Game review, 2015: Furman

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, The Greenville News

Sidebar story, The Greenville News

“Notes” column, The Greenville News

School release

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Dominique Allen, Cam Jackson, and Tevin Floyd

Video from WCIV-TV

Video from WSPA-TV

Column from STATS FCS Football, with a mention of The Citadel as “looking more like a team capable of winning the Southern Conference title”

Box score

Random thoughts and observations from a pleasant afternoon in the Upstate of South Carolina:

– The Citadel is 4-0 in the SoCon. I realize that there are a host of long-term implications to consider, including the potential of a league title shot, but I wanted to make one immediate point.

The Bulldogs have now clinched a winning conference record — and for me, that means something. The fact The Citadel has clinched that winning record in the SoCon before Halloween is a really nice bonus.

– An interesting (and enjoyable) statistical trend…

SoCon opponent — Rush yards per play
Western Carolina — 4.9
Wofford — 5.1
Samford — 5.9
Furman — 6.2

– There were some major league hits and collisions in that game. The training staffs for Furman and The Citadel got plenty of exercise on Saturday.

Special mention in this area probably should go to Furman safety Richard Hayes III, who seemed to be in the middle of a lot of the action, taking and giving. Hayes tied for the Paladins’ team lead in tackles, with ten.

The Citadel was led in tackles by Kailik Williams, who is beginning to make a name for himself on the Bulldogs’ D.

– Mike Houston, in one of his post-game interviews:

We saw probably four or five different defensive schemes today from Furman; they were throwing everything at us…and what that ended up doing, it gave us the opportunity for a lot of big plays…a lot of those big plays were [when] we caught them in things. That goes back to Coach [Brent] Thompson and Dominique [Allen] being on the same page.

I’m certainly not an expert on formations and/or tactics, but it seemed to me the Bulldogs ran the toss play a lot more than in prior games.

I think that happened because Furman was being very aggressive in trying to stop the inside running game, and the Paladins’ strategy included blitzing a safety (or linebacker) on a regular basis. By tossing the ball outside, the Bulldogs got a numbers advantage whenever the blitzing defender was caught in the middle of the field.

– I loved everything about Brandon Eakins’ 35-yard touchdown run on an end-around. The timing of the call was fantastic (immediately after a false start penalty set the Bulldogs back from 3rd-and-short to 3rd-and-5ish). The play was well-designed and perfectly executed.

I even got a decent picture of the play just as Dominique Allen was pitching the football to Eakins.

– The critical play of the game, though, was arguably Allen’s pass to Reggie Williams on 3rd-and-7 from the Bulldogs’ 49-yard line. Furman had scored 10 points on its first two possessions of the second half, and had also controlled the ball during almost the entire third quarter (after The Citadel had rung up an 8-minute, 42-second advantage in time of possession in the first half).

It was somewhat surprising Williams could be so open on a passing down, but that can be credited to the play call itself, the execution of the play, and the fact that in the triple option offense, even 3rd-and-7 is not necessarily an automatic passing situation. Indeed, on another 3rd-and-7 situation earlier in the game, The Citadel had picked up a first down on a handoff to Isiaha Smith.

– Driving home after the game, I listened to part of Furman’s post-game radio show. At one point, Sam Wyche was interviewed. He had been the analyst for the production of the contest.

Wyche commented that The Citadel’s “two guys in the middle” had dominated along the defensive line and caused Furman’s offense a lot of problems. He was presumably referring to Mitchell Jeter and Jonathan King, and his observation is a reminder that stats don’t always tell the whole story, especially those of the defensive variety.

Jeter and King combined for “just” four tackles on Saturday (including a shared sack for Jeter), but their influence on the game was undeniable.

– Speaking of Wyche: before the game, Furman prefaced a video PSA by Wyche on good sportsmanship by showing a clip of his famous/infamous “You don’t live in Cleveland” speech. I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

– This is meaningless, but Saturday’s game marked the third straight time Furman had donned white jerseys against The Citadel. Two of those games were played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, of course.

When the Bulldogs had last traveled to Greenville, in 2012, Furman wore purple jerseys.

– Definitely not meaningless: the freshmen members of the Corps of Cadets who made the trip up (in eight buses) to cheer on the Bulldogs. Their presence was felt, to say the least.

I said this in my game preview, but I wouldn’t mind at all if corps trips to select road contests became a near-annual occurrence. There is an opportunity every year for at least one “instate” away game, with The Citadel now alternating road matchups every season between Furman and Wofford.

I realize timing is a factor, as it is unlikely such trips could (or would) be undertaken prior to mid-October.

– Next up for the Bulldogs is Mercer. It will be a big game, because when you start winning, every game becomes a big game.

I hope a large crowd is on hand this Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, because this team deserves as much support as it can get.

Here are a few photos from Saturday. While most of the time I take terrible pictures, I was semi-pleased with a couple of these. One was the above-referenced shot taken during Brandon Eakins’ TD run. I also got a reasonably good picture of Isiaha Smith’s 32-yard run in the first quarter.

Curiously, both the Eakins touchdown and Smith’s burst came immediately following false start penalties.

Anyway, the pics:





2015 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Furman

The Citadel at Furman, to be played at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, South Carolina, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 24. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on, with Chuck Hussion providing play-by-play and Sam Wyche supplying the analysis. Bob Mihalic will be the sideline reporter.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– Preview of The Citadel-Furman from The Post and Courier

– Preview of The Citadel-Furman from The Greenville News

– Game notes from The Citadel and Furman

SoCon weekly release

Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference

Bruce Fowler on the SoCon teleconference

Mike Houston’s 10/20 press conference (with comments from Dominique Allen and Joe Crochet)

The Mike Houston Show (radio)

Dee Delaney was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Samford

For the second week in a row, The Citadel’s football team performed well and was rewarded with a win. This time it came on the road, against Samford.

The game went almost exactly how The Citadel would have wanted. The Bulldogs controlled the ball (35:15 time of possession) and averaged 6.2 yards per play on offense (including 5.9 yards per rush).

Dominique Allen ran the triple option with aplomb, rushing for 166 yards. Isiaha Smith scored three touchdowns. The offense committed no turnovers.

Conversely, the defense forced four turnovers, one of which was returned for a backbreaking touchdown just before the end of the first half, and limited Samford to 2.6 yards per carry.

SU did throw for 414 yards, but 113 of those came in the game’s final nine minutes, with The Citadel ahead by three touchdowns. Only two of Samford’s last ten completions resulted in a gain of more than nine yards (and neither was a “huge” play, as they were gains of 12 and 16 yards, respectively).

The Bulldogs were only called for two penalties (one enforced, for five yards). Will Vanvick had a punt downed on the 1-yard line, and later had another go out of bounds on the Samford 2-yard line.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, though. Both Samford possessions that came after those outstanding punts by Vanvick resulted in touchdown drives, the second of which featured an 83-yard TD pass by SU.

After that play, Samford recovered an onside kick, and appeared to have some momentum. It took exactly one play for The Citadel’s defense to pop SU’s balloon, however, with Dee Delaney forcing a fumble that was recovered by Joe Crochet.

That play finished off a (mostly) great day at the office for Delaney, who was the league’s defensive player of the week. It was also Crochet’s second fumble recovery of the year; somewhat surprisingly, he is the only player in the Southern Conference to have more than one recovered fumble this season.

Okay, time to talk about Furman…

Bruce Fowler is in his fifth season as the Paladins’ head football coach. He has a record of 23-31 (16-17 in the SoCon), with an FCS playoff appearance two seasons ago.

Fowler is a 1981 graduate of Furman. He is a member of the Dick Sheridan coaching tree, like every other Furman head coach since Sheridan left Greenville after the 1985 season.

Furman was 3-8 last year, which was a tough way to follow up a league co-championship. The Paladins suffered through a string of injuries in 2014 that would have tested the patience of Job, but whether or not the school administration would be similarly patient if Furman struggles again this season is open to debate.

It is worth noting that there is a new director of athletics at the school, Mike Buddie (who was in the mix for the job at The Citadel before the military college hired Jim Senter).

I don’t know anything about the inner workings of Furman, but I was reminded of the school’s modern-day expectations when I read that former head coach Jimmy Satterfield had been inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame; he was honored two weeks ago. Satterfield was 66-29-3 in eight years at the helm, with a national title to his credit.

Satterfield’s record in his last two seasons at Furman was a combined 11-10-1. He was fired.

Bobby Lamb is the head coach at Mercer, the opponent for The Citadel next week. He was Fowler’s predecessor at Furman, where he also played. Lamb’s record at Furman was 67-40 (one league title).

Lamb’s record in his last two seasons at Furman was a combined 11-11. He was fired.

I could be wrong, but this might be an important year for Bruce Fowler. We shall see.

The next few sections include statistical team/conference comparisons for all games, unless otherwise indicated.

As I mentioned last week, that isn’t ideal for comparative purposes, but Furman and The Citadel have combined to play only five league games. Since 2015 total statistics at this point are almost certainly more germane to this season than the 2014 numbers, I’m going to use this year’s stats.

Furman is 3-3 on the season, with wins over VMI (24-21), South Carolina State (17-3), and UCF (16-15). The Paladins have lost to Chattanooga (31-3), Virginia Tech (42-3), and Coastal Carolina (38-35). The games against the Chanticleers, Keydets, and Orangeburg’s Bulldogs were contested in Greenville.

The Citadel is 4-2, with victories over Davidson (69-0), Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), and Samford (44-25). The Bulldogs have lost to Charleston Southern (33-20) and Georgia Southern (48-13). The matchups against the Eagles and Birmingham’s Bulldogs were road games for The Citadel.

In six games, Furman’s offense has thrown the ball 190 times, and has had fourteen other would-be pass plays result in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Paladins have rushed 199 times, so the run/pass mix for FU is very close to 50-50.

Passing yardage accounts for 57.4% of Furman’s total offense (I took out the sack yardage when computing that statistic). The Paladins average 5.12 yards per pass attempt (again, with sack yardage taken into account).

Among SoCon teams, Furman is last in both scoring offense (16.3 ppg) and total offense, and is also last in the league in yards per play (4.5). The Citadel is third in scoring defense (21.1 ppg) and total defense and is allowing 5.4 yards per play.

Furman is fifth in passing offense, averaging 193.2 yards per game. The Paladins are last among SoCon teams in offensive pass efficiency, with three touchdown tosses and six interceptions.

The Citadel was leading the conference in pass defense and pass defense efficiency prior to the Samford game, but now ranks third in the league in the first of those categories. However, the Bulldogs still lead all SoCon squads in defensive pass efficiency (12th nationally), allowing 6.2 yards per attempt (the league low).

The Citadel has intercepted eleven passes while allowing just one touchdown throw (which came last week against Samford). That is the top ratio in FCS; only Jacksonville and Southern Utah have intercepted more passes (13) than the Bulldogs.

Furman quarterbacks have been sacked fourteen times, tied for the second-most among conference squads. As noted above, the sack yardage against the Paladins has been significant; for example, VMI has been sacked seven more times than Furman, but the Paladins have lost more yardage from sacks (110) than the Keydets (108).

The Citadel’s defense has recorded twelve sacks, third-best in the league. Mitchell Jeter has 5.5 of those sacks for the Bulldogs.

Furman has completed 55.3% of its passes, second-lowest among SoCon teams. The Paladins are averaging 31.7 pass attempts per contest, fourth-most in the conference.

Not counting sack yardage, Furman is averaging 3.9 yards per carry. The sack statistic really makes a difference in this case, because the Paladins’ average per rush is technically 3.1 yards per attempt. FU has eight rushing touchdowns, fewest in the league.

The Citadel is sixth in rushing defense, and is allowing 4.8 yards per rush (tied for the league worst in that category). Samford was not able to consistently run the ball against the Cadets last Saturday, but I don’t expect that to dissuade the Paladins from trying to control the game on the ground.

Furman is only converting 34.8% of its third-down attempts, the lowest percentage in the SoCon. The Citadel is third in the league in defensive third down conversion rate (38.4%), though the Bulldogs did allow Samford to convert 9 of 17 third-down attempts last week.

The Paladins have a red zone TD rate of 66.7%, fourth-best among SoCon squads; seven of the eight TDs Furman has scored in the red zone were via the rush. The Citadel’s red zone defensive TD rate (52.9%) ranks third in the conference.

When going for it on fourth down this season, Furman is 4 for 7. Opponents of The Citadel have tried fourteen fourth-down attempts, converting nine times (Samford was 1 for 2 last week).

Furman is fourth in the league in both scoring and total defense, allowing 25.0 points and 373.3 yards per game. FU is allowing 5.4 yards per play.

The Paladins are third in the SoCon in rushing defense, allowing 4.3 yards per rush attempt. Furman opponents have scored eleven rushing touchdowns in six games.

The Citadel is tied for first in scoring offense (35.5 ppg), third in total offense (averaging 6.3 yards per play) and leads the league in rushing offense (a category in which the Bulldogs currently rank second nationally, trailing only Cal Poly). The Bulldogs are averaging 5.8 yards per rush attempt, best in the conference.

The Bulldogs are last in the SoCon in passing yardage per game. However, The Citadel continues to average a league-best 10.7 yards per pass attempt, and is third in offensive pass efficiency among conference squads.

Furman is fifth in pass defense among SoCon outfits, but third in defensive pass efficiency, with seven interceptions against five TD passes allowed. The Paladins’ D has only six sacks so far this season, tied for the league low.

At 52.6%, The Citadel leads the conference (and is seventh nationally) in offensive third down conversion rate. Furman is second in the SoCon in defensive third down conversion rate, with an excellent 36.0% rate.

The Citadel has an offensive red zone TD rate of 74.1%, third-best in the league. All twenty of the Bulldogs’ touchdowns from red zone possessions have come via the rush.

Furman’s red zone defensive TD rate is 60.9%, which ranks fourth among conference teams.

The Bulldogs are 3 for 8 on fourth down this year after going 1-1 last week. The Paladins’ defense has faced thirteen fourth-down conversion attempts, and has prevented a first down on eight of those occasions.

The Citadel is +4 in turnover margin (gained sixteen, lost twelve), tied for the top spot in the league in that category. Furman is -1 in that category (gained nine, lost ten).

On field goal attempts, the Bulldogs are 4 for 6, while the Paladins have made five of six tries. Neither team has missed a PAT so far this season.

The Citadel leads the conference in net punting yardage (38.7). Furman ranks fourth (34.8). As for kickoff coverage, the Bulldogs are second in the league, while the Paladins are sixth.

Furman is last in the SoCon in kickoff return average (18.2 yards). The Citadel is fourth (22.6).

As far as time of possession is concerned, the Bulldogs rank fifth in that statistic (30:50) among league teams. FU is one spot ahead of them in fourth (31:44).

The Paladins are averaging 67.2 plays from scrimmage per game, with a 2.12 plays-per-minute rate. The Bulldogs are averaging slightly more plays per game (67.7) at a slightly faster pace (2.19 plays-per-minute).

Furman has been called for more penalties this year than any other SoCon team (6.7 per game). However, The Citadel’s opponents have been flagged for only 4.8 penalties per contest, third-fewest in the conference.

Now that I’ve posted all those numbers and made the respective comparisons, it’s fair to ask how relevant they are.

It’s a question that doesn’t have a good answer. It’s quite possible they aren’t particularly meaningful at all — at least, where the Paladins are concerned.

Is Furman the team that beat an FBS squad and dropped a hard-fought game to FCS #1 Coastal Carolina by just 3 points? Or are the Paladins the team that struggled at home with VMI and lost badly to Chattanooga?

The raw statistics would indicate the latter scenario is closer to the truth, but there is a reason they’re called “raw” statistics. I think a closer examination of the numbers might suggest that Furman is actually a good team, potentially a very good team.

For example, if you disregard the Paladins’ game against Virginia Tech, Furman is only allowing 3.7 yards per rush. That would be the best mark in the SoCon.

Furman went toe-to-toe with Coastal Carolina, outgaining the Chanticleers through the air and matching CCU on the ground. How did Furman lose? Well, the Paladins gave up a 100-yard kickoff return in that game, and were also foiled by two turnovers.

Before running into a buzzsaw at Chattanooga, Furman had won three straight games, including a 16-15 victory over UCF. I know that the Knights are one of the worst FBS teams in the country, but hey — it’s still a road win over an FBS team. The Paladins held UCF to 3.7 yards per play; the Knights finished with only 98 yards passing (and were intercepted three times by Furman).

I’m inclined to think Furman is better than its statistics show. The only thing that makes me question that judgment is the VMI game, where the Paladins’ defense was solid, but the offense struggled. Frankly, I am a bit puzzled by Furman’s offensive numbers in that contest.

Furman quarterback Reese Hannon (6’1″, 209 lbs.) is a three-year captain who has started 27 games for the Paladins. Hannon was injured in the Paladins’ opening game last season and missed the rest of the 2014 campaign.

Hannon is third among active SoCon players in passing yardage (incidentally, there are three Paladins in the conference’s top 10 in that category). This season, the Greer native (who Mike Houston compared to Andrew Luck in playing style) is completing 55.7% of his pass attempts, averaging 5.99 per attempt, with three touchdowns against six interceptions.

While his 2014 season opener resulted in a season-ending injury, Hannon’s first game in 2015 was considerably more positive, despite Furman eventually losing to Coastal Carolina. Hannon threw for a school-record 365 yards (on 41 attempts), including two TD passes. He also added 35 rushing yards, finishing with 400 yards of total offense — which was also a single-game school record.

Furman tends to run a lot of two-back offensive sets. Mike Houston commented during his radio show that the Paladins “run downhill”, with a lot of play-action.

Triston Luke (5’9″, 187 lbs.) is a freshman from Tennessee who took the last train from Clarksville to the Furman campus. He leads the Paladins in rushing attempts and yards. He scored two touchdowns against South Carolina State.

The starting fullback, Ernie Cain, is a 6’0″, 220 lb. redshirt senior who leads the team in rushing touchdowns with five. He is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

Furman’s projected offensive line starters average 6’3″, 280 lbs. They have combined to make 111 career starts.

Right guard Joe Turner (6’3″, 270 lbs.) has started 40 games for the Paladins, and was selected first-team All-SoCon by the league coaches last season. He is a fifth-year senior from Roswell, Georgia.

Eric Thoni, a 6’1″, 260 lb. center, returned to the squad (and the starting lineup) after missing last season; he was dismissed from the team during the summer of 2014. Thoni has made 27 career starts.

In general, the Paladins’ offensive line has been more stable this season than it was last year. Four of the five projected starters on Saturday have started every game for Furman this year.

Furman has multiple quality pass-catchers. Jordan Snellings (6’2″, 195 lbs.) is a fifth-year senior who has had a fine career in Greenville. Snellings had eight receptions for 102 yards and a TD in last year’s matchup at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

This season, Andrej Suttles (5’10”, 185 lbs.) leads the team in receptions, with 23. He is averaging 14.2 yards per catch, with two touchdowns.

Logan McCarter (6’1″, 182 lbs.) is a big-play threat who averaged 21.5 yards per reception last season. He has 16 catches this year, with a long of 57 yards versus VMI.

Duncan Fletcher came to Furman as a quarterback, and started two games in 2013. Fletcher is now a 6’4″, 231 lb. tight end with 43 career receptions.

He will be a tough cover for The Citadel. Longtime observers of the military college’s football program are well aware that Paladin tight ends have often enjoyed success against the Bulldogs in recent years.

Furman has a new defensive coordinator this season. Kyle Gillenwater was on James Madison’s staff for 15 years, including five seasons as that school’s DC. He joins a staff that has a lot of familiarity with defending the triple option.

Jordan Hawkins (6’1″, 295 lbs.) is a junior defensive tackle who has already started 26 games in his career. Fellow DT Jaylan Reid is a 5’11”, 274 lb. redshirt freshman who is starting in front of veteran lineman John Mackey (who has 27 career starts).

Defensive end Brian Ross (6’5″, 235 lbs.) blocked a punt versus VMI and returned it for a touchdown, a critical play in that contest. The DE on the other side of the line, T.J. Warren (6’2″, 222 lbs.), was a linebacker before being moved to the d-line this spring.

Tackling machine Cory Magwood (6’2″, 232 lbs.) leads the Paladins in stops, with 63. He had 18 tackles last season against The Citadel, and is the active career leader in tackles in the SoCon.

Carl Rider (6’2″, 225 lbs.) redshirted last season due to injury. The middle linebacker was a first-team all-league pick in 2013. He seems to be back at full strength this season. Rider (who Mike Houston called a “lunch-pail kind of guy, blue-collar player, real tough”) had 19 tackles against South Carolina State.

Last year, the Paladins went through more safeties than Spinal Tap did drummers. In 2015, things have been better for Furman on that front.

Trey Robinson (6’1″, 212 lbs.) has started every game and has 4 interceptions and 49 tackles. Byron Johnson (6’2″, 231 lbs.) has started the last five contests at strong safety, while Richard Hayes III has started four games at free safety (having missed one game due to injury).

At cornerback, Reggie Thomas (6’0″, 186 lbs.) has the most career starts of any Furman player, with 41. He has two forced fumbles for the Paladins this season.

Redshirt junior Jamarri Milliken (5’11”, 190 lbs.) will return to the starting lineup on Saturday. He missed the first half of the Chattanooga game after being sidelined by a targeting penalty incurred against VMI.

Jon Croft Hollingsworth is five for six on field goal attempts for Furman. His best effort was a school-record 55-yarder that gave Furman a fourth-quarter lead against UCF that the Paladins did not relinquish.

Hollingsworth is only a sophomore, but he has already made three 50+ yard field goals in his career. With that strong a leg, it should come as no surprise that Hollingsworth also handles kickoffs (8 of his 23 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks).

He also serves as Furman’s punter; this season, he is averaging 37.7 yards per boot. Last season, Hollingsworth had a punt blocked by Samford.

Andrej Suttles is the Paladins’ regular punt returner, a duty he also held last year. Logan McCarter is the primary kickoff returner for Furman; last year he had a 63-yard kickoff return against The Citadel.

Long snapper Danny LaMontagne had been the Paladins’ regular snapper for 33 straight games before he broke his ankle at South Carolina last season. He has snapped in all five games for Furman this year.

Luke Cuneo is a redshirt freshman from Ashland, Massachusetts, who serves as the Paladins’ holder on placekicks. Cuneo is probably one of the smaller players to see playing time in Division I, as he is 5’6″, 168 lbs.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast is promising. As of this writing (Thursday night), the National Weather Service was projecting sunny skies in Greenville on Saturday, with a high of 71 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is an eight-point favorite over Furman. The over/under is 45.5.

Of course, Samford was an eight-point favorite over The Citadel last week. Sometimes sharpies aren’t too sharp when it comes to FCS games.

– Furman has 27 players from Georgia on its roster, the most from any state. Other states represented: North Carolina (17), Florida (14), South Carolina (14), Tennessee (12), Alabama (4), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2), and one each from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and New York.

– As mentioned above, Reese Hannon broke the single-game total offense record for a Furman player against Coastal Carolina.

The record Hannon broke had been set just last season, by his current backup, P.J. Blazejowski, who had 382 yards of total offense in Furman’s OT loss to The Citadel. Curiously, the top six single-game marks for individual total offense in Furman history all occurred in losses.

In case you were wondering, The Citadel’s single-game individual total offense record (486 yards) was set in 2007 by Duran Lawson, in a 54-51 overtime victory over…Furman.

– This Saturday will be Homecoming at Furman. Attendance for the last five Homecoming games at Paladin Stadium:

2010 — 10,394 (vs. Chattanooga)
2011 — 11,716 (vs. Wofford)
2012 — 11,191 (vs. Georgia Southern)
2013 — 9,217 (vs. Samford)
2014 — 8,047 (vs. Samford)

While Homecoming attendance at Furman may have been disappointing in the past two years, there is a good chance it will rebound this Saturday; for one thing, a sizable contingent of visiting supporters should be on hand. That group will include most of the freshmen members of The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets, making the trip to Greenville via a fleet of buses.

It has been many years since a significant part of the corps made a road trip for a football game. As an alumnus, I’m very pleased at this development. I would like for it to happen on a near-annual basis.

– Furman’s game notes for this week includes a reference to “Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito”, which I believe wins some version of SID bingo. Well done.

– On the other hand, the FU release also includes this blurb:

Furman has already avenged a pair of losses from a year ago, defeating both VMI (24-21) and South Carolina State (17-3) after dropping games to the Keydets and Bulldogs in 2014. A win over The Citadel on Saturday would improve the Paladins to 3-0 in revenge matchups.

I’ve got to ask: how are “revenge matchups” being defined? After all, Furman has lost two games this season to teams which also defeated the Paladins last year (Coastal Carolina and Chattanooga).

Is it only a revenge matchup if Furman wins?

– Furman was off last week. In the past four years, the Paladins are 2-2 coming off bye weeks, with one of the wins a 24-17 victory over The Citadel in 2013. This is the first time Furman has played a home game after a bye week since 2011, when the Paladins defeated Presbyterian 66-21.

– Former Bengals and Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche will be the ESPN3 analyst on Saturday. It is unlikely that he will say anything about Cleveland during the broadcast. You never know, though.

While this is a key game for the Bulldogs, it is an equally important game for Furman.

In fact, this game is a great opportunity for the Paladins. With a victory, Furman will be in a position similar to the one The Citadel is in right now — right in the middle of the conference race, and with legitimate playoff aspirations.

The Paladins have already played Chattanooga and VMI. Their remaining league schedule includes three teams The Citadel has beaten (Samford, Western Carolina, and Wofford).

If Furman were to defeat The Citadel, that school’s supporters could logically conclude that the Paladins are capable of beating those same three squads. Take care of business against that trio and Mercer, and Furman is 8-3 and preparing for postseason play. Even at 7-4, the Paladins would have a shot at a playoff berth, given their strong non-conference schedule.

I suspect this will be a very physical contest on both sides of the ball. Furman’s offense will try very hard to establish the run.

There have been times in the recent past (the 2012 game, for instance) when the Paladins got away from running the football. I don’t expect the Furman coaching staff to make the same mistake this time.

That said, I have a lot of confidence in the Bulldogs. They have played very good football over the past two weeks, and I see no reason for that to change on Saturday.

I think this will be a hard-fought game between two good teams. I’m looking forward to it; the atmosphere should be great.

Go Dogs!

2015 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Davidson

…But one day, when across the Field of Fame the goal seemed dim,
The wise old coach, Experience, came up and spoke to him.
“Oh Boy,” he said, “the main point now before you win your bout
Is keep on bucking Failure till you’ve worn the piker out!”

“And, kid, cut out this fancy stuff — go in there, low and hard;
Just keep your eye upon the ball and plug on, yard by yard,
And more than all, when you are thrown or tumbled with a crack,
Don’t sit there whining — hustle up and keep on coming back;

“Keep coming back with all you’ve got, without an alibi,
If Competition trips you up or lands upon your eye,
Until at last above the din you hear this sentence spilled:
‘We might as well let this bird through before we all get killed.’

“You’ll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart,
Where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.
And when they stop you with a thud or halt you with a crack,
Let Courage call the signals as you keep on coming back.

“Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,
Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game.”

– from “Alumnus Football”, by Grantland Rice

The Citadel vs. Davidson, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 5. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on, with Kevin O’Rourke providing play-by-play and Sadath Jean-Pierre supplying the analysis.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

The Citadel Sports Network — Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Orangeburg: WORG 100.3FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

From three weeks ago: my de facto preview of the upcoming season for The Citadel, which is something of a statistical review of last year. Math is involved.

Other topics related to The Citadel’s football program that I’ve written about over the past few months:

– A post in which I somehow wrote about both FCS non-conference football schedules and “The Man in the Brown Suit”
– A brief overview of the SoCon’s 2015 football signees
My take on the school’s recent football uniform history (written before the latest “unveiling”)
– The “Gridiron Countdown” series of posts, including analysis of attendance issues, among other things

Links of interest:

Season preview from The Post and Courier

– Game-week depth chart report from The Post and Courier

STATS SoCon preview (The Citadel is picked to finish next-to-last)

– College Sports Madness SoCon preview (The Citadel is picked to finish sixth)

– SoCon media and coaches’ preseason polls (The Citadel is picked to finish next-to-last in both polls)

– Game notes from The Citadel and Davidson

SoCon weekly release

Pioneer League weekly release

Pioneer League preseason poll

FCS Coaches poll

Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference

Mike Houston’s 9/1 press conference (includes comments from Sam Frye and Tevin Floyd)

Paul Nichols previews the game on his coach’s show

Davidson College was founded in 1837, and established on land purchased from William Lee Davidson II . The school is named for his father, a Revolutionary War general who was killed in battle in 1781.

The college was originally established as a Presbyterian institution and is still affiliated with that church, though mandatory chapel was discontinued more than four decades ago. Davidson is located just north of Charlotte, with a 665-acre main campus. Most of Davidson’s 2,000 students live on that campus.

The college has an endowment of around $650 million. The school motto is Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas, which is a Latin phrase that translates as “Let Learning Be Cherished Where a Basketball Goal Has Arisen”.

Davidson played its first football game against outside opposition in 1898, losing its opener 11-0 to North Carolina but following that up with an 6-0 victory over South Carolina. The next year, five games were played; that 1899 campaign also featured a loss to UNC and a win over the Gamecocks. Indeed, Davidson’s first four seasons of football all included victories over South Carolina, three by shutout.

That is, if 1898 was actually Davidson’s first season of football. The most recent online edition (2013) of the school’s football media guide includes two games allegedly played in 1897, and the Davidson “Quick Facts” sheet also lists 1897 as being the first year in program history.

However, the college’s website references the 1897 “season” as simply consisting of matchups against area club teams. The two would-be 1897 opponents mentioned in the media guide are the same two schools that Davidson officially played in 1898 — North Carolina and South Carolina. Neither of those schools includes an 1897 game versus Davidson in their media guides.

Meanwhile, the College Football Data Warehouse lists four opponents for Davidson in 1896. It also identifies the Wildcats’ first opponent in 1897 as North Carolina State, not North Carolina (and lists a different score than the school media guide). Just to make things more interesting, NC State does list Davidson as one of its 1897 opponents.

All in all, I’m a bit undecided on the “When was Davidson’s first season?” question.

The Wildcats (a moniker acquired in 1917) continued to play regional opponents throughout the early part of the 20th century, including The Citadel. The first gridiron matchup between the two schools, in 1909, ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

In 1936, Davidson joined the Southern Conference, the same year The Citadel and Furman became members. The initial league campaign was a promising one for the Wildcats, as they finished 5-4 overall with a 4-3 record in the SoCon. However, that would be the last time Davidson finished with a winning record in conference play until 1954.

Davidson found something of a gridiron savior in the mid-1960s, with the arrival of Homer Smith as head coach. Smith, one of the more respected coaches of his generation, gradually built a title contender, thanks in part to instituting a two-platoon system that featured many more scholarship players. Everything came together in 1969.

That season, Davidson went 7-4, with a 5-1 record in the Southern Conference, sharing the league title and grabbing a berth in the Tangerine Bowl. It was the only time Davidson ever got even a piece of the conference crown. Incidentally, the Wildcats’ solitary SoCon loss in 1969 was a 34-28 setback at The Citadel.

Smith had a reputation as an offensive mastermind, and that is reflected in some of Davidson’s 1969 games. The Wildcats put 77 on the board against Furman, and 59 more versus VMI.

Entering the league finale against East Carolina, Davidson needed a win to clinch a tie for the conference title. ECU led 27-0 with less than a minute remaining in the first half, but Davidson scored six unanswered touchdowns and won, 42-27.

Things went south for the football program in a hurry, though, after that 1969 season.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise. Prior to the 1969 season, Homer Smith told reporters that football was unwanted at Davidson by “most of the faculty and staff…at least 80%. These people are working, some feverishly, to do away with subsidized college football.”

Smith also claimed the same was the case for Davidson basketball (!), but that Lefty Driesell’s teams had been successful enough to essentially pay for themselves.

(The column linked above mentions that Furman had also moved at that time to reduce its football budget. Furman eventually reversed course. Davidson did not.)

By February of 1970, Homer Smith was no longer Davidson’s football coach. Smith left (eventually taking the job at Pacific) after Davidson’s board of trustees slashed the football budget by almost half.

Over the next three seasons, Davidson won a total of six football games. Then as the 1973 season wound down, the administration at Davidson went one step further, in the process winning that year’s “Worst Communicators” award by acclimation. While the team was on the road at Air Force, a press conference was called. I’ll let John Kilgo (at that time writing for The Robesonian) describe what happened:

Davidson decided to de-emphasize football. There would be no more football scholarships. They would be distributed on a basis of “need” only.

The press was brought in and told what the decision was — but no one bothered to pick up the phone and relay the word to [head coach Dave Fagg] or Athletic Director Tom Scott. Fagg, who was aware the action might be taken, was notified officially by a newsman who called to question him.

When Fagg and his team got back to [campus on] Sunday, Davidson president Sam Spencer was out of town. He had still not bothered to inform his athletic director or head football coach that the football picture had been completely changed.

If you’re thinking that the Davidson administration couldn’t have possibly been more obtuse, you’re wrong:

The Spencer Administration did not accept [head coach Dave Fagg’s] advice about scheduling. The coach wanted to play other schools that award scholarships on a need basis. This would have taken Davidson out of the Southern Conference football picture.

Dr. Spencer obviously disagreed.

He feels Davidson can play what he calls “the less ambitious schools” in the Southern Conference. Dr. Spencer was not available for comment, but when asked to identify some of these colleges, a Davidson spokesman replied: “That’s a good question. I could not name the so-called less ambitious schools in the Southern Conference.”

Kilgo theorized that Spencer was referring to Furman, The Citadel, VMI, and Appalachian State. However, he pointed out that Davidson had struggled against those schools even with scholarship players — and that it was “not clear how [Davidson hoped] to compete against them [with] no players on football grants.”

In 1974 Davidson won two games, beating Hampden-Sydney and Defiance College (both Division III programs). A victory over D-3 Kenyon was the Wildcats’ only triumph in 1975.

In those two years, Davidson played a total of six Southern Conference games, two each against VMI, The Citadel, and Appalachian State. The Wildcats lost all six contests by an average score of 48-6.

By 1976, Davidson was ready to make a move. At least, that was the idea.

Davidson College announced Tuesday [June 22, 1976] it is dropping out of the Southern Conference, where it has been a member for 40 years, to seek “national-level” basketball competition…

…[Davidson officials] consider as a possibility joining a new conference being discussed by six Southern schools. They include East Carolina, South Carolina, the University of Richmond, William and Mary, and Virginia Military Institute.

That potential league didn’t happen. Davidson leaving the SoCon in 1977 didn’t happen either:

Davidson College announced the school will not leave the Southern Conference in July [of 1977] as previously announced.

“Being in the Southern Conference gives our minor sports a chance to compete in postseason play,” said athletic director Thom Cartmill. “There is an automatic NCAA tournament bid, and it makes scheduling easier.”

In other words, Davidson didn’t wind up in a new conference. The school thus had to decide whether to compete as an independent in basketball (and presumably most, if not all, of its other sports) or remain in the SoCon. It chose the safer route.

By this time basketball was the only varsity sport for which Davidson was offering athletic grants-in-aid. It seems rather clear that by then, Davidson had caught the “big time hoops” bug for good, and that sport has been the school’s primary (if not sole) focus for the past forty years when it comes to decision-making on the athletics front.

It is obvious (at least to me) that the most influential person in the history of Davidson athletics is Charles G. “Lefty” Driesell. Davidson had never won the Southern Conference title in hoops before Driesell’s arrival in 1960; by the time he left after the 1969 season, basketball was part of the college’s ethos.

I think it is fair to suggest that if it weren’t for Lefty Driesell, Davidson would no longer have a Division I athletics program. It is likely the school would have dropped down to Division III during the early 1970s if not for the success of his basketball teams.

Davidson did not technically compete for the SoCon title from 1974 to 1982, playing only one or two league schools (usually Furman and/or The Citadel) in most of those seasons. By 1983, though, the rest of the SoCon was ready for Davidson’s football program to participate in the league, or else the college would need to find a new conference to call home.

Since it didn’t have a lot of options at the time, Davidson agreed to play a league slate in football (a minimum of five games at first, later apparently increased to six). The immediate problem was that the Wildcats and the other conference schools already had their schedules set for the next several years, so a compromise was reached. What a compromise it was.

Davidson wound up playing in “designated league games” against the likes of Lafayette (twice), Penn (twice), James Madison (three times), and Bucknell (three times).

If you think that was bizarre, it gets better. Davidson’s games in 1985 against Bucknell, Penn, and James Madison all counted in the standings. The Wildcats’ games against Western Carolina, Furman, and The Citadel all counted in the standings that year too — but only for Davidson.

Western Carolina, Furman, and The Citadel were not credited with a league victory after each defeated Davidson, because the other league members that didn’t get to play the Wildcats were not about to let those schools get an edge in the standings by picking up what was assumed to be an easy win (and in fact, those three schools outscored Davidson that season by a combined total of 102-7).

Things didn’t get much better for the Wildcats in 1986. The squad went 0-9 overall, including a number of blowouts (63-14 versus Marshall; 63-6 against Appalachian State; 59-0 versus Furman).

In a four-year stretch between 1985 and 1988, Davidson won a combined total of two games (both against Wofford).

In the latter two of those four difficult seasons, the Wildcats were no longer playing in the Southern Conference.

A request by Davidson for an exemption from playing league football was rebuffed by the rest of the conference membership. The school’s administration had earlier elected to place its football program in the newly formed Colonial League (later renamed the Patriot League).

The decision basically put the rest of Davidson’s varsity sports in limbo, though the college actually remained in the Southern Conference for all sports except football and women’s hoops (which was dropped by Davidson in 1986) through the 1987-1988 school year.

Davidson competed as an independent in men’s basketball for two seasons, then joined the Big South for two years. The school would eventually return to the SoCon in all sports but football, starting in 1992-1993.

Of course, Davidson left the league again last year, this time for the Atlantic 10. However, from this point on in its varsity sports history I’m going to focus on Davidson’s football program.

Two years in the Colonial League were enough for Davidson, which went 0-7 in league play in those two seasons. The school’s board of trustees voted to move the program to Division III, though that stance would soon become moot; a 1991 NCAA bylaw change mandated that Division I schools would have to conduct all sports at the D-1 level (a decision occasionally referred to as the “Dayton Rule”).

The program proceeded to compete as a I-AA independent for the next decade, generally playing D-3 schools during that time. The change in schedule led to more wins; Davidson went 5-3 in 1990, won five more games in 1992, and added six victories in 1993 and 1996.

Head coach Tim Landis won eight games in both 1998 and 1999, but then departed after seven seasons. He was replaced by Joe Susan, a former Princeton assistant coach.

The new boss led the Wildcats to a perfect 10-0 season, the most wins in school history. He then immediately left Davidson to become an assistant coach at Rutgers.

Susan is now the head coach of Bucknell. The coach he replaced at Bucknell was the same coach he had replaced at Davidson — Tim Landis.

Davidson joined the Pioneer Football League for the 2001 season, and its football program has remained in that conference ever since. The Pioneer League is a football-only conference for schools that compete at the Division I level but don’t offer athletic scholarships in the sport.

For the past two years, the Pioneer League’s champion has received an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. There are eleven current conference members: Davidson, Campbell, Stetson, Jacksonville, Morehead State, Valparaiso, Butler, Dayton, Drake, Marist, and San Diego.

Mercer, of course, played in the league for one season before joining the SoCon last year.

Davidson’s win-loss record while a Pioneer League member has ranged from decent to really bad. The “really bad” includes the last few seasons.

The program has won only eighteen games in the last seven seasons, and has only one victory over the past two years. Unfortunately for Davidson, even that lone win carries a huge asterisk.

You can watch highlights of Davidson’s 56-0 victory over College of Faith (NC), assuming CoF’s uniforms don’t give you a headache. You can also read comments from an anonymous Davidson player on Reddit that were posted soon after the contest. Here are the first two:

I play for Davidson College, the team that played CoF last week. This was the most embarrassing [] ever…We had our starters out before the end of the first quarter and barely ran our offense because we felt bad for almost putting up 50 in the first half. If we had just kept playing I don’t see how we could’ve scored less than 150. They were so bad and it sucks as a player to have to try and justify any reason why we should’ve been playing them to other people. It was embarrassing as an athlete. But I suppose it’s a win, and we’re moving on to the rest of our schedule now.

Also they didn’t have athletic trainers… A bunch of their players got hurt and our trainers had to handle it for them.

The NCAA doesn’t think College of Faith is a legitimate school, and isn’t counting statistics for any future games played against it or any other schools the NCAA doesn’t deem “countable opponents”. In fact, College of Faith was specifically referenced when the NCAA made the ruling this past May.

Davidson had provisionally scheduled a game against College of Faith for this season, too, but in March the college replaced CoF on the schedule with Kentucky Wesleyan (which was another school that had played CoF last year).

(As an aside, East Tennessee State had also scheduled College of Faith for this year, but dropped CoF and replaced it with…Kentucky Wesleyan.)

When Davidson defeated College of Faith last season, it marked the first career victory as a head coach for Paul Nichols. It is also his only career victory as a head coach after two seasons at Davidson.

That is a far cry from his career as a player. Nichols was Davidson’s starting quarterback in 2000 when the Wildcats went undefeated.

Putting aside the College of Faith game for a moment, it does appear that Davidson made progress in 2014, at least when compared to its wretched 2013 campaign, a year in which Davidson lost every game it played by at least thirteen points.

Last season, Davidson lost one game in five overtimes (against Dayton), another by one point (at Campbell; the Wildcats led until the final minute), and a third by six points (versus Stetson).

There were also some blowout losses. VMI beat Davidson 52-24, while Princeton defeated the Wildcats 56-17.

A trip to Des Moines did not go well, as Drake manhandled Davidson 51-14. The Wildcats were also thrashed on their own Senior Day, 56-0, by Jacksonville. In those two games, Davidson was outscored in the first half by a combined 72-0.

It didn’t help Davidson’s cause when starting quarterback J.P. Douglas was suspended from the team in October following an on-campus altercation. Douglas was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. The charges were later dropped, but his gridiron career with the Wildcats was already over by that point.

Here is a comparison of The Citadel and Davidson in select statistical categories for the 2014 season. The Citadel’s stats are for SoCon games only (seven contests). Those opponents: Wofford, Chattanooga, Western Carolina, Mercer, Furman, Samford, and VMI.

For Davidson, I decided to throw out the College of Faith game, so the statistics below are for the other 11 games the Wildcats played last season. Davidson’s opponents in those eleven games: Catawba, VMI, Morehead State, Princeton, Dayton, Drake, Campbell, Stetson, Jacksonville, Marist, and Valparaiso.


Davidson The Citadel
Offense yards/pass attempt 5.6 6.8
Offense yards/rush attempt 3.55 5.35
Offense yards per play 4.64 5.56
Offense points per game 20.27 24.86
Penalties per game 5.9 5.3
Offense 3rd down conv % 33.9 46.3
Offense 4th down conv % 58.6 60
Offense Red Zone TD% 62.2 66.7
Defense yards/pass attempt 9.2 9.1
Defense yards/rush attempt 4.98 5.69
Defense yards allowed/play 6.66 7.02
Defense points allowed/game 43.36 25.86
Defense 3rd down conv % 50.3 41.5
Defense 4th down conv % 61.1 52.9
Defense Red Zone TD% 70.3 60
Time of possession 29:35 32:40

The one common opponent for the two teams last season was VMI. Both games were played at Foster Stadium in Lexington, VA.

Davidson-VMI box score

The Citadel-VMI box score

Davidson describes its offensive package as “multiple”. Last season, the Wildcats threw the ball (or were sacked attempting to pass) 56.6% of the time. Passing yardage accounted for 64.6% of Davidson’s total offense. [Note: those numbers do not include the game against College of Faith.]

Taylor Mitchell will start at quarterback for the Wildcats. He started the final four games of last season following J.P. Douglas’ arrest.

Mitchell, a 6’1″, 191 lb. sophomore from Buford, Georgia, was 81-161 passing last season, with two touchdown passes against eleven interceptions, averaging 4.78 yards per attempt.

Running back Jeffrey Keil rushed for 725 yards and eight touchdowns last season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He was named the Pioneer League’s Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Another sophomore running back, Austin Wells, saw considerable time last season and also serves as the team’s primary kick returner.

Davidson’s best offensive player is probably senior wideout William Morris, a 6’1″, 179 lb. native of Dallas. Morris (a first-team all-Pioneer League selection in 2014) caught 98 passes last year for 1,224 yards, averaging 12.5 yards per reception.

Morris had 16 receptions for 208 yards against VMI last season. The Citadel’s defense will certainly have him on its radar.

Average size of Davidson’s presumptive starting offensive line (per its two-deep): 6’1″, 291 lbs. The five players combined to start 48 games for the Wildcats last season.

Both right tackle Josh Daryoush and right guard Matt Brantley started all 12 games for Davidson in 2014. Caleb Krause, the center, has started 31 games for the Wildcats during his career.

Last season, Davidson operated out of a 4-3 base defense (which I’ve also seen listed as a 4-2-5). The Wildcats could have a very different look on Saturday, of course, given the Bulldogs’ triple-option attack.

Defensive end Chris Woods, a senior from Burlington, North Carolina, received some preseason honors. He had 5.5 tackles for loss last season.

Woods only weighs 214 lbs., the lightest member of Davidson’s defensive line. Defensive tackles Grant Polofsky and Alex Behrend both started 11 games last year.

Linebacker Zach Popovec started nine games as a freshman. Fellow outside ‘backer Ricky Tkac is the leading returning tackler for the Wildcats.

Senior cornerback William Curran started seven games last season. The other three listed starters in the secondary combined to start just two games in 2014.

Sophomore placekicker Trevor Smith had a solid year for Davidson in 2014, making 9 of 13 field goals and 28 of 29 PATs. He made a 44-yarder against Dayton (sending that game into OT), his longest made field goal of the season.

John Cook shared punting duties in 2014. He averaged 36 yards per punt, with a long of 55.

None of his punts were blocked, while 3 of his 26 punts landed inside the 20 (with no touchbacks). Cook is also the backup quarterback for Davidson.

Long snapper Conrad Mueller is in his second year in that role for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats averaged 20.7 yards per kick return last season, slightly better than average nationally (and almost two yards per return better than The Citadel). Davidson’s kick coverage units were inconsistent from game-to-game; Princeton, in particular, dominated the special teams battle when the two teams played.

Davidson only returned one punt all season (for seven yards). I thought that was a typo at first, but it isn’t.

Odds and ends:

– Paul Nichols is only 34 years old, and the Davidson head coach also has a very young coaching staff. College graduating class years of his eleven assistants: 2005, 2008, 2012, 2011, 2007, 2001, 2012, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

– Dave Fagg was the head football coach at Davidson (his alma mater) for two separate stints, 1970-1973 and 1990-1992. He was also the head wrestling coach at The Citadel for one season, 1964-1965 (serving as an assistant football coach for the Bulldogs in 1964). There probably are not too many people who have been Division I head coaches in both football and wrestling, and at different schools.

– Davidson has 95 players on its roster (as of August 28), and they come from 24 different states. North Carolina is home to 21 of those players, while 15 are natives of Georgia. Other states with significant representation: Florida and Ohio (nine each), Texas (eight), and Maryland (five).

Nick Wheeler and Derek Jones, both sophomores for the Wildcats, were classmates at Eagle High School in Eagle, Idaho.

Junior linebacker Nate Casey (Tega Cay/Westminster Catawba Christian) and freshman offensive lineman Daniel Runck (Mt. Pleasant/Wando) are the only two South Carolina residents on the squad.

– Of those 95 players, there are 13 seniors, 19 juniors, 29 sophomores, and 34 freshmen. Last season, Davidson reportedly had 77 freshmen and sophomores on its roster.

– After playing The Citadel, Davidson will host Catawba next Saturday. The Wildcats then have a week off before beginning Pioneer League play on September 26, travelling to Kentucky to face Morehead State.

– Earlier in this post I quoted from a John Kilgo article, a stinging criticism of the actions of Davidson’s administration circa 1973. Kilgo has been an institution in the Charlotte sports community for more than 50 years.

He co-wrote Dean Smith’s as-told-to autobiography (the two were good friends) and hosted Smith’s TV show. Kilgo also enjoyed a noteworthy career as a radio commentator, and was a writer/publisher for a variety of newspapers.

In the mid-1960s, he was Davidson’s sports information director. For the past 15 years, he has been the play-by-play voice for Davidson men’s basketball.

– Per Davidson’s game notes, 34 members of the Wildcats’ 1965 squad will be in attendance on Saturday, dressed in red and seated behind the Davidson bench. According to Paul Nichols on his preview show, two assistant coaches from that year will be there as well: Dave Fagg and Dick Tomey.

After leaving Davidson following the 1966 season, Tomey would eventually have a long, successful career as a head coach at three schools: Hawai’i, Arizona (including the “Desert Swarm” years), and San Jose State.

– Famous people who attended Davidson but did not graduate include Woodrow Wilson, William Styron, and Stephen Curry.

If you’re wondering why I wrote the previous sentence in that manner, it’s because Davidson’s list of alumni athletes on Wikipedia includes Curry but notes in parenthesis that he “did not graduate”, singling him out despite the fact he is far from the only listed ex-player not to get his degree from the school. Apparently Curry’s lack of a college diploma is a cause of angst in certain quarters.

– Mike Houston has faced Davidson once as a head coach. In 2013, his Lenoir-Rhyne team defeated the Wildcats 34-18. In that game, Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for 419 yards; the Bears also scored a touchdown on a 98-yard kickoff return. Davidson’s William Morris, then a sophomore, had 119 yards receiving and a TD.

The contest was Paul Nichols’ second game in charge of the Wildcats, and his home debut.

– The Citadel leads the alltime series against Davidson 31-21-4 and has won the last eight matchups (and 14 of the last 15). The two teams’ last meeting was in 1985, a 31-0 victory for the Bulldogs.

Despite the fact the two programs haven’t met on the gridiron in 30 years, Davidson has played The Citadel more times than any other school except VMI (which has faced the Wildcats on 58 occasions).

– The Citadel’s fans are being encouraged to wear light blue to the game against Davidson (this request was also printed on the season tickets). Presumably the team will wear the traditional home uniform of light blue jerseys with white pants. At least, I hope so.

– Mike Houston’s radio show will air on Wednesday nights this season from 7-8 pm. It will originate from Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ in West Ashley. Mike Legg will host the show, which will be broadcast on WQNT (1450 AM) in Charleston.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 41.5 point favorite over Davidson on Saturday.

This game is not expected to be close, and I don’t really think it will be. However, I am less than comfortable with the premature enumeration of fowl.

Regardless, I’m not expecting an absolute shellacking. Davidson’s tendency to throw the football more often than not could pose problems for the Bulldogs; the program in recent years has not been noted for stellar pass D.

Offensively, The Citadel should move the ball without too much difficulty, though the Wildcats’ statistics against the run last season were not that bad. The key will be making sure all the skill position players are on the same page, which could be an issue with a new quarterback, and the fact that it is the opening game of the season.

The experience and ability of the Bulldogs’ offensive line should be a major advantage for The Citadel, however.

Assuming a victory, the final score probably won’t be the best way to evaluate the Bulldogs on Saturday. Consistency of execution on offense, playmaking on defense, success on special teams — those are the elements that will matter in the long run.

I’m looking forward to this game. I’ve been looking forward to it since last season ended.

Haven’t we all.

Gridiron countdown: what teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before facing The Citadel?

Ah, it’s a now-annual July topic. This season, I am delving a little further into the schedules, and noting which teams The Citadel’s opponents face after playing the Bulldogs.

Here we go…

September 5: Davidson makes its first appearance at Johnson Hagood Stadium since 1985, which was also the last time the Bulldogs and Wildcats met on the gridiron. As for 2015, it is the season opener for both teams, so Davidson naturally won’t have an opponent in the week prior to its trip to Charleston. The Wildcats’ most recent game was a 27-13 setback at Valparaiso to close out the 2014 campaign.

After playing The Citadel, Davidson will face Catawba the following week in its home opener at Richardson Stadium.

September 12: Western Carolina is the opposition for the Bulldogs, and the Catamounts will come to the Holy City after opening the week before in Cullowhee against Mike Houston’s alma mater, Mars Hill.

I don’t think WCU’s players and coaches will be looking ahead, not with The Citadel being the SoCon opener for both schools. However, a few of the Catamounts’ fans may do so, as Western Carolina plays at Tennessee on September 19.

September 19: The first road game of the season for The Citadel will be a short one, as the Bulldogs travel to Statesboro to play Georgia Southern. It will be the second home game of the season for the Eagles, as GS welcomes Western Michigan to Paulson Stadium on September 12.

Georgia Southern opens its season at West Virginia in a game that has “early upset potential” written all over it. I predict lots of Red Bull will be consumed in that contest.

In terms of scheduling, playing the Eagles after they come off games against WVU and Western Michigan (which will be one of the favorites to win the MAC) may not be such a bad thing for The Citadel. Of course, if Georgia Southern is 0-2 by that point, maybe it would be a bad thing. I don’t know.

Georgia Southern goes on a classic Sun Belt conference road swing after the matchup with The Citadel, travelling to Idaho and Louisiana (to play ULM) in consecutive weeks.

September 26: Charleston Southern comes to town to play the Bulldogs. Just like last season, CSU will play a Thursday night game the week before its game against The Citadel, giving it a couple extra days for recuperation and preparation.

The opponent for Charleston Southern on September 17 is another group of Buccaneers, as CSU hosts East Tennessee State and its resurrected football program. It will be ETSU’s first football road game since a contest at Wofford on November 8, 2003.

That game against East Tennessee State comes five days after Charleston Southern travels to Alabama to face a Sun Belt outfit, Troy. CSU begins its season with a home matchup versus North Greenville.

After playing The Citadel, Charleston Southern has a week off before beginning its Big South campaign with a home game against Monmouth.

October 3: There is no game this week for The Citadel. Not coincidentally, I’ll be on vacation.

October 10: Wofford is the Parents’ Day opponent this year for The Citadel. It will be the second SoCon game for both teams, as the Terriers will travel to Mercer on October 3 for their league opener.

Wofford’s early-season non-conference slate includes games at Clemson and (bizarrely, at least to me) at Idaho. After playing The Citadel, the Terriers host Western Carolina.

October 17: The Citadel makes the trek to Alabama to tangle with another group of Bulldogs, those representing Samford. It will be SU’s second meeting with a military college in back-to-back weeks, as it plays VMI in Lexington on October 10.

Samford opens with three home games (including a matchup with Chattanooga) before going on the road to face Louisville and VMI. There is an off week in between the games versus the Cardinals and Keydets.

After returning home to play The Citadel, Samford travels to Western Carolina. The October 17 game in Birmingham is SU’s only home contest between September 19 and October 31, a situation similar to that of the next opponent on The Citadel’s schedule.

October 24: Furman hosts The Citadel for the first time since 2012, with the Paladins having a week off before facing the Bulldogs. It will be Homecoming weekend at Furman.

The Paladins are at Chattanooga on October 10, and will travel to Samford on October 31. The game against The Citadel will be Furman’s lone home game between October 3 (South Carolina State) and November 14 (Mercer).

October 31: The Citadel hosts Mercer on Halloween (a day game, thankfully). It will be the second straight week the Bears will have squared off against a military college, as Mercer plays at home versus VMI on October 24.

The Bears are back in Macon on November 7, playing Chattanooga.

November 7: The final home game of the season for the Bulldogs is a big one. It will be Homecoming weekend at The Citadel, and VMI will arrive in Charleston to battle for the coveted Silver Shako.

The Keydets are at home against Wofford the week before making the trip to face the Bulldogs, and will return to Lexington the following week for VMI’s regular-season finale, versus Western Carolina.

November 14: The last SoCon game of the season for the Bulldogs is a road matchup against Chattanooga. As mentioned above, the Mocs are at Mercer on November 7. The week after playing The Citadel, Chattanooga meets Florida State in Tallahassee.

November 21: The Citadel travels to Columbia to play South Carolina. The two programs have split their last two meetings in the Palmetto State’s capital city.

The Gamecocks will be playing the second of three consecutive home games to complete the regular season. The contest versus the Bulldogs is sandwiched between games against Florida and Clemson.

The Bulldogs face one team coming off a “bye” week (Furman), and another that will have two extra days off (Charleston Southern). Obviously, Davidson won’t have played the week before facing The Citadel, either.

There is only one “triple option preview” situation this season. VMI will play Wofford the week prior to its game versus The Citadel, which incidentally was also the case last year.

Getting closer to kickoff…

Gridiron countdown: preseason ratings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

Also part of the “Gridiron Countdown” series:

What teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before facing The Citadel?

The Citadel competes to win games — and fans

Independence Day has come and gone, which means the home stretch of the college football offseason is drawing closer. That first college football weekend can’t get here fast enough.

There is still time to kill, though. With that in mind, I decided to take a brief look at a preseason ratings system that was released this week, the Massey Ratings.

Ken Massey is a math professor at Carson-Newman whose ratings system was used (with several others) for fifteen years by the BCS. He has ratings for a wide variety of sports, but most of the attention surrounding his work has been focused on college football.

A quick introduction of the Massey Ratings, from its website:

The Massey Ratings are designed to measure past performance, not necessarily to predict future outcomes…overall team rating is a merit based quantity, and is the result of applying a Bayesian win-loss correction to the power rating.

…In contrast to the overall rating, the Power is a better measure of potential and is less concerned with actual wins-losses.

…A team’s Offense power rating essentially measures the ability to score points. This does not distinguish how points are scored, so good defensive play that leads to scoring will be reflected in the Offense rating. In general, the offensive rating can be interpretted as the number of points a team would be expected to score against an average defense.

Similarly, a team’s Defense power rating reflects the ability to prevent its opponent from scoring. An average defense will be rated at zero. Positive or negative defensive ratings would respectively lower or raise the opponent’s expected score accordingly.

…the Massey model will in some sense minimize the unexplained error (noise). Upsets will occur and it is impossible (and also counter-productive) to get an exact fit to the actual game outcomes. Hence, I publish an estimated standard deviation. About 68% of observed game results will fall within one standard deviation of the expected (“average”) result.

Preseason ratings are typically derived as a weighted average of previous years’ final ratings. As the current season progresses, their effect gets damped out completely. The only purpose preseason ratings serve is to provide a reasonable starting point for the computer. Mathematically, they guarantee a unique solution to the equations early in the season when not enough data is available yet.

So there you go. Basically, preseason ratings are almost meaningless, which makes them perfect for a blog post!

One of the interesting things about the Massey Ratings is that all college football teams are included — not just FBS and FCS squads, but D-2, D-3, NAIA, junior colleges, even Canadian schools. In all, there are preseason ratings for 924 colleges and universities.

The Citadel is #174 in the preseason ratings. How does that compare to the teams on the Bulldogs’ schedule?

  • Davidson — #584
  • Western Carolina — #168
  • Georgia Southern — #86
  • Charleston Southern — #162
  • Wofford — #182
  • Samford — #146
  • Chattanooga — #95
  • Furman — #205
  • Mercer — #267
  • VMI — #272
  • South Carolina — #28

As you can see, there isn’t a great deal of difference between The Citadel and most of the teams on its schedule.

Massey gives the Bulldogs a 1% chance of beating South Carolina. Of course, that is notably higher than the odds offered by The State newspaper when the two teams met in 1990 (the publication infamously opined that all the Gamecocks would have to do to win the game was “show up”; it didn’t quite work out that way).

Meanwhile, Davidson is listed as having a 0% chance of upsetting The Citadel, which is a function of the Wildcats having not beaten a legitimate team (no, College of Faith doesn’t qualify) since November 2012. The Wildcats are rated next-to-last among all FCS schools, ahead of only East Tennessee State, which relaunches its program this season and has a preseason rating of #651.

Another startup program, Kennesaw State, is actually rated ahead of Davidson (the Owls carry a #519 preseason rating). Kennesaw State begins its gridiron history with a Thursday night game at ETSU. It’s a shame they couldn’t work Davidson into a three-way round-robin.

Among all FCS schools, Chattanooga is rated 5th; Samford, 22nd; Charleston Southern, 33rd; Western Carolina, 36th; The Citadel, 38th; Wofford, 42nd; Furman, 56th; Mercer, 84th; VMI, 85th; and Davidson, 124th.

The highest-rated FCS team overall is (no surprise) four-time defending subdivision champ North Dakota State, rated #47 in all of D-1. Last year’s runner-up, Illinois State (#64 in D-1), is second among FCS squads.

A few other schools that may or may not be of interest:

  • Alabama — #1
  • Ohio State — #2
  • Oregon — #3
  • Georgia — #4
  • TCU — #5
  • Michigan State — #6
  • Baylor — #7
  • Arkansas — #8
  • Auburn — #9
  • Georgia Tech — #10
  • Stanford — #11
  • Clemson — #12
  • Florida State — #17
  • Notre Dame — #32
  • Duke — #41
  • North Carolina — #61
  • Navy — #73
  • Air Force — #80
  • Georgia Southern — #86
  • Coastal Carolina — #98 (#7 in FCS)
  • Appalachian State — #105
  • Old Dominion — #119
  • Liberty — #128 (#17 in FCS)
  • Army — #132
  • Colorado State-Pueblo — #134 (#1 in D-2)
  • James Madison — #147 (#23 in FCS)
  • Richmond — #148 (#24 in FCS)
  • Fordham — #150 (#26 in FCS)
  • William & Mary — 158 (#29 in FCS)
  • Harvard — #160 (#31 in FCS)
  • Georgia State — #178
  • Presbyterian — #188 (#48 in FCS)
  • Lenoir-Rhyne — #190 (#13 in D-2)
  • Delaware — #194 (#51 in FCS)
  • South Carolina State — #206 (#57 in FCS)
  • Charlotte — #226
  • Elon — #250 (#78 in FCS)
  • Gardner-Webb — #258 (#80 in FCS)

Sure, this is relatively light fare. Right now, though, it’s all we have.

Keep counting down the days…

Riley Report: Previewing the 2015 baseball season for The Citadel


Links of interest:

Schedule and Roster

Season tickets are on sale now

“Quick facts” from the school website

Preview of the upcoming season for the Bulldogs from the school website

Preview article in The Post and Courier

Preview article from

College Baseball Today‘s national rundown (The Citadel is picked to finish 5th in the league, and is ranked 193rd out of 301 D-1 teams)

SoCon preview, Baseball America (Drew Ellis is BA‘s preseason Freshman of the Year)

SoCon preview, College Baseball Daily (The Citadel is picked to finish last in the league)

SoCon preview, (The Citadel is picked to finish 8th in the league)

SoCon preview, Perfect Game (The Citadel is picked to finish 6th in the league)

SoCon preseason polls (The Citadel is tied for 7th in the coaches’ poll, and is 6th in the media poll)

SoCon preseason all-conference teams (Skylar Hunter and Johnathan Stokes made the second team)

Skylar Hunter named to the preseason NCBWA All-America third team

Two quick comments before getting started:

1) Unless I state otherwise, all statistics that follow are for Southern Conference games only. That’s because A) it is easier and generally fairer to compare teams within a specific subset, and B) ultimately, conference play is what most of the season is all about. I do recognize the limitations of the sample size when making comparisons or analyzing trends (The Citadel played 26 league contests in 2014).

2) This year’s preview includes the return of SS+ and SS-, the most meaningless SoCon baseball stats ever created by yours truly. They are also the only SoCon baseball stats created by yours truly. As a bonus, the SS numbers are based on another statistic that is currently out of date!

I’ll explain in detail later in the post.

The last five seasons for The Citadel’s baseball program have gone like this:

– 2010: League champions in the regular season; won the conference tournament
– 2011: Last place
– 2012: Transition season
– 2013: Good year; just missed winning the SoCon tourney
– 2014: Last place

Last year wasn’t a lot of fun for the Diamond Dogs. Expectations were fairly high, but actual results were rather low.

It isn’t like the league got a lot better last year, either. Here are the conference RPI rankings for that same five-year period:

– 2010: 10th
– 2011: 14th
– 2012: 7th
– 2013: 12th
– 2014: 13th

(Note: the numbers in this section are for all games.)

What must The Citadel do to improve in league play? Well, before answering that question, it might be instructive to see just what kind of league the SoCon was in 2014. I’m not talking about power ratings; no, I’m talking about…power.

I’ll put it like this: in 2014, the SoCon was college baseball’s version of a slow-pitch softball league.

The conference led all of D-1 in runs scored per game. SoCon teams averaged 6.05 runs per contest, the only league to break the six-run barrier (the national average was almost a full run less, at 5.08 runs per game).

How did league teams score those runs? By swinging from the heels. SoCon squads averaged 0.73 home runs per contest, again leading the nation.

They also struck out 7.06 times per game, most in D-1 (okay, maybe that wasn’t quite like slow-pitch softball). There were plenty of pitches thrown when SoCon teams were playing, as when not striking out or hitting homers batters were willing to take a walk. The league was fifth (out of 31 conferences) in walks per game.

Oh, and forget about bunting: no conference averaged fewer sacrifice hits.

Four SoCon teams finished in the top 10 nationally in home runs per game: Davidson (3rd), Georgia Southern (6th), Samford (8th), and Western Carolina (10th). Appalachian State and Wofford finished in the top 25 in that category as well.

Meanwhile, The Citadel was last in the league in home runs per game. Obviously, a good part of that is a function of park effects. Not all of it, though.

Given the style of offense employed by most of the league’s teams, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that SoCon pitchers piled up lots of strikeouts, with a K/9 that ranked third nationally (and that almost one-third of those strikeouts came on called third strikes, the fifth-highest percentage among conferences).

Okay, now for some SoCon-only statistics (with innings pitched totals, “0.7” equates to two-thirds of an inning; “0.3” equals one-third of an inning).

Here are batting totals for the league teams in 2014 in conference action:

UNCG 0.322 867 163 19 0.461 85 11 141 0.384 0.845
Davidson 0.308 906 182 29 0.472 96 24 218 0.384 0.856
Furman 0.305 920 169 17 0.435 123 20 173 0.391 0.826
App St 0.294 934 176 26 0.454 100 17 165 0.369 0.823
Samford 0.279 941 193 29 0.446 98 28 205 0.361 0.807
W. Carolina 0.279 870 177 28 0.441 108 30 195 0.372 0.813
Elon 0.278 927 151 21 0.412 105 14 205 0.357 0.769
The Citadel 0.277 881 131 17 0.381 95 30 167 0.361 0.742
Wofford 0.251 844 136 22 0.374 89 38 167 0.344 0.718
Ga Southern 0.248 899 135 18 0.364 110 26 215 0.344 0.708
TOTALS 0.284 8989 1613 226 0.425 1009 238 1851 0.367 0.792


Pitching totals, 2014 league games only:

Ga Southern 2.82 239 107 75 0.248 11 22 3.01 7.53 0.64 0.299
W. Carolina 4.32 231 128 111 0.265 32 23 3.90 8.38 0.86 0.323
Samford 4.81 236 157 126 0.273 22 31 4.27 7.25 0.84 0.318
Davidson 4.82 222 147 119 0.268 22 19 3.53 7.30 1.01 0.304
Wofford 5.59 227 168 141 0.294 26 20 4.28 8.13 1.15 0.348
Elon 5.75 234.7 180 150 0.288 24 29 3.95 5.91 0.92 0.313
UNCG 6.13 211.3 188 144 0.310 26 40 4.73 7.20 0.51 0.367
Furman 6.15 228.3 173 156 0.288 35 17 4.26 8.12 0.91 0.346
App State 6.27 224 186 156 0.306 28 20 3.17 6.79 1.13 0.346
The Citadel 6.51 225.7 179 163 0.304 26 17 4.83 6.50 0.96 0.343
TOTALS 5.30 2279 1613 1341 0.284 252 238 3.98 7.31 0.89 0.331


Fielding totals, 2014 SoCon games:

W. Carolina 984 693 265 26 0.974 18 15 13 0.536 4 0.6824
Furman 993 685 281 27 0.973 18 28 10 0.737 3 0.6614
Wofford 942 681 235 26 0.972 17 25 11 0.694 1 0.6604
G Southern 1046 717 295 34 0.967 19 34 17 0.667 6 0.7078
The Citadel 964 677 255 32 0.967 22 29 8 0.784 2 0.6605
Elon 1005 704 264 37 0.963 17 19 5 0.792 19 0.6939
Samford 1046 708 297 41 0.961 28 19 10 0.655 4 0.6897
UNCG 897 634 227 36 0.960 25 22 12 0.647 7 0.6385
Davidson 920 666 216 38 0.959 16 22 8 0.733 3 0.6994
App State 1009 672 293 44 0.956 28 37 6 0.860 1 0.6573
TOTALS 9806 6837 2628 341 0.965 208 250 100 0.714 50 0.6752


I thought it was interesting that the defensive efficiency rating in conference play (.675) was lower than when all games played by league teams were taken into consideration (.688). Of course, park effects would be one potential reason for the discrepancy.

Speaking of park effects, that brings me to my fabled statistical concoctions, SS+ and SS-, and an explanation.

It’s obvious that statistics can be skewed by park effects. The Citadel plays in a “pitcher’s park”. Western Carolina quite clearly does not. I try to account for this.

First, I use the Park Factors calculated by college baseball statistics guru Boyd Nation. His numbers are based on all games played at a school’s home park over the four seasons from 2010-2013. That gives us a chance to make a valid comparison, based on the “building blocks” of the game — runs. Teams want to score runs, and teams want to prevent them. How they do so doesn’t really matter in the long run.

There are a couple of caveats. One is relatively minor, while the other may or may not be.

The four-year period in question includes one year in the pre-BBCOR era, and three years after the new bat standards went into effect. That could have a marginal impact on the ratings, though to be honest I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

However, a slightly larger problem is that these aren’t the updated park factors. Ideally, I would base 2014’s numbers on park factors from 2011-2014, but Nation hasn’t released the data from last year yet (and probably won’t for another month or two). Despite that, I forged ahead.

Riley Park has a Park Factor (PF) of 83, by far the lowest in the league. Childress Field at Hennon Stadium, home of Western Carolina, has a PF of 123, which is the highest in the SoCon for the 2010-13 period.

I took the PF for every team’s home park, came up with a “road park factor” based on the different road stadia each team played in during the 2014 season, and combined them. Each school thus has a total park factor that is based on where it actually played all of its conference games.

Keep in mind that teams played an odd number of home/road games (and some games were rained out, so not every team played the full allotment of 27 league contests). In my formula, I do account for the different number of home/road matchups.

Okay, here we go:

TEAM Home PF Road PF Combined PF Runs SS+
Samford 102.00 94.20 97.66666667 193 1.976109215
Davidson 92.00 111.25 101.24000000 182 1.797708416
App State 115.00 102.80 107.96153850 176 1.630210189
UNCG 106.00 99.25 102.62500000 163 1.588306943
Furman 108.00 105.80 106.73076920 169 1.583423423
W. Carolina 123.00 102.25 113.42307690 177 1.560528993
Elon 99.00 101.00 99.88888889 151 1.511679644
Wofford 88.00 100.91 93.46153846 136 1.455144033
The Citadel 83.00 105.82 92.65384615 131 1.413864674
Ga Southern 102.00 94.00 97.55555556 135 1.383826879
TOTALS 101.08 101.47 101.27692310 1613 1.59266292

Samford, which scored more runs than any team in the league, did indeed have the best offense, even taking park factors into account. This table also suggests that despite finishing third in the league in runs scored, Western Carolina’s offense was actually slightly below league average.

To have had an offense that would essentially match Samford’s production, The Citadel would have had to score 183 runs in conference play last season (7.03 runs/game). The Bulldogs actually scored 131 (5.04 runs/game).

To be a league-average offense, The Citadel needed to score 148 runs (5.69 runs/game).

Now for the pitching/defense:

TEAM Home PF Road PF Combined PF RA SS-
Ga Southern 102.00 94.00 97.55555556 107 1.096810934
W. Carolina 123.00 102.25 113.42307690 128 1.128518142
Davidson 92.00 111.25 101.24000000 147 1.451995259
Samford 102.00 94.20 97.66666667 157 1.607508532
Furman 108.00 105.80 106.73076920 173 1.620900901
App State 115.00 102.80 107.96153850 186 1.722835768
Wofford 88.00 100.91 93.46153846 168 1.797530864
Elon 99.00 101.00 99.88888889 180 1.802002225
UNCG 106.00 99.25 102.62500000 188 1.831912302
The Citadel 83.00 105.82 92.65384615 179 1.931921959
TOTALS 101.08 101.47 101.27692310 1613 1.59266292

Ugh. Not a good look for The Citadel, which allowed the seventh-most runs in SoCon play, but was in reality the worst team in the league at preventing them. Wofford also fares a bit worse when using this metric.

To match the pitching/defense of Georgia Southern, The Citadel would have had to allow only 102 runs in league action (3.92 runs allowed/game). The actual total: 179 (6.88 runs allowed/game).

For league-average pitching/defense, The Citadel’s number was obviously the same as the offensive break-even point, 148 runs (5.69 runs allowed/game).

Now it’s time to take a look at The Citadel’s prospects for 2015. The difference in experience between the position players and pitchers is noticeable.

SoCon-only batting statistics (from 2014) for returning Bulldogs. It’s not a long table:

J. Stokes 97 13 2 11 15 0.289 0.351 0.412 0.763
Bret Hines 57 7 0 2 3 0.281 0.290 0.333 0.623
R. Kilgallen 63 10 1 9 16 0.254 0.365 0.333 0.698
Austin Mapes 14 2 0 2 2 0.286 0.375 0.286 0.661
C. Walsh 20 1 0 1 4 0.200 0.227 0.300 0.527
S. Windham 10 1 0 4 5 0.200 0.400 0.200 0.600
Bailey Rush 18 1 0 1 6 0.167 0.211 0.167 0.378
B. Charpia 3 0 0 0 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
S. Hansen 0 2 0 1 0 0.000 1.000 0.000 1.000
Totals 282 37 3 31 54 0.259 0.328 0.337 0.665

– Total SoCon at bats in 2012 for 2013 returnees: 705
– Total SoCon at bats in 2013 for 2014 returnees: 900
– Total SoCon at bats in 2014 for 2015 returnees: 282

Now that’s a dropoff. There are opportunities galore for position players in 2015. Basically, the Bulldogs appear set at shortstop (with Johnathan Stokes), catcher (Ryan Kilgallen) and maybe third base (potentially a platoon situation). That’s about it.

In 2014, Bulldog returnees had hit 30 home runs in SoCon play during the previous season. This year, that number is three.

From the school’s preview:

The offense will rely on the tradition hallmark of Citadel baseball – doing the little things which produce runs in a variety of ways but does not rely on the long ball – as the departed players accounted for 75 percent of the team’s extra base hits and nearly 70 percent of the RBIs.

Not relying on the long ball definitely goes against the grain when it comes to playing in the Southern Conference. While most of their league opponents will zig, the Bulldogs plan to zag.

Last season, The Citadel had an OBP of .361 in conference play, 7th-best in the league. If the Bulldogs are going to succeed at “small ball” in 2015, they will need to get on base at a better clip, something closer to the team’s OBP in 2013 SoCon action (.404).

Johnathan Stokes had one stolen base in 2014 SoCon play, the only steal in a conference game among Bulldog returnees. Overall, The Citadel was 12 for 20 in stolen base attempts in SoCon action last year, after going 33 for 48 in league games in 2013. It’s hard to swipe a bag when you don’t get on base.

A couple of names to watch who aren’t listed in the above table:

– Drew Ellis was named the preseason SoCon freshman of the year by Ellis (6’4″, 225 lbs.) is a native of Columbia who swings the bat from the left side (but throws from the right). He’ll be competing for a spot at first base.

Shy Phillips played this fall on the football team, of course, but the freshman is also a talented baseball prospect who committed to The Citadel in that sport before his senior season on the gridiron (where the Hartsville resident promptly played well enough to make the Shrine Bowl). Phillips (6’0″, 165 lbs.) will be in the mix for a place in the outfield.

SoCon-only pitching statistics (from 2014) for returning Bulldogs:

Austin Mason 5.20 36.3 23 21 3 0.271 6.19 4.46 0.313
L. Meachem 1.69 5.3 1 1 0 0.200 8.44 3.38 0.267
Zach McKay 1.93 9.3 5 2 0 0.222 6.75 4.82 0.267
Skylar Hunter 2.65 17.0 5 5 1 0.155 7.41 6.88 0.186
P.J. Krouse 3.18 5.7 2 2 0 0.333 3.18 1.59 0.350
James Reeves 3.44 18.3 7 7 2 0.253 12.76 1.47 0.362
Zach Lavery 4.50 8.0 6 4 0 0.300 4.50 0.00 0.333
Nate Brecklin 9.66 4.7 7 5 1 0.440 3.86 7.71 0.455
Zach Sherrill 10.44 14.7 19 17 3 0.385 6.14 6.14 0.400
Ross White 11.00 9.0 11 11 0 0.429 6.00 9.00 0.500
Brett Tompkins 12.38 8.0 11 11 3 0.303 4.50 7.88 0.269
A. Livingston 12.94 16.0 26 23 1 0.400 7.88 6.19 0.468
Kevin Connell 15.89 11.3 21 20 4 0.407 5.56 8.74 0.400
C. Walsh 40.91 0.7 3 3 1 0.500 13.50 40.50 0.500
Totals 7.24 164.3 147 132 19 0.313 6.97 5.32 0.356

– Total SoCon innings pitched in 2012 for 2013 returnees: 225.7
– Total SoCon innings pitched in 2013 for 2014 returnees: 197.0
– Total SoCon innings pitched in 2014 for 2015 returnees: 164.3

There are spots to be won on the pitching staff, too, but for another reason. Plenty of Bulldog hurlers got a taste of the action in 2014. However, there weren’t many who had a great deal of success in league play.

As a group, The Citadel’s pitchers didn’t strike out batters as much in 2014 league games (K/9 of 6.50) as they did in 2013 (7.42). Worse, the BB/9 rate went up dramatically (from 2.56 to 4.83).

The gopher ball was also more of a problem in 2014, with an significant increase in HR/9 (from 0.73 to 0.96). Add it all up, and you get a team ERA (6.51) almost two runs per game higher than it was in 2013 league play (4.69).

There are several freshmen who will be candidates for the bullpen, and possibly the starting rotation. I want to make a couple of quick observations about two of the returning hurlers, though:

James Reeves only threw 18.3 innings in SoCon play due to injury. He is back this season, and if his elbow is okay the Summerville native should be a dependable fixture in the weekend rotation.

Reeves pitched very well last year before being shut down. The lefty was also solid in league play in 2013, with a 2.53 ERA that year, allowing just one home run in 32 innings.

Zach Sherrill had knee surgery in the offseason. Sherrill was a very effective (and frequently-used) reliever in 2013, but struggled last season. If he can return to his form of two years ago, he will once again be a weapon in the bullpen.

While Sherrill clearly got rocked at times in 2014 (allowing 3 homers in SoCon play after giving up none in league action the year before; he also walked too many batters), it’s also true he could use a little more defensive help. Sherrill’s BABIP in 2013 was .281; last year, that shot up to .400 (which was also reflected in his batting average against).

A few defensive numbers on which to ruminate:

– The Citadel’s DER in 2012 SoCon play: 68.8% (league DER: 68.4%)
– The Citadel’s DER in 2013 SoCon play: 68.9% (league DER: 66.1%)
– The Citadel’s DER in 2014 SoCon play: 66.0% (league DER: 67.5%)

– Double plays turned by The Citadel in 2012 SoCon play: 25
– Double plays turned by The Citadel in 2013 SoCon play: 14
– Double plays turned by The Citadel in 2014 SoCon play: 22

– Stolen bases allowed by The Citadel in 2012 SoCon play: 47 (78.3% success rate for opponents)
– Stolen bases allowed by The Citadel in 2013 SoCon play: 29 (74.4% success rate for opponents)
– Stolen bases allowed by The Citadel in 2014 SoCon play: 28 (80.0% success rate for opponents)

– Errors committed by The Citadel in 2012 SoCon play: 39
– Errors committed by The Citadel in 2013 SoCon play: 57
– Errors committed by The Citadel in 2014 SoCon play: 32

I should point out that the DER numbers mentioned above are not park-adjusted. Given the spaciousness of Riley Park, it may be that the Bulldogs were a little better defensively than the seventh-best defensive squad in a ten-team league (Georgia Southern led the SoCon with a DER of 70.8% in conference games).

Having said that, even if you bump the Bulldogs up a notch or two, they still wind up average or slightly below average defensively. Average or slightly below average is simply not good enough.

We’ve got to pitch and defend,” [Fred] Jordan said. “We feel like we should have enough starting pitching, and the back end of our bullpen is very experienced. We hope we will pitch extremely well. Defending? Some of the new faces are going to have to get their feet wet, and we’ll have to be patient with that. But if you can pitch and defend, you have a chance.”

The SoCon’s reshuffling means that this year three new schools are in the league (Mercer, East Tennessee State, and VMI), while four have departed (Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Elon, and Davidson). The conference now has nine baseball teams (Chattanooga dropped its program over thirty years ago).

Mercer and East Tennessee State were most recently in the Atlantic Sun conference, and both made regional appearances two years ago (2013). That season, the Bears were the regular season league champions, while ETSU won the A-Sun tournament under the tutelage of noted clutch hitter Tony Skole.

The Buccaneers had a losing season last year, though they were competitive (27-30). Mercer won 38 games (the fifth consecutive season the Bears had won at least that many games), but went 2-and-BBQ in the conference tourney.

Both East Tennessee State and Mercer should fit right in with the bombs-away nature of the SoCon. Mercer was 15th nationally in home runs per game last season, while ETSU was tied for 24th overall in the category.

VMI was 25-23 last year, with an 11-16 record in the Big South. In stark contrast to the Bucs and Bears, the Keydets hit just 11 home runs in 48 games. The paucity of circuit clouts was a two-way street, however, as VMI’s pitchers only allowed 16 homers in 2014.

In December, VMI named Jonathan Hadra as its new baseball coach, after Marlin Ikenberry unexpectly resigned. Hadra, a 2004 graduate of the school, is the only first-time head baseball coach in the SoCon this season.

ETSU has a relatively new park, Thomas Stadium (referred to colloquially as “The Thom”; at least, that is what Wikipedia claims). It opened in 2013. In a bit of a scheduling fluke, The Citadel’s baseball team will not travel to any of the three new members in 2015. Mercer, ETSU, and VMI all play the Bulldogs in Charleston.

Of course, those three schools will make a return trip to Riley Park for the 2015 Southern Conference baseball tournament, which returns to the Holy City this season.

With eight league opponents this season, The Citadel will play 24 SoCon contests, twelve at home (ETSU, Mercer, VMI, Wofford) and twelve on the road (Western Carolina, UNCG, Samford, Furman). The league opener for the Bulldogs is March 27 in Cullowhee, against WCU.

The non-conference schedule is interesting. There are no early-season “tournaments” at Riley Park this season, however.

The Citadel’s non-league slate includes a fair share of games against former league opponents (College of Charleston, Georgia Southern, and Elon). Air Force comes to town for the opening weekend. The Bulldogs also have three-game home series with Lafayette, UMBC, and Alabama State.

The Citadel plays midweek games against North Florida and several in-state squads, including Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, and Charleston Southern. As always, The Citadel has a home-and-home with South Carolina.

Also as always, there will be no games versus Clemson. The Tigers have not played the Bulldogs in Charleston since 1990.

Boyd Nation put together a preseason “strength of schedule” feature on his website for this season. Of course, no one knows in February what a team’s actual strength of schedule will be.

That said, I was curious as to how programs put together their non-conference schedules. Ranking the preseason SoS numbers, this is how it shakes out for the SoCon:

119 – Samford
149 – UNCG
180 – VMI
184 – Furman
186 – The Citadel
187 – East Tennessee State
197 – Western Carolina
208 – Mercer
280 – Wofford

The two teams that finished 1-2 in the preseason SoCon media poll have two of the three (presumed) weakest OOC schedules.

Just in case you were wondering, here are a few other teams’ non-conference SoS rankings:

1 – Stanford
2 – Cal State Fullerton
3 – Fresno State
4 – Pacific
5 – San Diego

(1 through 5 are California Dreamin’)

25 – Coastal Carolina
38 – Indiana (Chris Lemonis, immediately followed by…)
39 – Louisville (…Dan McDonnell)
45 – Liberty (ranked in Baseball America‘s preseason Top 25)
51 – Georgia Southern
55 – Clemson
59 – Appalachian State
85 – Kennesaw State (also ranked in Baseball America‘s preseason Top 25)
87 – College of Charleston

128 – Vanderbilt (the defending national champion, almost immediately followed by…)
130 – Virginia (…last season’s runner-up)
132 – Elon
168 – North Carolina
172 – North Carolina State
176 – South Carolina
237 – Winthrop
258 – Charleston Southern
296 – Army
300 – Lehigh
301 – Navy (there are 301 D-1 teams)

In the end, none of that will likely mean anything. It’s just early-season fun.

Odds and ends:

– Just like last season, this year’s edition of the Bulldogs will include three Austins and three Zachs. Five of the six Austins/Zachs are pitchers.

– In a further attempt to encourage fans to buy scorecards, The Citadel will also feature twins, freshmen Philip and Jacob Watcher. Both are expected to see plenty of time in the infield and on the hill.

– Zach Sherrill and the Watcher brothers are three of seven players on the roster from Sumter, which appears to be making a 21st-century attempt to become the Official Small Town of The Citadel. I am sure that Orangeburg, Camden, and possibly Kingstree will continue to battle for that title, however (although there is no player from Orangeburg on this year’s roster, which could come back to haunt Fred Jordan).

– The tallest of the Bulldogs is senior righthander Brett Tompkins, who is 6’5″. There are seven players listed on the roster at 5’9″; I bet at least one of them is shorter than that.

– Of the 45 players on the roster, 38 are from South Carolina. Of the seven Bulldogs from out of state, freshman catcher Justin Craft‘s hometown (Waldorf, Maryland) is the longest distance from Charleston.

– There are eighteen “true” freshmen among the Diamond Dogs, along with three redshirt freshmen.

– New volunteer assistant coach Aaron Gershenfeld was a catcher at Louisville, where he played for former Bulldogs Dan McDonnell (the Cardinals’ head coach) and Chris Lemonis (now helming the program at Indiana). Gershenfeld is slated to be the team’s hitting coach and will also work with the catchers.

I’m looking forward to the 2015 campaign. Unfortunately, I’ll have to be a bit of a fair-weather fan (literally) for the first month or so, as my blood is still a bit thin. I’ll be faithfully watching the SoCon Digital Network, though, and listening to cult faves Andy and The Chief (“This is the out we came here for!”).

Having said that, the weather for the opening weekend looks promising, and I plan to be at Riley Park for at least one game of the series against Air Force. I hope a lot of other fans make an appearance, particularly on Opening Day — which also happens to be Friday the 13th. Don’t let triskaidekaphobia stop you from seeing the Diamond Dogs.

The Citadel is not favored to win the Southern Conference this season. Truth be told, the Bulldogs are not expected to be serious contenders for the title, as this year’s team will feature a lot of players who weren’t starters in 2014, along with a bunch of freshmen. Rebuilding is a word being thrown around in some circles.

A lack of experienced players, some freshmen, rebuilding. Hmm…that reminds me of something:

We are not reloading; we are in a rebuilding process.  Our team is made up of reserves of past years and freshmen who will get the opportunity to play this year and hopefully be up to the challenge…Our baseball accomplishments measured by victories this year could be moderate.  From our players we need a dedication of purpose, firm self-discipline and tenacious determination.  Hard work and aggressive play must overcome our limitations.

We will be playing off the enthusiasm of youth, and that should result in some entertaining baseball.  We must judge this team on the basis of their performance, according to their individual abilities and improvement throughout the season.  We want to teach them not to beat themselves and to always play with a fighting spirit and essential mental toughness.

We need to stay out of the way of line drives and recover foul balls so that we can stay within our budget.

– Chal Port, from The Citadel’s 1990 Baseball Media Guide

Go chase down those foul balls. It’s time for baseball season.

SoCon football recruiting: a quick look at the 2015 signees

National Signing Day has come and gone. Naturally, most of the attention around the country was focused on the recruits who signed with schools in the power five conferences. However, there is still plenty of interest in the recruiting hijinks taking place in other leagues, including the Southern Conference.

This is just a short post to make a few observations about the SoCon’s 2015 football signees.

First, here is a list of the league’s recruits: Link

I decided to make the list a bit more visual, and created a map with placemarks for every 2015 signee. I’ve embedded it below:

You can check and uncheck each school’s recruits if you want to make different comparisons, etc. Each placemark includes the player’s name, position, and hometown.

Last January, I wrote about an article in the analytics website Mode that featured an interactive map showing the hometowns of every Division I (FBS and FCS) football player. I thought it was interesting to compare that with the geographical distribution of this year’s recruits.

There has been quite a bit of “transition” in the SoCon, of course, with three football schools leaving (Appalachian State, Elon, and Georgia Southern). They have been replaced by East Tennessee State, Mercer, and VMI, and it’s not surprising that the recruiting territory for the conference has possibly changed as a result.

There have also been some coaching changes among the schools that remained in the league (including Samford this year and The Citadel last season), and that has probably had an effect as well.

Odds and ends about a few of the SoCon’s newest football players:

– More 2015 recruits hail from Knoxville, Tennessee (13) than any other city. Ten of those players signed with East Tennessee State.

– There were ten other cities that provided three or more SoCon recruits: Nashville, TN (6); Columbia, SC (5); Cincinnati, OH (3); Chattanooga, TN (3); Greenville, SC (3); Atlanta, GA (3); Murfreesboro, TN (3); Spartanburg, SC (3); Charlotte, NC (3); and Salem, VA (3).

– Those three recruits from Salem, Virginia? They all went to Salem High School, and all three signed with VMI.

Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, also had three SoCon signees. All three of those recruits inked with East Tennessee State.

– ETSU had 45 signees, by far the most among SoCon schools. Wofford had 24; Mercer, 21; The Citadel, 17; Samford, 16; Chattanooga, 15; Western Carolina, 14; Furman, 14; and VMI, 13.

– Eleven of VMI’s thirteen recruits are from the state of Virginia, with the other two signees coming from much farther away — Maryland. By any measure, VMI’s recruiting class was the most compact in the league, at least in terms of geography.

– It appears there are nine transfers in the various classes, including seven from FBS schools. Four of those seven are from the now-extinguished UAB program.

Chattanooga picked up two former Blazers; Samford and ETSU each signed one. The UAB transfer who may have the most immediate impact in the SoCon is offensive lineman Hayden Naumann (now of Samford), who started twelve games at right tackle last season for the Blazers.

Several other transfers not listed among Wednesday’s signees will eventually appear on various league rosters. One of them is Ellis Pace, a running back who began his college career at East Carolina. Pace is transferring to Wofford.

– The “northernmost” 2015 SoCon recruit is Brandon Zamary, a defensive lineman from Aurora, Ohio, who signed with Wofford. The “westernmost” signee is running back Justin Curry, a native of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Curry will play for Samford.

The “southernmost” recruit is from way down under. Mercer signed Australian punter Matt Shiel, a transfer from Auburn.

– Speaking of punters from southern regions, Samford inked George Grimwade of Miami, Florida, who is a dual-threat player — but not your typical dual threat. Grimwade is a 6’6″, 280 lb. offensive lineman who averaged 47 yards per punt for his high school (where he also plays basketball).

Grimwade and fellow Samford signee Vaquan Small (a wide receiver) are the two southernmost SoCon recruits from the continental United States.

– None of Furman’s 14 signees are from the state of South Carolina, so the Paladins are basically the bizarro version of VMI in terms of 2015 football recruiting. Furman’s press release included this interesting line:

Tight end Riley Gessner (Atlanta, Ga./Dunwoody H.S.) was Furman’s most heralded recruit, choosing the Paladins after receiving scholarship offers from 13 schools.

It struck me as a bit unusual that a school release would say a signee was its “most heralded recruit”.

– I usually disregard the blurbs about a player being “also recruited by” or “chose [our school] over [other schools]”. The reason I don’t pay attention to them is because they are often (if not always) bogus.

That said, I thought it was curious that two different schools in the SoCon (Mercer and Western Carolina) signed placekickers who were “also recruited by/chose us instead of” Penn State. Congratulations for whipping James Franklin on the recruiting trail, I guess.

Incidentally, Penn State did not sign any kickers on Wednesday.

– Miles Brown, a defensive lineman who signed with Wofford, is a student at Sidwell Friends, a well-known private school in Washington, DC. Sidwell Friends is perhaps better known for educating the children of well-known public figures than it is for football (both of President Obama’s daughters go there, as did Chelsea Clinton, Tricia Nixon, and Archie Roosevelt).

The Citadel signed two brothers, Jalon and Jordan Williams, from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Jordan Williams is one of three players with the first name “Jordan” to sign with The Citadel, along with Jordan Black and Jordan Thomas. It is, to be sure, a name associated in recent years with winning.

Now that the dust has settled, we’ll get to find out just how good these players are. Of course, September is still too far away…


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