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 ESPN3.com, 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: The Citadel’s 2014 run/pass tendencies, per-play averages, 4th-down decision-making, and more

Also in the “Gridiron Countdown” series:

Preseason ratings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

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

The Citadel competes to win games — and fans

Link of interest:

Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier writes about The Citadel’s quarterback/slotback situation

Last year, I wrote about tendencies in playcalling by the then-new coach of the Bulldogs, Mike Houston (and his offensive coordinator, Brent Thompson), and compared what Houston had done while at Lenoir-Rhyne the year before to Kevin Higgins’ last two seasons at The Citadel. This post will be similar.

This time, I’m comparing what Houston and company did last year at The Citadel with the 2013 season for the Bulldogs, as well as the aforementioned 2013 Lenoir-Rhyne campaign. My focus, as it was last year, is on down-and-distance run/pass tendencies, fourth down decision-making, and assorted other statistical comparisons.

Most of the statistics that follow are based on conference play, and only conference play. That’s where the gridiron success or failure of The Citadel will be judged, not on games against Florida State or Charlotte.

The conference slates looked like this:

  • The Bulldogs played seven games in 2014 versus SoCon opposition. The teams in the league last year: Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, Furman, Samford, and VMI.
  • The Citadel played eight games in 2013 against SoCon foes. As a reminder, those opponents were: Wofford, Western Carolina, Furman, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Samford, and Elon.
  • Lenoir-Rhyne is a member of D-II’s South Atlantic Conference. In 2013, the Bears played seven league games in 2013 versus the following schools: Wingate, Tusculum, Brevard, Newberry, Mars Hill, Carson-Newman, and Catawba.

Some definitions:

– 2nd-and-short: 3 yards or less for a first down
– 2nd-and-medium: 4 to 6 yards for a first down
– 2nd-and-long: 7+ yards for a first down
– 3rd-and-short: 2 yards or less for a first down
– 3rd-and-medium: 3 to 4 yards for a first down
– 3rd-and-long: 5+ yards for a first down

The first number that will follow each down-and-distance category will be the percentage of time The Citadel ran the ball in that situation in 2014. Next to that, in parenthesis, is the run percentage for The Citadel in 2013, and that will be followed by Lenoir-Rhyne’s run percentage for that situation in 2013 (which will be in brackets).

For example, when it came to running the ball on first down, the numbers looked like this:

– 1st-and-10 (or goal to go): 88.9% (77.1%) [92.1%]

Thus, The Citadel ran the ball on first down 88.9% of the time last year, while the Bulldogs ran the ball in that situation 77.1% of the time in 2013. Lenoir-Rhyne ran the ball 92.1% of the time on first down during its 2013 campaign.

Lenoir-Rhyne went undefeated in SAC play in 2013 and had substantial leads in the second half in most of its league games, which probably explains the slightly higher percentage of first down run plays (as compared to last year’s team at The Citadel, which was coached by the same staff). I don’t think the fairly sizable difference between the Bulldogs’ 2013 and 2014 squads in this category is an accident.

Overall, The Citadel passed the ball on 15.7% of its plays last season in league action. As a comparison, Lenoir-Rhyne threw the ball only 10.8% of the time in 2013 SAC play.

Here are the rest of the down-and-distance categories:

– 2nd-and-short: 84.0% (95.8%) [90.0%]
– 2nd-and-medium: 90.2% (87.8%) [87.7%]
– 2nd-and-long: 82.2% (75.0%) [84.1%]
– 3rd-and-short: 95.5% (85.7%) [95.8%]
– 3rd-and-medium: 90.3% (90.9%) [93.1%]
– 3rd-and-long: 57.4% (54.0%) [71.1%]

A caveat to these numbers is that there were a few called pass plays that turned into runs.

There were also six would-be pass attempts in conference play that resulted in sacks. However, those six plays are considered pass attempts in terms of playcalling, even though the yardage lost in sacks is subtracted from a team’s rushing totals (this is how the NCAA does it; in the NFL, sacks go against a team’s passing yardage).

I think the bracketed percentages (from Lenoir-Rhyne’s 2013 season) probably come close to Brent Thompson’s ideal in terms of how often he wants to run the football in those down-and-distance situations. Other than 3rd-and-long, The Citadel’s playcalling last year was very similar to what the Bears did that season. Again, that reflects the difference between a team that was usually in the lead versus a team that wasn’t always so fortunate.

In 2013 conference play, Lenoir-Rhyne only attempted one pass in a 3rd-and-short situation. It fell incomplete. In 2014 league action, The Citadel only attempted one pass in a 3rd-and-short situation; however, that came on the final play of the game against Samford, and shouldn’t really count as a standard down-and-distance playcalling situation.

That 2013 Lenoir-Rhyne squad attempted three passes on 2nd-and-short. Two of them were incomplete; the third try resulted in a sack.

Last year, The Citadel attempted four passes on 2nd-and-short. The first three of them fell incomplete.

In the season finale at VMI, however, the Bulldogs did complete a 2nd-and-short toss, a Miller connection (Aaron to Vinny) that went for 26 yards and set up a field goal to close out the first half of that contest. Upstairs in the Foster Stadium press box, Brent Thompson undoubtedly heaved a sigh of relief after calling his first successful 2nd/3rd-and-short pass play in league action in almost two years.

On a serious note, The Citadel has to convert at a higher rate when it passes the ball in 2nd- and 3rd-and-short situations. The offense must take advantage of having the element of surprise in its favor.

– The Citadel’s offense in 2013 in SoCon action: 69.6 plays per game, 12.0 possessions per game
– Lenoir-Rhyne’s offense in 2013 in SAC play: 73.0 plays per game, 12.1 possessions per game
– The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon action: 75.4 plays per game, 11.0 possessions per game*

*This does not include the Bulldogs’ overtime possession against Furman

As I mentioned last year, there is occasionally a misconception that under Mike Houston, Lenoir-Rhyne ran a “hurry up” offense. In truth it ran a “no huddle” offense. Indeed, it is hard to imagine too many “hurry up” offenses that only possess the football for eleven drives per game, as The Citadel did last season.

In 2014, The Citadel had a time of possession edge over its league opponents that exceeded five minutes (32:40 – 27:20). Holding on to the football is generally good for offensive production, to be sure, but it also is greatly beneficial for the Bulldogs’ defense. Keeping the other team’s offense off the field is often the best defense.

Incidentally, in 2013 Lenoir-Rhyne had an edge in time of possession versus its SAC opponents of over seven minutes (33:38 – 26:22).

– The Citadel’s offense in 2013 in SoCon action: 5.41 yards per play, including 5.13 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per pass attempt
– Lenoir-Rhyne’s offense in 2013 in SAC play: 6.09 yards per play, including 5.81 yards per rush and 8.5 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon games: 5.56 yards per play, including 5.35 yards per rush and 6.8 yards per pass attempt

Last year, the Bulldogs’ offense improved in all three per-play categories listed above. I think the goal going forward might be for yards per rush to exceed 5.75, and for yards per pass attempt to exceed 8.0 (or at least 7.5). I don’t know what the coaching staff thinks about that, of course (or if they think about it at all).

Now let’s look at yards per play numbers for the defense:

– The Citadel’s defense in 2013 in SoCon action: 5.47 yards per play, including 4.39 yards per rush and 7.2 yards per pass attempt
– Lenoir-Rhyne’s defense in 2013 in SAC play: 4.25 yards per play, including 2.37 yards per rush and 6.2 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 7.02 yards per play, including 5.69 yards per rush and 9.1 yards per pass attempt

Uh, yikes.

This wasn’t a situation where a one-game outlier affected the average, either. The Citadel allowed more than seven yards per play in four of seven league contests. Not coincidentally, it allowed more than nine yards per pass attempt in four of seven league games as well.

The yards per rush statistics wouldn’t be so bad if the totals for the game against Western Carolina weren’t included, but that’s like asking Mary Todd Lincoln if the rest of the play was decent.

Did the Bulldogs consistently put pressure on the quarterback last year? Well, not exactly.

– The Citadel’s defense in 2013 in SoCon action: 12 sacks, 26 passes defensed in 204 attempts (12.7% PD)
– Lenoir-Rhyne’s defense in 2013 in SAC play: 32 sacks, 31 passes defensed in 212 pass attempts (14.6% PD)
– The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 8 sacks, 14 passes defensed in 176 pass attempts (8.0% PD)

Passes defensed is a statistic that combines pass breakups with interceptions. Averaging only two passes defensed per game isn’t good, especially when opponents are throwing the ball 25 times per contest.

Hard and fast statistics in passes defensed are not easy to find at the FCS level, so I don’t know for certain how The Citadel stacked up on a national basis. Cross-division comparisons aren’t perfect, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Idaho finished last in all of FBS in 2014 in passes defensed per game, with an average of…two.

That isn’t all about the secondary, either. It is very hard to defend the pass when the quarterback has plenty of time to throw the ball (in addition to a measly eight sacks in league play, the Bulldogs only had eleven “hurries” in those seven games).

In seven conference games, The Citadel’s defense allowed 47 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more — 21 rushes and 26 pass plays.

Western Carolina had seven of those rushes. VMI’s Al Cobb personally accounted for eight 20+ yard plays from scrimmage against the Bulldogs (seven passes and a run).

Yes, there is a great deal of room for improvement on defense.

During the 2014 campaign, The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action was 46.3%, about in line with its conversion rate for all games (47.8%, best in the league). The Bulldogs’ offensive 4th-down conversion rate was 60% (12 for 20).

On defense, The Citadel held conference opponents to a 3rd-down conversion rate of 41.5%, which is a little better than it did when including all games (45.3%). However, the Bulldogs were not as good stopping opponents on third down as the upper-echelon SoCon squads were. Counting all games and not just league contests, both Chattanooga and Samford held their opponents below 33% for the season.

In 2015, The Citadel’s defense has to do a better job of “getting off the field” on third down. It also would help to pick up a few more stops on 4th down. League opponents converted 52.9% of 4th-down attempts against the Bulldogs.

Fourth-down stops were an issue against Samford (which converted on 4th down during both of its final two possessions, with each drive resulting in a touchdown) and Wofford (which went 4 for 4 on 4th down). Of course, the key to the game against the Terriers was a successful fourth-down conversion by The Citadel that was ignored by the on-field officials.

The red zone isn’t a misbegotten region of communist influence, but instead is a reference to the area of a football field inside the 20-yard line.

In SoCon play, The Citadel’s offensive TD rate in the red zone last year was 67% (18 TDs in 27 trips inside the 20). That was an improvement over 2013 (60% TD rate). Lenoir-Rhyne’s rate in 2013 was 73%.

League opponents successfully converted red zone appearances into touchdowns 60% of the time against the Bulldogs’ defense (15 TDs in 25 trips). Last season, that number was 67%. Mike Houston’s 2013 Lenoir-Rhyne squad only allowed opponents to score TDs in the red zone 46% of the time.

A quick look at fumbles:

In 2014 league play, The Citadel’s opponents fumbled fourteen times, with the Bulldogs recovering seven of them. On offense, The Citadel fumbled ten times, losing six of those.

There wasn’t any real “fumble luck” either way for the Bulldogs last season. When the ball hits the ground, each team usually has a 50-50 shot at getting it.

While there were a few ill-timed fumbles last season, I think it could be argued that The Citadel in general did a better job of not fumbling than might be expected for a triple option team. Aaron Miller has to get a lot of credit for that.

The Citadel was called for 37 penalties in seven league contests last season, an average of 5.3 per game. That is actually a little less than the number of infractions assessed against Lenoir-Rhyne in 2013 (6.1 per league matchup).

However, it was more than fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium had seen in recent years. The program had led FCS in fewest penalties per game for three consecutive seasons. Last year, The Citadel tied for 45th nationally in the category (counting all games, the Bulldogs were whistled for 5.9 penalties per contest).

– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2013, SoCon action: 6 (in eight games)
– Punts by Lenoir-Rhyne while in opposing territory in 2013, SAC play: 3 (in seven games)
– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2014, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)

One of the six punts in opposing territory came in the season finale at VMI. Leading 45-25 early in the 4th quarter, the Bulldogs faced a 4th-and-7 on the VMI 33.

The Citadel wound up taking a delay-of-game penalty, moving the ball back to the VMI 38, and punted into the end zone for a touchback. Taking a delay penalty didn’t do anything in terms of taking time off the clock, because the previous play had been an incomplete pass.

Nevertheless, I see no particular reason to question a fairly conservative decision when up 3 scores in the 4th quarter. It’s too bad the net on the punt was only 18 yards (and in effect only 13 yards, taking into account the penalty).

Interestingly, the penalty-before-punt scenario was a part of four of the six punts The Citadel had in opposing territory.

Late in the first half against Western Carolina and holding an 8-7 lead, The Citadel lined up to go for it on 4th-and-2 at the Catamounts’ 39-yard line. The Bulldogs were called for a false start penalty, and wound up punting rather than going for it on 4th-and-7 from the WCU 44.

With less than six minutes remaining in the contest and the Bulldogs trailing 21-15, The Citadel again lined up to go for it in WCU territory. This time it was 4th-and-3 from the Catamounts’ 37-yard line — and once again, the Bulldogs were foiled by a false start penalty. On 4th-and-8 from the WCU 42, The Citadel punted.

Early in the fourth quarter against Furman, the Bulldogs faced a 4th-and-4 on the Paladins’ 43-yard line. The ensuing punt was a touchback.

Three plays later, Furman scored on a 65-yard pass play to take a 35-28 lead (though the Bulldogs would ultimately win the game in overtime).

Against Samford, The Citadel moved the ball to the SU 33 with just under a minute remaining in the first half, but wound up in a 4th-and-10 situation. Like the VMI game, the clock was stopped after an incomplete pass.

The Bulldogs wound up taking a delay-of-game penalty and punted into the end zone. Samford ran out the clock to end the half (with The Citadel trailing 7-0 at the break).

The Citadel’s opening offensive possession of the third quarter in that game resulted in another punt after crossing the 50. This time, the ball was on the Samford 47, and it was 4th-and-7.

None of the decisions to punt were egregious. The issue, of course, is that The Citadel had a limited number of possessions in any given game (as noted earlier, an average of 11). It’s critical to cash in when there are opportunities on a short field.

I don’t know if Mike Houston regrets any of these six decisions. If he didn’t, I could easily understand.

The most questionable of them was arguably the second punt in opposing territory against Western Carolina. Down six points in a game in which The Citadel would likely only get one more possession (and facing an offense that had moved the ball up and down the field all day against the Bulldogs’ defense), going for it may have been worth the gamble, even after the penalty.

Speaking of whether or not to go for it on 4th down, here is a summary of what The Citadel did in those situations in 2014 when the Bulldogs were inside the opponent’s 40-yard line (and also mentioning when the Bulldogs went for it in other areas of the field).

Not included in these numbers: 4th-down “desperation” or “garbage time” situations, and “accidental” fourth down tries. Last season, there were no “accidental” attempts (dropped punts, that type of thing).

I determined there were four “desperation” 4th-down tries, and one “garbage time” attempt. For the record, these five plays were:

– Down 34-7 to Chattanooga very late in the 3rd quarter, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-3 from its own 49
– Down 29-15 to Western Carolina late in the 4th quarter, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-6 from the WCU 19
– Down 17-13 to Wofford late in the 4th quarter, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-4 from the Wofford 31
– Down 17-13 to Wofford very late in the 4th quarter, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-3 from the Wofford 3
– Down 13-10 to Samford late in the 4th quarter, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-3 from the Samford 38

Okay, now for some terms (as defined by Football Outsiders):

– Deep Zone: from a team’s own goal line to its 20-yard line
– Back Zone: from a team’s own 21-yard line to its 39-yard line
– Mid Zone: from a team’s own 40-yard line to its opponent’s 40-yard line
– Front Zone: from an opponent’s 39-yard line to the opponent’s 21-yard line
– Red Zone: from an opponent’s 20-yard line to the opponent’s goal line

In league play, The Citadel was faced with 4th-and-short in the Red Zone twice. The Bulldogs attempted a field goal (which was missed) late in the game at VMI. The other time the 4th-and-short situation came up was in overtime against Furman, and Aaron Miller ran for a first down inside the 2-yard line (he would score two plays later).

The only two times the Bulldogs had a 4th-and-medium situation in SoCon play in the Red Zone, Eric Goins successfully converted field goals (both against Wofford). I should mention that the decision to kick one of those field goals was influenced by the fact that only 19 seconds remained in the first half of the game.

Goins also kicked a field goal on the one occasion in which The Citadel faced a 4th-and-long in the Red Zone (versus Samford).

On 4th-and-short in the Front Zone, the Bulldogs went for it three times (not counting one of the two false start/punt situations that were discussed in the previous section of this post). The Citadel ran the ball all three times, and picked up the first down twice.

On 4th-and-medium in the Front Zone, The Citadel went for it twice (again, not including one of the false start/punt situations against Western Carolina).

One of those 4th-and-medium tries was a failed rushing attempt at Mercer. The other play, however, was a 32-yard TD pass from Aaron Miller to Alex Glover against VMI.

On 4th-and-long in the Front Zone, the Bulldogs did not have a lot of luck, missing all four field goal attempts in that situation, and also failing on a rushing attempt and a pass play.

The Citadel went for it six times on 4th-and-short in the Mid Zone, and made five of them (all six attempts were rushing plays). There was also a converted first down in this situation that was the result of the defense jumping offsides (that was against Furman).

Incidentally, one of the six attempts could have been considered a “desperation” situation. That came slightly more than midway through the fourth quarter against Samford. Later in the same drive, the Bulldogs were faced with another 4th-down call, and I did consider that one a “desperation” play. Your mileage may vary.

In reviewing all 4th-and-short situations for The Citadel’s offense in league play, it appears there was only one 4th-and-short situation in the Mid Zone in which Mike Houston did not go for the first down. That happened on the Bulldogs’ opening drive of the game against Chattanooga. On 4th-and-2 from its own 49, The Citadel punted.

I think this illustrates Houston’s philosophy on 4th-down decision-making fairly well. In 4th-and-short situations in the Red, Front, and Mid zones, The Citadel lined up to go for it twelve out of fourteen times in SoCon action. The two exceptions were a late, relatively meaningless field goal attempt and an early-game punt from near midfield.

Basically, once the Bulldogs got past their own 40-yard line, they were a threat (if not outright expected) to go for it on every 4th-and-short situation.

I like that. I like that a lot.

As you can probably guess, I’m ready for the season to start. Who isn’t?

FCS school football pages and 2015 media guides

This post provides lists and links to FCS football pages/media guides for the 2015 season (I did the same thing in 2013 and 2014). SBNation also has a page with links to FBS football pages and media guides.

Included below are the schools’ football web pages, 2015 football media guides, and occasionally something extra (more often than not an additional record book that is separate from the regular media guide).

A few schools have standalone football websites that are separate from their football web pages; those are listed (as “FB website”) too.

Some of the guides are called prospectuses or supplements (or are extended “notes” packages); these usually have fewer pages.

Quite a few schools are now eschewing media guides. When that is the case, I will link to the appropriate “fact sheet” or general notes/stats packages. At times it is difficult to discern whether or not a school intends to release a media guide, to be honest.

This will be a work in progress (to say the least). I’ll link to media guides or prospectuses as they are released by the individual schools. In some cases, that won’t happen before the season actually begins.

A couple of final notes: this year, Kennesaw State and East Tennessee State join the FCS ranks as new and re-started programs, respectively. Kennesaw State will play its football in the Big South, while East Tennessee State will play this season as an independent before joining the SoCon in 2016. However, to simplify things I am still including ETSU among the SoCon schools on the list below.

One school left FCS after last season. Charlotte is now considered an FBS program.

Last update: September 3, 2015 

 

Big Sky 2015 Guide
Cal Poly 2015 Guide
Eastern Washington 2015 Guide
Idaho State 2015 Info Records History Video
Montana 2015 Guide
Montana State 2015 Guide Records
North Dakota 2015 Guide
Northern Arizona 2015 Guide
Northern Colorado 2015 Guide Records
Portland State 2015 Guide
Sacramento State 2015 Guide
Southern Utah 2015 Stats
UC Davis 2015 Guide
Weber State 2015 Guide
Big South 2015 Guide
Charleston Southern 2015 Guide
Coastal Carolina 2015 Guide
Gardner-Webb 2015 Guide
Kennesaw State 2015 Guide
Liberty 2015 Stats Record Book
Monmouth 2015 Guide
Presbyterian 2015 Facts
CAA 2015 Guide
Albany 2015 Guide Record Book
Delaware 2015 Guide
Elon 2015 Guide Record Book
James Madison 2015 Guide
Maine 2015 Guide
New Hampshire 2015 Guide
Rhode Island 2015 Guide Record Book
Richmond 2015 Guide Record Book
Stony Brook 2015 Guide Record Book
Towson 2015 Guide
Villanova 2015 Guide
William & Mary 2015 Notes Archival Information
Ivy League 2015 Guide
Brown 2015 Guide Records
Columbia 2015 Guide
Cornell 2015 Stats Record Book
Dartmouth 2015 Facts Records
Harvard 2015 Guide
Pennsylvania 2015 Guide
Princeton 2015 Preview Record Book
Yale 2015 Preview Record Book FB website
MEAC 2015 Guide
Bethune-Cookman 2015 Notes
Delaware State 2015 Guide
Florida A&M 2015 Stats
Hampton 2015 Stats
Howard 2015 Notes
Morgan State 2015 Guide
Norfolk State 2015 Guide
North Carolina A&T 2015 Stats
North Carolina Central 2015 Stats Record Book
Savannah State 2015 Guide
South Carolina State 2015 Stats
MVFC 2015 News Record Book
Illinois State 2015 Guide
Indiana State 2015 Guide
Missouri State 2015 Guide
North Dakota State 2015 Stats Records and Results
Northern Iowa 2015 Guide
South Dakota 2015 Guide
South Dakota State 2015 Guide
Southern Illinois 2015 Guide
Western Illinois 2015 Guide Record Book
Youngstown State 2015 Guide
NEC 2015 News
Bryant 2015 Notes Records
Central Connecticut State 2015 Facts Record Book
Duquesne 2015 Guide
Robert Morris 2015 Guide
Sacred Heart 2015 Stats Record Book
St. Francis (PA) 2015 Stats Record Book
Wagner 2015 Guide
OVC 2015 Guide
Austin Peay 2015 Guide
Eastern Illinois 2015 Guide
Eastern Kentucky 2015 Guide
Jacksonville State 2015 Guide
Murray State 2015 Guide
Southeast Missouri State 2015 Guide
Tennessee State 2015 Guide
Tennessee Tech 2015 Guide
UT Martin 2015 Guide
Patriot League 2015 Guide
Bucknell 2015 Guide
Colgate 2015 Guide Record Book
Fordham 2015 Guide
Georgetown 2015 News
Holy Cross 2015 Guide
Lafayette 2015 Guide
Lehigh 2015 Info Record Book
Pioneer League 2015 News
Butler 2015 Facts Record Book
Campbell 2015 Guide
Davidson 2015 News
Dayton 2015 Stats Record Book
Drake 2015 Guide
Jacksonville 2015 News Record Book
Marist 2015 Guide
Morehead State 2015 Guide
San Diego 2015 Facts Records and Results
Stetson 2015 Guide Historical overview
Valparaiso 2015 Stats Records and Results
SoCon 2015 Guide
Chattanooga 2015 Guide
East Tennessee State 2015 Guide Record Book
Furman 2015 Guide Record Book
Mercer 2015 Guide
Samford 2015 Guide
The Citadel 2015 News  2015 Facts Record Book
Virginia Military Institute 2015 Guide
Western Carolina 2015 Guide
Wofford 2015 Guide
Southland 2015 Guide
Abilene Christian 2015 Guide
Central Arkansas 2015 Guide
Houston Baptist 2015 Guide
Incarnate Word 2015 Guide
Lamar 2015 Guide
McNeese State 2015 Guide
Nicholls State 2015 Guide
Northwestern State 2015 Guide
Sam Houston State 2015 Guide Record Book
Southeastern Louisiana 2015 Guide
Stephen F. Austin 2015 Guide
SWAC 2015 Stats
Alabama A&M 2015 Stats
Alabama State 2015 Guide
Alcorn State 2015 Facts
Jackson State 2015 Stats
Mississippi Valley State 2015 Stats
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2015 Stats
Grambling State 2015 Preview
Prairie View A&M 2015 Guide
Southern University 2015 Stats
Texas Southern 2015 Stats

Gridiron Countdown: The Citadel competes to win games — and fans

Also in the “Gridiron Countdown” series:

Preseason ratings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

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

How can The Citadel can attract bigger crowds to its home football games? When it comes to that issue, almost every Bulldog fan has an opinion or two. Or three or four.

To be sure, I have shared more than a few of my own thoughts in the past about attendance issues.

The Citadel is making a concerted, sustained effort to sell season ticket packages this year. I know this firsthand, as in early June I got a call from a sales representative asking me to renew my season tickets, which I did.

Then the ticket office called me again the following week. They wouldn’t take yes for an answer!

I had no problem with that at all. From my vantage point, I am pleased that the school is leaving no stone unturned in its attempts to put more people in the seats, even those stones that have already been turned once before.

An argument could be made that an emphasis on ticket sales is also reflected in the recently updated staff directory. There has been quite a bit of updating to do as of late.

It isn’t easy to make a dent in the Charleston entertainment market. Folks who live in the Holy City have options when it comes to their discretionary income (it’s a big reason people like living there).

The idea behind this post (as it was last season) is to highlight competition The Citadel will face for each of its six home dates in 2015. Some of that competition is gridiron-related, but not all of it.

Ken Burger, the former sports columnist for The Post and Courier, noted in his columns on more than one occasion that Charleston is not really a “sports town”. Everyone working in sports in the local area knows this, and has to account for it.

Anyway, let’s get started.

September 5 — The Citadel vs. Davidson, 6:00 pm ET

South Carolina won’t be a factor on this date, as the Gamecocks play North Carolina on Thursday night in Charlotte. Clemson hosts Wofford at 12:30 pm, a game that will be televised on ACC Network affiliates and streamed on ESPN3.

Also taking place on September 5:

– “The Producers” (Dock Street Theatre)

The show starts at 7:30 pm.

– Lowcountry Jazz Festival (North Charleston Coliseum)

As always, multiple jazz performers will be featured. Saturday night’s lineup includes Jonathan Butler and Marcus Anderson. Also appearing is saxophonist Euge Groove, remembered by 1980s pop music aficionados for his solo on Exposé’s #1 smash hit, “Seasons Change“.

Seasons change, feelings change
It’s been so long since I found you
Yet it seems like yesterday-eeyay

September 12 — The Citadel vs. Western Carolina, 6:00 pm ET

At 12:30 pm, Clemson will play Appalachian State in Death Valley (another game that will be streamed on ESPN3). South Carolina has a 7:30 pm matchup with Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium that will be televised on the SEC Network.

Another potential game of interest will take place in Orangeburg. The kickoff for Coastal Carolina-South Carolina State is 6:00 pm.

Other events on September 12:

– Charleston Battery vs. Louisville City FC (Blackbaud Stadium)

The city’s professional soccer team has a home game scheduled to kick off at 7:30 pm on this date.

– North Charleston Pops! (North Charleston Performing Arts Center)

The night’s fare is a salute to John Williams, featuring themes from movies such as Star Wars and Jaws.

– Shaggin’ On the Cooper (Mt. Pleasant Pier)

The rug starts getting cut at 7:00 pm, with the Ocean Drive Party Band on hand to provide the music.

September 26 — The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern, 6:00 pm ET

The Gamecocks will host UCF (time to be announced later). Clemson is off this week (as is South Carolina State).

Non-football options on September 26:

– Taste of Charleston (Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park)

This is the leadup to the main event, which takes place Sunday at Boone Hall Plantation. As for the Saturday evening soirée, food is provided by caterers; entertainment includes a “singer/songwriter showcase”.

Clearly, dinner at Johnson Hagood Stadium is a much better alternative. Enjoy some boiled legumes served up by Tony the Peanut Man, and eat a couple of occasionally heated hot dogs.

– “Heist, Heist Baby!” (Church Street)

The description of this play (a production of the Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre):

A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Clown walk into a Bank…and thereafter little is as it seems in this corny comic stage caper where volunteer audience actors take a crack at portraying the craziest characters yet to come out of the theatre where the audience is the star.

Uh, okay…

– Umphrey’s McGee (Music Farm)

It’s the last of three shows for this band at the Music Farm, and it begins at 9:00 pm.

October 10 — The Citadel vs. Wofford, 2:00 pm ET

Parents’ Day festivities begin early in the morning. It’s a good day to have a built-in fan base on campus. Both Clemson and South Carolina are at home, and each has a fairly high-profile opponent (Georgia Tech and LSU, respectively).

South Carolina State is on the road. Charleston Southern may wish it was on the road too, as it’s not going to be easy to draw fans on this date for a noon kickoff against Monmouth.

Also making waves in the metropolitan area:

– “Menopause The Musical” (North Charleston Performing Arts Center):

There will be two performances, at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm. The description:

This hilarious musical parody set to classic tunes from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s will have you cheering and dancing in the aisles!

I believe this is called counter-programming.

– “Hay Fever” (Footlight Players Theatre)

Set in an English countryside home, each member of the eccentric Bliss family invites a guest to spend the weekend. Judith, a retired actress; David, a self-absorbed novelist; and their two children seem to live in a world that holds a very thin line between reality and fiction. Audiences will be laughing out loud at their self-centered behavior, which eventually drives the tortured guests out the door unnoticed.

It starts at 3:00 pm for anyone who enjoys portrayals of self-absorbed novelists.

– “Heist, Heist Baby!” is playing again, a 5:30 pm performance on this date.

– Town Mountain (The Pour House)

This act calls itself a “hard driving Carolina string band”. The music starts at 9:30 pm.

October 31 — The Citadel vs. Mercer, 2:00 pm ET

South Carolina State celebrates Homecoming with a 1:30 pm game versus Hampton. Meanwhile, Charleston Southern hosts Coastal Carolina.

Both Clemson and South Carolina are on the road. The Tigers are in Raleigh to take on North Carolina State in the Textile Bowl. South Carolina makes a visit to Kyle Field to play Texas A&M, with the historic Bonham Trophy on the line.

Also of note:

Well, it’s Halloween, so you know there will be a lot of parties that night in Charleston. There are also a few stage productions.

– “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (Dock Street Theatre)

The show has a 3:30 pm start time.

– “Little Shop of Horrors” (Dock Street Theatre)

Yes, it’s a doubleheader. This one begins at 7:30 pm.

– Perpetual Groove (The Pour House)

Perpetual Groove takes the stage at 9:30 pm. From what I can tell, it is a rock band from Athens, Georgia. Really, hasn’t Athens produced enough musical acts already?

November 7 — The Citadel vs. VMI, 2:00 pm ET

It’s all on the line. The Military Classic of the South. The battle for the coveted Silver Shako.

Not only that, it’s Homecoming weekend!

South Carolina is at Tennessee. Clemson hosts Florida State in a game that probably won’t be of much interest.

South Carolina State meets North Carolina A&T in Orangeburg, with kickoff at 1:30 pm.

Other events:

– North Charleston Pops! (North Charleston Performing Arts Center)

This performance features a tribute to first responders and the military. Showtime is at 7:30 pm.

– South Carolina Stingrays vs. Elmira Jackals (North Charleston Coliseum)

It is hard to imagine two communities with more in common than Charleston and Elmira, New York. If you want to watch this long-running rivalry, be in your seat by 7:05 pm.

– “Inspector NoClue’s Murder Mystery Show” (Church Street)

It’s another production from the Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre. This one is “a madcap whodunit in the tradition of Clue! Mr. Body has been murdered, and while bumbling Inspector NoClue matches wits with a redneck butler, a gold-digging French maid, and a hopelessly hapless hippie…”

You get the idea.

Quick notes:

– The Scottish Games and Highland Gathering (September 19, Boone Hall Plantation) won’t interfere with any game at Johnson Hagood Stadium this season. At times, previous conflicts have been very difficult for bagpiper groupies. It is good to know those individuals won’t have to make a tough decision this year.

– The Citadel’s home football slate also avoids a conflict with the South Carolina State Fair (October 14-25).

– In the past few years, The Citadel has not been able to count on many tickets being sold to opposing fans. This year is likely to be similar in that respect, with a couple of potential caveats.

While the trip to Charleston wouldn’t be that long a trip for many Davidson fans, the school has a limited number of football supporters. Davidson averaged 3,296 fans per home game in 2014, and given the on-field struggles in recent years I’m guessing there may not be a lot of excitement surrounding the program’s opening game of the football season.

Two other opponents on the home slate, Charleston Southern and Wofford, have not really put a lot of fans in the east stands in recent meetings, at least not as many as one might expect.

The opposite has generally been true for VMI road support, however. It’s still not a lot, but it’s not bad at all considering VMI’s long, loooong slide on the gridiron, the size of the school, and the distance many of its fans have to travel.

This year, Mercer makes its first appearance at Johnson Hagood Stadium since 1931 (and of course, that was a previous iteration of the stadium). It will be interesting to see how many fans Bobby Lamb and company bring to town.

I also think that Western Carolina may have a solid showing of fan support this season, after the Catamounts had their best season in many years in 2014.

A final reminder: when it comes to increasing attendance, there is one overarching truism, that which was coined many years ago by a former assistant football coach at The Citadel:

Just win, baby.

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…

Duggar Baucom is The Citadel’s new hoops coach. Is he the right choice?

Links of interest:

School release

Article on Duggar Baucom’s hiring from The Post and Courier

Video report from WCIV-TV (with additional interview of Duggar Baucom)

Video report from WCSC-TV (with additional interviews of Duggar Baucom, Jim Senter, and Quinton Marshall)

On Monday, The Citadel hired Duggar Baucom as its new head basketball coach. Baucom is 54 years old, and a bit of a late bloomer in the coaching profession.

His story has been chronicled many times. To sum it up as succinctly as possible:

Baucom was a police officer, then a state trooper. He suffered a heart attack at age 30 that caused him to change careers, eventually going back to school and graduating from UNC Charlotte. Baucom worked as an assistant basketball coach at various colleges (starting as a GA under Bob McKillop at Davidson).

He got his first college head coaching gig at D-2 Tusculum, winning 37 games in two years there and parlaying that into the VMI job. In his second year in Lexington, Baucom decided (by necessity, he would say) to operate the dramatically uptempo style that would give him national notoriety.

After a decade at VMI, he is now in Charleston, charged with improving the hardwood fortunes of another military school. Baucom is a surfer and golf aficionado who is about to enjoy life on the coast, and with a little more cash in his pocket (an increase in salary of over $40,000 per year).

More than twenty years ago, I was talking to an assistant basketball coach at The Citadel when the subject of Loyola Marymount’s 1990 hoops squad came up. That was the year the Lions advanced to the Elite Eight after the death of star player Hank Gathers, a run that included a mesmerizing 149-115 obliteration of defending national champion Michigan.

LMU was coached at the time by Paul Westhead, who employed a run-and-gun style called “The System”. The result was an incredible scoring machine of a team, one that in 1990 averaged 122.4 points per contest, still the all-time Division I record. Earlier that same season, the Lions had lost an overtime game in Baton Rouge to LSU by a final score of 148-141 (the game was tied at 134 at the end of regulation), a simply astonishing game that had to be seen to be believed.

Those were fun games to watch. I asked the coach whether or not he thought that style would become more prevalent.

“I hope it doesn’t,” he said. “I think it reduces the importance of coaching.”

Duggar Baucom, it is safe to say, has a different point of view. From an article written two years ago:

“Coaches are a lot more control freaks than they’ve ever been,” says Baucom, which is not a complaint you hear very often from a coach at a school [VMI] that claims to foster “punctuality, order, discipline, courtesy, and respect for authority.”

“I call ‘em joystick coaches,” Baucom tells me. “They try to orchestrate every movement instead of letting ‘em play. It becomes kind of like a wrestling match. There’s teams in [the Big South] that run 20 seconds of false motion to get the shot clock down, and then run a set. I watch some teams play and it looks like the kids are in jail.”

Under Baucom, VMI led the nation in scoring in six of the last nine seasons. The Keydets were the last D-1 team to average over 100 points per game over a full season, doing so during the 2006-2007 campaign.

Can he recreate that kind of offense at The Citadel? More importantly, can he consistently win at The Citadel?

The answers to those two questions, in my opinion:

1) He might be able to produce an explosive offensive team, but it depends in part on the overall point-scoring climate of D-1 hoops, something which he obviously doesn’t control. Right now, averaging over 100 points per game over the course of a season is almost impossible due to the current state of the college game.

2) Baucom can consistently win games at The Citadel, but only if his teams’ historic defensive statistics significantly improve.

My statistical look at Baucom’s career at VMI encompasses his last nine seasons with the Keydets. I chose not to include the 2005-06 campaign, his first year as head coach. That season (in which VMI went 7-20), he had not yet installed the “loot and shoot” offense (that happened the following year). Baucom also missed 12 games in 2005-06 after complications arose during an operation to replace his pacemaker.

Year W-L LG Adj. O Adj. D Poss/gm Nat’l avg
2007 10-19 5-9 110 331 90.9 66.9
2008 10-15 6-8 126 331 79.2 67.0
2009 20-8 13-5 107 280 80.9 66.5
2010 6-19 5-13 195 346 84.2 67.3
2011 14-13 10-8 50 340 75.6 66.7
2012 14-16 8-10 180 311 73.6 66.1
2013 11-17 8-8 172 331 71.1 65.9
2014 18-13 11-5 90 306 74.7 66.4
2015 9-19 7-11 295 260 77.1 64.8

The win-loss column reflects Division I games only. “LG” refers to league games, all in the Big South with the exception of the 2014-15 season, VMI’s first in its return to the SoCon.

The “Adj. O” and “Adj. D” columns represent VMI’s national rank in adjusted offense and adjusted defense, per kenpom.com. “Poss/gm” refers to possessions per game, with “Nat’l avg” the national average in possessions per game for that particular season.

One of the things that interested me when I reviewed these numbers was that the “frenzied style” used by VMI wasn’t really quite as frenzied as advertised, at least when compared to years past. It is an indictment of the way the game is played today that 77.1 possessions per game would be enough to lead the nation in that category, but that’s exactly what the Keydets did last season.

In 1989-1990, 16% of the teams ranked in the final AP poll averaged more than 80 possessions per contest. That’s just the ranked teams, mind you — there were many other squads playing at that pace (though none matched Loyola Marymount’s 103 possessions per game, then and now a staggering total).

These numbers don’t include non-D1 games, a non-conference scheduling staple of Baucom’s tenure at VMI (as they are for many other low-major programs, of course). VMI regularly played three or four NAIA/D2 schools each season.

Looking at the results of those matchups, I wondered if Baucom scheduled some of the teams in part because they were willing to run up and down the court with the Keydets. There weren’t any Wimp Sanderson types opposing VMI in these games, that’s for sure.

VMI had a 116-possession game during the 2007-2008 season against Southern Virginia, a 144-127 Keydet victory that must have been fascinating to watch, if only from an academic perspective. Incidentally, that’s the same number of possessions (in regulation) that occurred during the famed LMU-LSU game in 1990 I referenced above.

Starting in the 2006-2007 season, here are the points scored by VMI against non-D1 foes: 156, 144, 135, 125, 135, 156, 112, 123, 118, 133, 113, 113, 111, 108, 99, 99, 106, 120, 94, 151, 101, 109, 122, 116, 102, 110, 121, 112, 110, 128, 124, and 133.

That is one reason why I didn’t concentrate on yearly scoring averages when reviewing the overall statistical record.

The 2006-2007 season may have been Baucom’s Platonic ideal in terms of pace of play. VMI averaged over 90 possessions per game (the only D-1 team to do that over the course of an entire season since at least 2002). Beginning on January 10, 2007, VMI embarked on a 13-game stretch against Division I competition in which its point totals were as follows: 104, 116, 97, 102, 103, 117, 96, 99, 105, 102, 107, 108, and 92.

Alas, the Keydets only won five of those thirteen games.

That last loss, 109-92 to High Point, was the final game of the regular season. Then a funny thing happened. VMI dialed down its pace of play to more “normal” levels, started playing a sagging zone defense, and promptly won consecutive games in the Big South tournament, beating two teams (Liberty and High Point) that had swept the Keydets during the regular season.

In the conference title game, VMI continued to slow things down, and wound up narrowly losing to Winthrop (84-81).

Maybe that led to a slight adjustment by Baucom in the years to follow. I don’t know.

It’s possible, though, that he infused his philosophical approach to hoops with a dose of practicality. VMI didn’t approach the 90-possession plateau after that season, with its highest per-game rate since then being 84.2 in 2009-2010, a year in which the Keydets only won six D-1 contests.

The success in that 2007 Big South tournament was not a fluke. While VMI never won the tourney under Baucom, the Keydets generally fared well in the event during his time in Lexington (making the final three times), a marked contrast to The Citadel’s continued struggles in the SoCon tournament.

With a little luck, Baucom may well have led VMI to the tourney title at least once. He had a very good record in tournament play when the Keydets hosted a game or were playing at a neutral site. Most of the time, VMI only lost in the Big South tournament when it had to play on an opponent’s home floor.

VMI’s record in the Big South tournament, 2007-2014

  • Home (3-0)
  • Neutral (6-1)
  • Road (1-7)

The Keydets lost the aforementioned 2007 Big South final to Winthrop in Rock Hill; lost the following year to Liberty in Lynchburg; lost at Radford in the 2009 Big South title game; lost games in Conway to Coastal Carolina in 2010, 2011, and 2014; and lost the 2012 final to UNC-Asheville at Kimmel Arena in Asheville.

Since it appears the Southern Conference tournament is going to remain in Asheville for the next few years, The Citadel needs to make sure UNC-Asheville is not allowed to join the league.

In 2007, VMI finished 331st nationally in adjusted defense. Only six teams in all of D-1 were worse on defense (in terms of points per possession, and further adjusted for schedule) than the Keydets.

That began a pattern under Baucom. He produced high-scoring teams generally better-than-average in terms of offensive efficiency, but saddled with defenses that were not very good, even taking into account pace of play.

Two years later, the Keydets won 20 D-1 games, including a memorable 111-103 victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Surprisingly, VMI’s successful campaign occurred despite having a below-average defense (280th out of 344 D-1 squads).

The win over Kentucky (which came in the season opener) was a 93-possession game, the most possessions in any of VMI’s games that season against D-1 opponents. The Wildcats decided they could run with the Keydets. That was a mistake.

The following season, VMI was the second-worst defensive outfit in the country, and the record reflected it. The Keydets would continue to be a bottom-50 team in adjusted defense every year until last season, when the team finished a slightly more respectable 260th (out of 351 D-1 teams).

In case you were wondering, The Citadel’s defensive efficiency was better than VMI’s in five of those nine seasons. This past season, of course, the Bulldogs were the worst defensive squad in the country.

While the Keydets were never a good defensive rebounding team under Baucom, they also struggled for several years on the offensive glass. However, in the last three seasons, there was a distinct improvement in offensive rebounding percentage.

  • VMI’s national rank in offensive rebounding percentage by year, 2007-2012: 232, 254, 320, 326, 264, 303
  • VMI’s national rank in offensive rebounding percentage by year, 2013-2015: 150, 136, 131

I don’t know if there was a concerted effort to get better in that area, or if the increased offensive rebounding totals are simply a product of changing personnel.

I tend to agree with those who believe that for The Citadel to be successful in hoops, it needs to be different. The Bulldogs either need to use a patterned, deliberate style (such as the “Princeton offense”), or do the exact opposite and run-and-gun for forty minutes. Pick an extreme, and gravitate to it.

While I’ve been critical of the current state of college hoops, with its clutching and grabbing and incessant timeouts, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a slower-paced game, especially when it is of high quality. I was a big fan of Ed Conroy’s teams. This past season, I enjoyed watching Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad, which played a muscular-but-skillful brand of basketball.

If anything, I thought The Citadel would be best served “going slow”. Clearly, Jim Senter had other ideas.

Part of his reasoning, I’m sure, is about the box office. He wants more people in the seats, and probably figures that a perpetual scoreboard explosion is a good way to attract curious onlookers to McAlister Field House.

With that in mind, Baucom will have more on his plate than just coaching the team. He has to sell his program to the local community, and to the corps of cadets as well.

As far as the local scene is concerned, this may not be a bad time to make a renewed effort to attract fans, with College of Charleston scuffling a bit, still trying to find its way with a relatively new coach and league. There is plenty of room for both of the college basketball teams in the city, but becoming the lead hoops story in town wouldn’t hurt any.

Regarding the corps, I was encouraged by this season’s cadet presence. It can still get better, and I think it will. There is momentum on that front.

Baucom might also consider reaching out to some of the more recent graduates from the basketball program. Several of them were hoping that former assistant coach Doug Novak would get the job, and were understandably disappointed when that didn’t happen.

I’ve seen a couple of criticisms of Baucom’s preferred style of play that I wanted to quickly discuss, mainly because I think both are misguided.

1) This style of basketball is just a “roll the balls out” type of coaching, or non-coaching

I think an actual “roll the balls out” coach would be a very static, middle-of-the-road operator. He certainly wouldn’t be interested in pressing, trapping defense, or approaching the game from a mathematical point of view:

“Its basketball inflation,” Baucom said. “The more possessions we can create the less value they have. We’re trying to get more shots than the other team, force more turnovers, get offensive boards. The key is passing and catching and spacing.”

2) This style of basketball is at odds with The Citadel’s institutional history

Honestly, I don’t get this at all. I guess the argument is that it is undisciplined basketball, but I don’t think that’s true. At its very core, it seems to me that it requires a great deal of discipline. To be conditioned well enough to play this way takes discipline. To never take a play off while on the court takes discipline. To get in the proper defensive position while pressing takes discipline.

The best argument against Baucom’s style of play, in my opinion, is that it may be difficult to recruit players who can flourish in his system.

I think it’s possible that one reason Baucom’s teams never approached the 90-possession days of 2006-2007 in subsequent seasons was that the coach realized he didn’t “have the horses” to run quite that fast and still win games. If so, I believe that presents a potential issue.

That’s because I believe the best chance for this system to work at The Citadel is if it is stretched to its natural limit. In other words, if the team is going to play this way, it needs to strive for 90+ possessions per game on a regular basis.

Instead of having a possession differential when compared to the rest of the country of between six and twelve possessions per game (as was the case for VMI over the last five seasons), The Citadel should have a possession differential of between fifteen and twenty possessions per game. That’s the best way, employing this system, for the program to become an upper-echelon Southern Conference outfit. It’s the best way, employing this system, for the Bulldogs to win the league.

To do that, though, The Citadel has to bring in players capable of handling that pace and doing the things that have to be done to win games. Rebounding, three-point shooting, superior point guard play, the ability to defend — those elements are requirements if the team is going to be successful.

Of course, that’s true regardless of how fast or slow a team plays. It seems to me, though, that a higher level of athleticism is needed to play at a supercharged pace.

I think back to that 1989-1990 Loyola Marymount squad. LMU wasn’t exactly the “little engine that could”. It may have been an upstart program from the West Coast Conference, but the Lions had two NBA-caliber players, Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. Both were transfers, having been originally recruited to play for Southern Cal by George Raveling, one of the great basketball talent evaluators of his era.

Also on that LMU team: an elite college jump shooter (Jeff Fryer) and a better-than-you-realized rebounder/post defender (Per Stumer, who played professionally in Europe for over a decade). Backup point guard Terrell Lowery later played major league baseball. Yes, that team had some great athletes.

Can the Bulldogs’ new coach bring in the talent necessary to win this way? That’s the big question. One thing is for certain, he’s not wasting any time. On the day Baucom was introduced at The Citadel, he got a commitment from a 6’7″ sharpshooter from Virginia.

I don’t know if The Citadel can win playing racehorse basketball, but we’re about to find out.

I’ll be watching with interest when next season rolls around. We all will…

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