had one good test.
All of CSU’s games so far have been at home, and all at night under recently installed lights. Meanwhile, The Citadel has played one home and one road game and didn’t play at all last week (Charleston Southern played on Thursday night).
Those opening four home games, by the way, are a first for a Big South team. No other school in that conference has ever hosted its first four games of the season.
A few other odds and ends:
- Derrick Freeland Jr., a freshman from Charlotte, is expected to start at right tackle for the Bulldogs in place of Victor Hill. It will be the first time Freeland has seen action for The Citadel.
- The Citadel is tied with Wofford for the FCS national lead in rushing yards per game (304.0). However, the Terriers are averaging 6.08 yards per rush, while the Bulldogs are averaging 5.02 yards per carry.
One interesting note that ties into the rushing totals: The Citadel had 65 rush attempts against Coastal Carolina, the second-most in a game by an FCS team so far this season. The Bulldogs ran the ball 56 times versus Florida State.
- Charleston Southern currently leads all of FCS in total defense and is fifth nationally in scoring defense.
- In terms of time of possession, The Citadel is tied for 24th nationally; Charleston Southern is 30th. Last season, CSU led the nation in that category.
- The Citadel is one of five FCS programs that has yet to commit a turnover this season (please don’t let that be a jinx). Charleston Southern has only committed one turnover in three games.
- Somehow, the Bulldogs have fumbled ten times this season without losing any of those fumbles. It’s a freak statistic that won’t hold up over time. The Citadel has to do a better job of hanging on to the ball.
There are a couple of things at play for Saturday’s game.
Charleston Southern has set everything up for a showpiece victory — the home game, the rallies, the parties, the publicity generated by a potentially large crowd (at least by Buccaneer Field standards), the inevitable bandwagon column by Gene Sapakoff, etc. School officials have been targeting this game as a major event ever since the announcement was made that CSU would be hosting it.
The Buccaneers want to dominate this game, and probably expect to do so (though the players and coaches aren’t dumb enough to publicly say so). They’ve seen the Sagarin Ratings. This is a team that by the end of last season was playing better than it was at the start of 2013, when it beat The Citadel.
Mike Houston knows that. He also knows that The Citadel could use a win.
This would be a very good week to get one.
Despite everything, I think The Citadel can pull it off. It’s time for these Bulldogs to show some bite.
Filed under: Football, The Citadel | Tagged: Aaron Miller, Alex Glover, Austin Brown, Charleston Southern, Christian Reyes, Florida State, Jameis Winston, Jamey Chadwell, Jim Senter, Larry Leckonby Bowl, Mike Houston, SoCon, The Citadel | 3 Comments »