Game Review, 2019: Georgia Tech

The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT).

That happened. Yes, it did.

Links of interest (a lot of options this week):

Game story, The Post and Courier

School release from The Citadel

School release from Georgia Tech

AP game story

NCAA.com game story

Game story, Atlanta Journal-Constitution [headline over article: “Jackets Haunted and Stunned”]

Game analysis, CBS Sports

“The Citadel Adds To Illustrious History”

– Gwinnett players play role in shocker

Video highlights package from The Citadel

Postgame on-field interview of Brent Thompson (via Fox Sports South twitter)

Game highlights from the ACC Digital Network

– Postgame quotes (including those for Brent Thompson, which are at the bottom of the page)

Postgame press conference for Geoff Collins

– Postgame press conference for Georgia Tech players

“Condensed” video of The Citadel-Georgia Tech (about 23 minutes)

Box score

Key statistics:

The Citadel Georgia Tech
Field Position* 21.56 (-17.69) 39.22 (+17.69)
Success Rate* 39.72% 47.62%
Big plays (20+ yards) 3 6
Finishing drives (average points)* 4.0 4.6
Turnovers 1 0
Expected turnovers 1.72 0.66
Possessions* 9 9
Points per possession* 2.67 2.67
Offensive Plays* 72 42
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 4.76 7.59
Yards/pass attempts* (incl. sacks) 5.20 6.73
Yards/play* 4.79 7.29
3rd down conversions* 8 of 15 (53.3%) 3 of 8 (37.5%)
4th down conversions 1 of 1 0 of 1
Red Zone TD%** 0 for 2 (0%) 1 for 1 (100%)
Net punting 38.0 35.0
Time of possession 41:50 18:10
TOP/offensive play 34.86 seconds 25.95 seconds
Penalties 5 for 55 yards 8 for 80 yards
1st down passing* 0/1 5/7, 97 yards, sack
3rd and long passing* 0/1, interception, sack 0/3, sack
4th down passing 0/0 0/0
1st down yards/play* 5.45 9.45
3rd down average yards to go* 7.40 7.25
Defensive 3-and-outs+* 2 3

*overtime stats not included; Georgia Tech’s kneel-down at the end of the first half also not included
** Georgia Tech’s end-of-regulation drive not included in Red Zone TD rate

After I had finished compiling the above stats, I just shook my head. The Citadel finished second-best in all of the “Five Factors”, and did not fare well in many of the other categories.

Yet in actuality, the Bulldogs maintained control of the game throughout the contest. It could also be argued that if Brandon Rainey had not been injured, The Citadel probably would have won in regulation.

That time of possession advantage the Bulldogs had was incredible and ultimately decisive; essentially, the entire game turned on the basic fact that Georgia Tech couldn’t score if it didn’t have the ball — and the Yellow Jackets rarely possessed the pigskin.

A few quick notes:

– Without the 3rd-and-31 situation in the second quarter, The Citadel’s average yards-to-go on 3rd down would be 5.7, a much more palatable number.

– Besides time of possession, the other key stat was third down conversion rate (and of course those two categories are inter-related). When you include the Bulldogs converting their sole fourth down attempt, The Citadel eventually moved the chains 9 out of 15 times it faced third down in regulation play.

I don’t know what The Citadel’s record is for time of possession in a game, but I’m going to guess that 41:50 is the new standard for the Bulldogs’ contests against FBS teams.

– Georgia Tech’s first-half penalties were critical (and mostly inexcusable) mistakes, and also out of character. The Yellow Jackets had only committed four penalties *total* in their first two games.

Random thoughts:

– The Citadel became the first FCS squad this season to beat a team from a “Power Five” conference.

– I am fairly sure The Citadel is the largest underdog (26 points) to win outright so far this year in a game involving at least one FBS team.

– Georgia Tech’s decision to punt on 4th-and-5 at the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line on the Yellow Jackets’ first drive of the game set the tone for the contest, and not in a good way for the home team. That is absolutely a “go for it” situation, particularly in a game in which possessions are going to be limited.

Naturally, the punt was a touchback, and (almost as naturally) The Citadel immediately embarked on a nine-play drive that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.

That drive included two tough third-down runs from Rainey and Clay Harris.

– Conversely, Brent Thompson should receive credit for his decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from The Citadel’s own 34-yard line, with less than six minutes remaining in a tie game and a backup quarterback at the controls.

A punt there would have handed the ball back to a Georgia Tech offense that had the momentum. It was worth the risk, and Thompson wound up with the reward after a two-yard run by Harris.

– The end-around to Raleigh Webb on the next play was also an excellent call that built off of the fourth-down conversion.

– The TD pass from Rainey to Webb was on a 2nd-and-6 down-and-distance situation, and just two plays removed from Nkem Njoku’s 25-yard run into Yellow Jackets territory. It was an excellent time to call a pass play.

– Chris Beverly managed to knock Tobias Oliver out of bounds on his long kick return, and it was a good thing, because I believe otherwise Oliver may have gone all the way.

– Geoff Collins seemed miffed at the officials for how the end of the fourth quarter played out, prior to the pseudo-TD and subsequent tying field goal.

I re-watched it. This is what happened:

  • The clock stopped with 34 seconds remaining after an injury to Bulldogs defensive tackle Dewey Greene IV (who had a huge sack two plays earlier).
  • Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason then rushed 18 yards to The Citadel’s 12-yard line for a first down. The clock was halted with 27 seconds left to move the chains.
  • The clock re-started, and then with 23 seconds left Georgia Tech was called for a snap infraction, penalizing the Yellow Jackets five yards.
  • That necessitated a 10-second runoff, to 13 seconds. The referee announced that information, and then stated the clock would re-start on the “ready to play” signal — which it did.
  • Collins then called a timeout just before the ball was snapped, at the 6-second mark.

I think Collins was upset because he did not think the clock would re-start at the 13-second mark. That isn’t what the referee said, however.

As a result, the Yellow Jackets went from having the football at the 12-yard line with 23 seconds left and one timeout, to having it at the 17-yard line with 6 seconds left and no timeouts — and they didn’t even run a play.

Georgia Tech had used a timeout very early in the 3rd quarter when there was confusion over an offensive formation on the second play of the half. The Yellow Jackets could have used that timeout at the end of the game.

– I was always relieved when Tobias Oliver wasn’t playing quarterback for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets seemed more dynamic whenever he was in the game, including as a kick returner. The stats reflect that as well.

I don’t think the flip-flopping of the QBs helped Georgia Tech much, including in the overtime session, when Lucas Jackson came in at quarterback on 3rd down and promptly got sacked by Joseph Randolph II.

– On the positive side of the ledger for Collins, his hat was nice — very clean look. I also liked the cap he wore for a game earlier this season that just had the “T” logo.

– With 1:13 remaining in the game and Georgia Tech driving, a chant of “DEFENSE!” from the crowd could clearly be heard on the TV audio feed. Major props to the fans (and cadets) in attendance.

– It was a rough-and-tumble football game, with more than a few injuries for both teams. I hope that the Bulldogs came out of it without any serious issues. Obviously, the injury to Brandon Rainey will be something to watch.

Just a few tweets to consider (I could have linked several thousand)…

 

Now the players and coaches have to forget about this victory, great as it was, and get ready for Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers led a good North Carolina A&T team in the fourth quarter on Saturday before losing 27-21. That one won’t be easy.

I’ll write about that game later this week.

Putting together the ideal football schedule at The Citadel

I wanted to write about this topic after some recent discourse about it, primarily in two places:

– AD Mike Capaccio’s discussion of the schedule on Lowcountry media personality Quintin Washington’s YouTube channel

– Jeff Hartsell’s column in The Post and Courier

Here are some of the relevant passages from each media piece.

Capaccio (direct quotes):

“We need to work with our schedule to be more realistic….we don’t need to be playing two ranked teams, or three ranked teams, and then an ACC team, and then go into our conference, because our conference is a monster…so, not that we [want] an easy schedule, but we need a little break…

…We want to play close to home…three to five hours [away] at the maximum…We don’t need to be taking a trip to Towson…Our philosophy is changing, and we want to play close [to home].”

Hartsell:

By the end of the 2020 season, The Citadel will have played 44 straight games against D-I teams…

…”Do you need a Division II team in there? Every couple of years, I think you do,” said [The Citadel’s head football coach, Brent] Thompson, whose 10-2 SoCon championship team in 2016 won a 38-14 game over D-II North Greenville. “But I don’t think you need one every year. I know just about everybody in our league will have one this season.

“But my emphasis is on more in-region games. Elon is a fine game, Gardner-Webb, Charleston Southern, S.C. State. Those games are a lot easier on your travel and your budget, and they mean more to the kids. I would much rather play a non-conference game in-state, or at least in-region.”

For Thompson, a guarantee game last season might have made the difference between a 5-6 season and a 6-5 season. And as any coach will tell you, that’s a big difference.

Coaches from Dabo Swinney to Nick Saban know that an occasional cupcake tastes good. The Citadel ought to try one.

Let me start off by saying that I am not overly fond of the epithet “cupcake” being thrown around when mentioning a squad from a lower classification or division. Playoff-caliber D-2 teams like Newberry and North Greenville certainly weren’t “cupcakes” when they played the Bulldogs. The term also doesn’t apply to The Citadel when it faces an FBS opponent.

Calling a team a “cupcake” is basically a way of saying it doesn’t belong on the same field with the favored opponent. I find this tiresome, as it is primarily a media creation designed to diminish programs that aren’t on national TV every week.

Now, as to The Citadel’s football schedule…

Right now, the Bulldogs play 11 regular-season games every season except in years where the calendar allows for a 12th contest. After this year, the next time FCS teams will have a chance to play a 12th game will be 2024.

I don’t believe there will be a rule change altering the current status quo in that regard, so let’s assume that The Citadel will annually play 11 regular-season games for the foreseeable future.

The Bulldogs will play eight Southern Conference games every year, four at home and four on the road. That leaves three non-conference contests to schedule.

One of those non-conference matchups has to be a “money” game against an FBS opponent. Here are the already scheduled FBS teams through 2025:

  • 2020: Clemson
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina
  • 2022: Appalachian State
  • 2023: Georgia Southern
  • 2024: Clemson
  • 2025: Mississippi

Of the two remaining out-of-league games, at least one of them almost has to be a home game; otherwise, the Bulldogs would only play four contests in a given season at Johnson Hagood Stadium. That isn’t going to work.

So far, these non-FBS games have been scheduled through the next few seasons:

  • 2020: Elon, Charleston Southern [schedule complete; six home games]
  • 2021: Charleston Southern
  • 2022: at Campbell
  • 2023: Campbell

Mike Capaccio also mentioned during the interview referenced above that Presbyterian is on a future schedule. Perhaps the Blue Hose are on more than one.

What, exactly, should be the goals of The Citadel’s non-conference football schedule? Some of them (in no particular order) might be:

  • Help the team prepare for the SoCon slate
  • Raise money for the program (and the department of athletics in general)
  • Promote the school to a wider audience
  • Give the team a better chance of making the FCS playoffs
  • Improve the win-loss record
  • Ensure there are enough home games to satisfy the season-ticket holders
  • Energize the fans by playing quality, high-profile opponents
  • Save money on travel
  • Excite the players on the team by playing quality, high-profile opponents
  • Provide an added impetus for recruiting

Random musings:

– I am okay with giving the team a better chance to make the FCS playoffs via scheduling, but only to a point.

That is because the FCS postseason, as currently constructed, is hopelessly flawed. It is structurally biased against southeastern schools (honestly, that is undeniable). Thus, it is not a true “national” tournament.

I see no reason to devalue the regular season just to participate in the playoffs. Until the tournament is fully seeded and not beholden to asinine geographical bracketing, my thoughts on that will not change.

– I’ve already mentioned that The Citadel needs to play at least five home games per season. I don’t think anyone would seriously disagree.

– While I’ve said it before, let me reiterate that limiting the distance the team travels for non-conference games is not always a good idea, at least from a larger perspective. I enjoyed the trip to Princeton in 2009, and I firmly believe the Bulldogs should occasionally make trips like that to promote the school, provide a new experience for the players, and reward our loyal fans from other parts of the country.

– I don’t want to play opponents for the sole purpose of padding the win total. That isn’t what The Citadel is all about. If it were, the school wouldn’t have joined the Southern Conference in the first place, much less stay in the league all these years.

The Citadel is about embracing challenges. That includes varsity sports.

Finally, my suggestions for non-conference games.

I am inclined to eschew D-2 and NAIA schools, because I think it is probably beneficial to the conference as a whole for its member schools to play as many D-1 teams as possible, and The Citadel should take the initiative in that respect.

I could see arguments in the other direction — and I’m not automatically opposed to teams like Newberry, North Greenville, or Benedict. I don’t believe Webber International needs to be on the schedule again, however.

– Presbyterian strikes me as almost an ideal non-conference opponent. The Citadel would not have play in Clinton (barring a hurricane, of course). The two schools have a long history on the gridiron, too.

– Charleston Southern is a reasonable choice, though I don’t think it is necessary (or particularly desirable) to play the Buccaneers on an annual basis.

Obviously, any games between CSU and The Citadel would be contested at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Playing at Buccaneer Field is a non-starter for a host of reasons, including A) the state of the facility, B) the fact that 80% (or more) of the fans at the game would be rooting for The Citadel, so forcing them to travel to another stadium would be pointless, and C) the loss of a home game would seriously affect The Citadel’s ability to schedule the rest of its non-conference slate in a given season.

That last point is one that several members of the local media have never seemed able to grasp — or are simply unwilling to accept, even knowing it is true.

A rotation of Charleston Southern and Presbyterian might not be a bad idea.

– Other teams that I think would be good opponents in the “home games only” slot: Jacksonville, Stetson, Davidson, and perhaps Gardner-Webb.

– Schools that would be appropriate “home and home” regional opponents would include South Carolina State, Elon, William & Mary, Richmond, Campbell, and possibly North Carolina A&T.

– I would advocate for an occasional home-and-home versus an out-of-region team, like an Ivy or Patriot League squad, or even one of the MVFC teams.

Yes, I know, it costs too much. I’m sure we could raise some money for a two-game series through a special campaign, though. I noticed that there are currently 38 people listed in The Citadel Development Foundation’s staff directory; perhaps one or two of them could help out.

All of the above is just my opinion. I could be wrong about just about everything!

Or maybe I could be right about a few things. Your mileage may vary.

2019 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Georgia Tech

The Citadel vs. Georgia Tech, from Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field in Atlanta, Georgia, with kickoff at 12:30 pm ET on September 14, 2019. 

The game will be televised on the ACC Regional Network and on ESPN College Extra. It will be streamed on Fox Sports Go and ACC Network Extra. Tom Werme will handle play-by-play, while James Bates supplies the analysis. Lyndsay Rowley is the sideline reporter.

The contest 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. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Check your local listings for TV information. The game will be televised on various regional networks — Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Midwest, etc. It will also be streamed; depending on where you live, you can stream it on Fox Sports Go or ACC Network Extra.

It will also be part of the “ESPN College Extra” package, which is available on some cable/satellite systems.

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

Preview from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bulldogs tight end Elijah Lowe, a native of the Bahamas, talks about the devastation from Hurricane Dorian and how it has affected his family

– Game notes from The Citadel and Georgia Tech

– SoCon weekly release

ACC weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Georgia Tech’s website

Brent Thompson’s 9/9 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/11)

– The Dogs:  Episode 3

Geoff Collins’ 9/10 press conference

Press conference: Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (9/10)

Press conference: Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (9/10)

South Florida vs. Georgia Tech (condensed game)

Sean-Thomas Faulkner is the reigning SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week

This preview is a little different from most of my other writeups, in that it will not include much in the way of statistics. There are a few reasons for that:

  • I’ve already covered a lot of The Citadel’s relevant stats in my two game reviews so far this season
  • This is an FBS vs. FCS game, which usually doesn’t lend itself well to statistical comparisons
  • Georgia Tech has a new coaching staff with a completely new offense, as you may have heard
  • So far this season, the Yellow Jackets have played #1 Clemson and a South Florida team that now has an 8-game losing streak dating back to last year
  • Two games of stats under a new coaching staff would make it hard to evaluate even if Georgia Tech hadn’t played a dominant team and another squad that is in a major downward spiral

The Citadel’s forward passing was the best that I have seen in any game, anywhere.

Georgia Tech head football coach John Heisman, October 5, 1912

That blurb is from the main game story in The News and Courier after Georgia Tech defeated The Citadel in Charleston, 20-6, during the 1912 season. The first two games in the series between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs were actually played in Hampton Park; the last eight matchups have been held at Grant Field/Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Note: 20-6 is the correct score for that contest. Georgia Tech’s media guide (and consequently its game notes) incorrectly lists the final as 20-16, a typographical error that is probably several decades old.

The game was tied 6-6 after The Citadel scored a third-quarter touchdown, but Heisman’s charges pulled away in the end. The Bulldogs’ TD came on a pass from team captain John Martin to Hugh Sease.

Sease, a native of either St. George or Orangeburg (sources differ), later transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy. He had a distinguished career in the Navy, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

As for John Heisman, he must have been relatively pleased to see an opponent use the pass to its advantage, even against his team:

Heisman walked away convinced [the forward pass] was the play that would save football from itself. As Heisman wrote, violent scrums based around bruising running plays were “killing the game as well as the players.”

In 1904-5, 44 players had been reported killed in football games, with hundreds sustaining serious injuries. Heisman said the forward pass “would scatter the mob.”…

…Heisman began to forcefully lobby Walter Camp, shepherd of the national rules committee. When Camp did not act swiftly enough, Heisman rallied other coaches and newspaper reporters to pressure Camp and the committee. In 1906, the forward pass was legalized with several constraints that limited its effectiveness. Heisman pressed on, and the restrictions were eventually lifted.

Heisman was the football coach at Georgia Tech from 1904 to 1919, and while there fashioned a record of 102-29-7. That included a retroactive but seemingly undeniable national title in 1917 and, of course, the famous (infamous?) 222-0 victory over Cumberland in 1916.

Besides being the namesake of arguably the most famous award in American sports, Heisman was also an actor of some repute. He is almost certainly the only head football coach to win a national title and perform in a featured role in a Broadway play, though I wouldn’t put it past Les Miles to match him someday.

Speaking of coaches who won a national title at Georgia Tech, I can’t post a preview of The Citadel-Georgia Tech without mentioning Bobby Ross, who was a head coach at both schools.

Ross was 103-101-2 as a college head coach, which may seem mediocre, but that includes his five-year stint at The Citadel (during a very difficult era to recruit at a military college) and his three years at Army (which simply didn’t work out).

In between, he won three ACC titles at Maryland and another league crown (and that national title) at Georgia Tech. Then he went to the NFL and took the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl. He even made the playoffs twice with the Detroit Lions.

I think Ross would be a very solid candidate for enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame, but as it happens, he is ineligible. That is because “modern” coaches have to have won at least 60% of their games to receive consideration. This same stipulation excludes Howard Schnellenberger.

Here are the FBS coaching candidates on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot:

  • Larry Blakeney (Troy)
  • Jim Carlen (West Virginia, Texas Tech, and South Carolina)
  • Billy Jack Murphy (Memphis)
  • Pete Cawthon Sr. (Austin College, Texas Tech)
  • Darryl Rogers (Cal State Hayward, Fresno State, San Jose State, Michigan State, Arizona State)

Nothing against those guys, but does anyone paying attention really think they are more deserving than Schnellenberger and Ross? Of course not.

Tangent #1: if the 1990 season had occurred in a 2019 environment, it is hard to imagine Colorado being anywhere near the top of the AP poll. I think the Buffaloes would have been lucky to finish in the top 5, much less gain a “split” of the national title. That fifth-down game against Missouri would have absolutely been considered an additional loss in this era of endless replays/discussion.

It was a very strange year in college football, with only the ridiculous 2007 season exceeding it in terms of sheer weirdness (in the last 50 years or so, anyway). Absent a playoff, however, Georgia Tech was the most deserving team when it came to recognition as the “national champion”.

Georgia Tech will be familiar with the offense The Citadel will run on Saturday because it’s what the Yellow Jackets used for 11 years.

It’s one of few certainties for Georgia Tech right now under new coach Geoff Collins.

The Yellow Jackets (1-1) used 27 different players on offense and 27 on defense in last Saturday’s 14-10 victory over South Florida. Five walk-on players saw action, Jahaziel Lee played on both the offensive and defensive lines, and 176-pound freshman defensive back Kenan Johnson took snaps at defensive end.

It’s all part of the process as Collins remakes the program.

“This is a monumental transition unlike what’s probably happened in college football in a long time,” Collins said. “Every single day we’re a work in progress in every phase of everything we do.”

Georgia Tech used 61 players in all against South Florida. Against Clemson, 63 Yellow Jackets saw the field.

Geoff Collins isn’t just changing Georgia Tech’s offense. He is essentially trying to establish the Yellow Jackets as Atlanta’s college football team.

Collins has spent much of his time trying to build up Georgia Tech’s brand among the locals. The Yellow Jackets rarely sell out games and have been largely overlooked in Atlanta’s crowded sports landscape.

Looking to change that, Collins has taken up nearly every offer to speak in the community, promoted the Yellow Jackets relentlessly on social media, drawn attention of his love for local favorite Waffle House, and tried to reach new fans by taking his players and staff to games hosted by the city’s pro sports teams.

It’s all part of what he calls the “404” culture — a reference to Atlanta’s area code.

“I love this great city,” Collins said. “We want to embrace it. The elite players in the country should be coming to Georgia Tech to play ball.”

The coach is a native of Conyers, so he has local ties. Collins went to Western Carolina, where he was a linebacker in the early 1990s. This is actually his third tour of duty with Georgia Tech, as he was a graduate assistant from 1999 to 2001, and then served as the tight ends coach in 2006.

Collins was the defensive coordinator for FIU, Mississippi State, and Florida before becoming the head coach at Temple, where he had a record of 15-10 in two seasons. Georgia Tech hired him in December of last year to replace the retiring Paul Johnson.

He has faced The Citadel eleven times as either a player or an assistant coach. His teams have won five times, lost five times, and tied once.

Collins is named after Geoff Hurst, an English soccer star of the 1960s and 1970s who is the only player to have scored a hat trick in a FIFA World Cup final (in 1966, against West Germany).

Tangent #2: Admittedly, Hurst’s second goal in that match should not have counted, but he got a knighthood anyway. The referee and linesman who teamed up to award England the goal have inspired several generations of Southern Conference football and basketball officials.

Georgia Tech’s offensive and defensive coordinators are also familiar with The Citadel.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude was the OC at Coastal Carolina for five years (2012-16). In two of those years, CCU played The Citadel (with the Bulldogs winning the second of those two games in a memorable FCS playoff matchup).

Incidentally, during his press briefing Patenaude mentioned that he would like the Yellow Jackets to be a little more balanced offensively against The Citadel.

Georgia Tech only had 76 yards passing (on 21 attempts) versus South Florida. The Yellow Jackets had 47 runs and 23 pass plays in that contest.

Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker was a defensive back at Furman from 2004 to 2007. Both Thacker and Patenaude came over with Collins from Temple when he took the job with the Yellow Jackets.

Collins and Thacker have experience defending the triple option, as Temple played Army in 2017 and Navy in both 2017 and 2018. The Owls lost in overtime to Army but defeated the Midshipmen twice.

In 2017, Temple held Navy to 4.4 yards per play. The following season, the Midshipmen averaged 5.1 yards per play, but uncharacteristically were considerably more successful via the pass (11.9 yards per attempt) than on the ground (2.6 yards per rush).

The Black Knights averaged 5.7 yards per play versus Temple in their matchup, but needed a 16-yard TD pass with one second to play in regulation in order to force OT.

In all three games, the service academy teams had an edge in time of possession, but it was not an enormous differential.

FCS history of no particular relevance:

  • Collins was 1-1 versus FCS teams in his two seasons at Temple; both games were against ranked Villanova squads (a 16-13 win in 2017 and a 19-17 loss in 2018)
  • Georgia Tech is 33-1-1 against FCS teams; both the tie (in 1986) and the loss (1983) came versus Furman

Geoff Collins, like most coaches, emphasizes turnovers.

Well they come in waves, turnovers do. Coach [Andrew] Thacker and our defensive staff do a great job emphasizing that. They incentivize what we emphasize. And so the turnover board, the turnover graphics to post on social media, all of those things. We start every single meeting in the defensive meeting room talking about turnovers. Showing the plays we get turnovers every single practice. We left two on the table, too. There were two we should have had on Saturday and they just didn’t bounce our way. But that is one of the calling cards of our defense and the thing that stands out is the effort. Interceptions are going to happen. The coverage, or if they get a bad read, or we make a really good athletic play. The ones that I’m the most proud of are the caused fumbles, the effort plays to get to the ball and recover the ball, and I’m really proud of the way the defense is doing that, flying around.”

Oh yes, the turnover board:

It’s a different spin on the “turnover chain”, that’s for sure.

Georgia Tech also doesn’t use a traditional depth chart. Instead, Collins rolls with something called “Above The Line”. It is both a play on the “ATL” moniker for the city of Atlanta and a way to motivate players (at least, that is the intent).

The Yellow Jackets don’t release their “Above The Line” listings for the upcoming game until Thursday; here is the one for the matchup versus The Citadel.

As for some of the players to watch for on Saturday…

Georgia Tech will probably play three quarterbacks against the Bulldogs. Lucas Johnson (6’3″, 215 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from San Diego, started against South Florida, but Tobias Oliver (6’2″, 190 lbs.) and James Graham (6’1″, 192 lbs.) both saw action as well.

Oliver was the starter versus Clemson. The redshirt sophomore from Warner Robins rushed for 876 yards last season despite starting only one game. That was against Virginia Tech, and Oliver rushed for 215 yards on 40 carries versus the Hokies.

Running back Jordan Mason (6’1″, 219 lbs.) rushed for 99 yards on 20 attempts against USF. He had 72 yards on 13 carries versus Clemson (and scored touchdowns in both contests).

Six different players caught passes for the Yellow Jackets in both games. There were a total of eight “Above The Line” wide receivers for the Yellow Jackets when they faced South Florida.

One of those eight players, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Adonicas Sanders (6’1″, 195 lbs.), won a state title as a basketball player at Burke High School in Charleston. He then attended Fort Dorchester in North Charleston for his final two years of high school, where he was part of a state championship team on the gridiron as a junior.

The offensive linemen who started versus South Florida average 6’4″, 304 lbs. However, there could be some changes on the line against The Citadel, as both left guard Mikey Minehan (6’3″, 297 lbs.) and center Kenny Cooper (6’3″, 317 lbs.) were injured early in the game against the Bulls. Georgia Tech had to use redshirt sophomore walk-on William Lay III (6’2″, 305 lbs.) at center for the majority of the game versus USF.

This week, any further reshuffling of the line might prevent an unusual two-way player scenario from re-occurring. Jahaziel Lee (6’2″, 300 lbs.), a senior from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, started at left tackle last week — but he also filled in on the defensive line.

Andrew Thacker explained Georgia Tech’s philosophy on player positions (for this season, at any rate) during the defensive coordinator’s press briefing:

“When we get into those situations, we can be really creative with who we put on the field. We don’t have Von Miller on our team. We don’t have Khalil Mack, so we’re not going to be confined by body types or tradition.”

That is probably a good mindset when you’re in a transition phase like Georgia Tech is right now, but in the long run having a 176 lb. freshman defensive back occasionally line up as a DE (as Kenan Johnson did against South Florida) is not likely to be a sustainable solution.

Georgia Tech’s star defensive player last week was 6’2″, 210 lb. linebacker Charlie Thomas (conveniently from Thomasville, Georgia). The sophomore, a converted cornerback, was named the ACC linebacker of the week after a nine-tackle performance that included two sacks and a forced fumble.

Redshirt sophomore defensive back Tre Swilling (6’0″, 200 lbs.) intercepted a pass against Clemson, nearly returning it for a touchdown. Swilling is the son of all-time Tech great Pat Swilling, the former New Orleans Saints all-pro defensive lineman.

Swilling’s two uncles also played for Georgia Tech, and were members of the 1990 national championship team. That team also included All-American defensive lineman Coleman Rudolph, whose nephew Thompson Rudolph (6’0″, 195 lb.) is a redshirt freshman DB. The younger Rudolph was a safety and quarterback for Spartanburg High School.

Starting punter Pressley Harvin III (6’0″, 245 lbs.) is a junior from Sumter. He was a second-team all-ACC selection last season despite being, as described in his bio on the Georgia Tech website, “one of the nation’s least-utilized weapons”.

Redshirt sophomore Brenton King (6’0″, 176 lbs.) started at placekicker for the Yellow Jackets last week. He was 2 for 2 on PATs, but missed his only field goal attempt (albeit a 51-yarder). King is also the kickoff specialist.

Against Clemson, Wesley Wells (6’0″, 205 lbs.) was the placekicker, making two extra points. Wells finished last season as Georgia Tech’s kicker, a year in which he did not miss a field goal attempt or a PAT.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Atlanta, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny, with a high of 90 degrees and a 20% chance of showers and/or thunderstorms.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Georgia Tech (as of Wednesday evening) is a 26-point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 57 1/2.

When the line debuted on Monday, the Yellow Jackets were 36-point favorites (and the over/under was 61 1/2). There has been a surprising amount of line movement for the Bulldogs’ first three games.

In this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few folks started looking at recent trends involving triple option teams and reacted accordingly.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Furman is a 21-point underdog at Virginia Tech; Wofford is a 10 1/2 point favorite versus Samford; East Tennessee State is a 19-point favorite against VMI; Chattanooga is a 28-point underdog at Tennessee; Western Carolina is a 10-point favorite versus North Greenville; and Mercer is a 6 1/2 point favorite against Austin Peay.

– Also of note: Towson is a 3 1/2 point underdog at Maine; Charleston Southern is a 13 1/2 point underdog against North Carolina A&T; and Elon-Richmond is a pick’em.

South Carolina State is a 24 1/2 point underdog at South Florida.

The biggest favorite in a D-1 matchup this week is LSU, with the line for its game against Northwestern State at 51 1/2 points. In games between FBS teams, the largest spread is 35 1/2, with Auburn favored over Kent State.

In contests between FCS teams, the biggest favorite is James Madison, a 33 1/2 point favorite over Morgan State. I also thought it was worth mentioning that North Dakota State is a 28 1/2 point favorite on the road over a ranked team (Delaware).

Georgetown and Delaware State are both playing non-D1 teams this week, and both are favored by over 40 points. This might be the first time in decades (if not in history) those two programs are both favored by that much in the same week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 196th in D-1 (66th in FCS), while Georgia Tech is 52nd in D-1 (51st in FBS).

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 2% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Georgia Tech 43, The Citadel 10.

The top five teams in Massey’s FCS rankings this week: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, Princeton, and James Madison.

Dartmouth is 6th. Neither Princeton or Dartmouth have played yet, of course.

The Ivy League schools begin their respective seasons next week. Massey has seven of the eight Ivies ranked in the top 60, which seems instinctively wrong.

Other FCS rankings this week of varied interest: Towson is 16th, North Carolina A&T 27th, Kennesaw State 30th, Elon 34th, Furman 37th, Mercer 46th, Wofford 50th, Chattanooga 62nd, South Carolina State 64th, East Tennessee State 71st, Samford 76th, North Alabama 79th, Western Carolina 92nd, Campbell 95th, VMI 99th, Charleston Southern 100th, Davidson 108th, Gardner-Webb 113th, Presbyterian 125th, and Robert Morris 126th and last.

– Per Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings, Georgia Tech has a projected margin of victory of 25.7 points over the Bulldogs, with The Citadel given a 7% chance of pulling the upset.

– The Yellow Jackets have only been flagged for four penalties so far this season.

– Georgia Tech’s notable alumni include government official Orson Swindle (who was also a prisoner of war for seven years), dance instructor Arthur Murray, and comedian Jeff Foxworthy.

– The Ramblin’ Wreck’s roster includes 74 players from Georgia. Other states represented: Florida (10 players), Tennessee (7), South Carolina (6), Alabama (4), Louisiana (4), New Jersey (3), and one each from Arkansas, California, Hawai’i, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is also one Yellow Jacket from Belgium, freshman defensive lineman Sylvain Yondjouen.

No member of Georgia Tech’s team is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. If Geoff Collins is truly serious about recruiting elite players to The Flats, he obviously must make repeat visits to the lower midlands of South Carolina, and do so sooner rather than later. Collins cannot afford to miss out on the incredible gridiron talent perennially suiting up in the famed maroon and orange.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– The Citadel has a running back named Dante Smith. Georgia Tech has a running back named Dontae Smith.

– There are no changes from The Citadel’s two-deep for the Elon game to the one for the matchup with the Yellow Jackets.

– Sean-Thomas Faulkner has blocked four punts in his last eight games.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 4-1 for games played on September 14. Among the highlights:

  • 1974: The Bulldogs defeated Presbyterian 6-0 in the season opener, with the game played in damp conditions after a downpour just before kickoff (and intermittent showers during the contest). The Citadel’s touchdown came in the third quarter; Gene Dotson from one yard out. The PAT attempt narrowly missed hitting one of the linesmen standing underneath the goalposts. Brian Ruff had 18 official tackles, though it seemed like he had many more, as the P.A. announcer at Johnson Hagood Stadium regularly called out his name on defense. Kemble Farr also had a good game for the Bulldogs (12 tackles). The game story in The News and Courier listed the attendance as both 8,700 (the copy) and 8,000 (the box score), while the media guide claims it was 8,775. I guess nobody knows for sure how many people were there that day. I just know that I was one of them; it was the first football game I ever attended.
  • 1996: The Citadel edged Richmond 13-10 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Stanley Myers rushed for a one-yard TD with 44 seconds remaining for the winning score. Justin Skinner had two field goals for the Bulldogs. Andrew Green and Kenyatta Spruill combined to rush for 249 yards. Attendance: 13,069.
  • 2002: As mentioned above, Stanley Myers scored with 44 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs to victory on September 14, 1996. Exactly six years later, Nehemiah Broughton scored the winning touchdown for The Citadel from one yard out…with 43 seconds to play. Broughton’s TD (his second of the day) capped a 21-play, 91-yard drive that took 7:35 off the clock, including two fourth-down conversions (one at The Citadel’s own 18-yard line). The Bulldogs’ leading rusher on the day was Nate Mahoney (128 yards), while Scooter Johnson added 116 receiving yards (and a TD). Travis Zobel kicked two field goals for The Citadel.
  • 2013: Ben Dupree rushed for 126 yards as The Citadel outlasted Western Carolina in Cullowhee, 28-21. The game featured several odd plays, including an accidental fake punt by Eric Goins that set up a TD. Meanwhile, a would-be WCU punt was fumbled into the waiting arms of Tevin Floyd, who waltzed into the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown return. The decisive play of the contest, however, came with the Catamounts driving for a potential tying touchdown. Brandon McCladdie deflected a pass; the football then ricocheted off the knee of Derek Douglas, and was eventually corralled by Julian Baxter for the game-clinching interception.

According to The Citadel’s game notes, the freshmen members of the Corps of Cadets will be travelling to Atlanta to support the Bulldogs, which is excellent news.

The trip had already been planned, but after last week’s Hurrication I was uncertain whether or not it was still going to happen.

This has been a tough start to the season for The Citadel, which on the whole has not played badly, but doesn’t have a win to show for it. Picking up the initial victory of the season against a Power 5 opponent is a tall order.

It isn’t impossible, though. The challenge is not quite as daunting as the Alabama game was last season, and the Bulldogs acquitted themselves fairly well in that contest.

That said, even with a coaching transition (and a major change in offense), Georgia Tech has the advantage in many areas of this matchup.

The Citadel must begin the game well. A slow start, as has been the case for the Bulldogs in both games this season, would be ominous.

Avoid turnovers, control the clock, and all of the other clichés do apply. One other thing that has to happen, though, is that The Citadel’s offense has to break off multiple big plays. That is practically a must if the Bulldogs want to stay in the game with a chance to win it.

In the end, this is a great opportunity for the Bulldogs. I hope they make the most of it.

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 3

This is a list of every game played during week 3 of the 2019 college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school. All games are listed, televised or not.

For the streamed/televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline reporters (where applicable). I put all of it on a Google Documents spreadsheet that can be accessed at the following link:

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 3

Additional notes:

– I include streaming information for games on CBS Digital, ESPN.com, ESPN3, Fox.com, Fox Sports Go, NBC Live Extra, Pac-12 Digital, Facebook, Stadium, and FloSports.

– I also list digital network feeds provided by various conferences. For some of these feeds, the audio will be a simulcast of the home team’s radio broadcast. Other online platforms have their own announcers.

For now, the digital networks I am including in the listings are those for the Big Sky (Pluto TV), NEC (Front Row), WCCCUSAMountain West, and Patriot League. Some of the feeds for those conferences are provided by the Stadium platform.

Occasionally individual schools (almost always at the FCS level) provide video feeds. When that is the case, I list those as well.

– As I did last season, this year I am including pay-per-view telecasts and streams. These matchups are sometimes listed as “PPV” telecasts or (in the case of feeds from individual schools) “All-Access” streams, though an occasional stream with that description is actually free.

– I also note which games are on ESPN College Extra (those matchups tend to be released later in the week).

– BTN “gamefinder”:  Link

– AP Poll (FBS):  Link

– AFCA Coaches’ Poll (FCS):  Link

A lot of the information I use in putting this together comes courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s comprehensive and indispensable site College Sports on TV, a necessity for any fan of college football and/or basketball. Another site on the “must-bookmark” list is lsufootball.net, particularly for devotees of the central time zone.

I must also mention the relentless information gatherers (and in a few cases sports-TV savants) at the506.com. I am occasionally assisted as well by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.

Game Review, 2019: Elon

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Burlington Times-News

– WCSC-TV game report (video)

– School release

– Game highlights (video)

– Box score

Key stats:

The Citadel Elon
Field Position* 39.82 (+13.38) 26.44 (-13.38)
Success Rate (per play)* 39.66% 53.45%
Big plays (20+ yards) 2 7
Finishing drives (average points) 7.0 7.0
Turnovers* 0 0
Expected turnovers 0.94 0.00
Possessions* 11 9
Points per possession* 2.55 3.89
Offensive Plays* 58 58
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 3.33 7.0
Yards/pass att* (incl. sacks) 6.89 10.27
Yards/play* 3.88 8.24
3rd down conversions* 5 of 14 5 of 10
4th down conversions* 2 of 3 1 of 1
Red Zone TD% 4 of 4 (100% 3 of 3 (100%)
Net punting 44.3 9.0
Time of possession 31:45 28:15
TOP/offensive play 32.29 sec 26.08 sec
Penalties 6 for 45 9 for 79
1st down passing* 1/2, 3 yards 7/11, 141 yards, TD
3rd and long passing 1/3, 27 yards, TD** 1/2, 6 yards
4th down passing* 0/1 1/1, 6 yards
1st down yards/play* 3.29 7.93
3rd down average yards to go* 7.14 5.00
Defensive 3-and-outs+* 2 4

*final drive for Elon in each half and last play of game for TC not included
**also sacked twice

Observations based on the above statistics:

– For the second week in a row, an opponent averaged over eight yards per play. That happened three times last season (against Chattanooga, Towson, and Alabama).

– Through two games, opponents have 13 big plays against the Bulldogs’ defense. Meanwhile, The Citadel’s offense has only three big plays of its own.

– In both games, The Citadel’s offense has had four three-and-outs (or worse). That means in 40% of the Bulldogs’ possessions, they have not picked up a first down.

– The Citadel’s 35.2% third down conversion rate on offense against Elon was lower than in all but three of the Bulldogs’ games last year (Wofford, Alabama, Charleston Southern).

– The Bulldogs are averaging 2.45 points per possession after two games. In eight SoCon contests last year, The Citadel averaged 3.18 points per possession.

It should be noted that in its first two games in 2018 (Wofford and Chattanooga), the Bulldogs averaged just 2.0 points per possession.

– This is the second week in a row an opponent has had a 50% or better success rate on third down against the Bulldogs’ defense (not counting the two third downs in end-of-half possessions). Last year, The Citadel had a defensive third down conversion rate of 35.2% (all games).

– Elon had a Success rate of 53.45%. Last year, only one team had a Success Rate against The Citadel’s defense that exceeded 50%: Alabama (66.67%).

– The Citadel did not force a turnover on Saturday, something that only happened twice in 2018 (against Furman and East Tennessee State).

– The Bulldogs have converted five 4th-down attempts (in six tries). Only three FCS teams have converted more so far this year: Tennessee Tech (7), Davidson (6), and Kennesaw State (6).

– The Citadel’s 3.33 yards per rush (taking out sacks) was the lowest for a game since last year’s season opener versus Wofford. The Bulldogs’ 3.88 yards per play was the lowest since that same contest against the Terriers.

– A positive: the Bulldogs have scored TDs in seven of their eight trips inside the Red Zone so far this season.

– A major positive: yes, Elon’s net yards punting was 9.0, which is what happens when two of four punts are blocked. Both punt blocks were by Sean-Thomas Faulkner, who also drew a rare fighting penalty from Elon on one of the two punts that he didn’t block.

Random thoughts:

– From the game story in The Post and Courier, Brent Thompson said (among other things):

“We’ve got to figure things out a little bit more on the defensive side, and get ahead of the game on offense. We haven’t been able to get a lead on these guys in the last two games.”

The Citadel would have had a much better chance of getting a lead on Elon if a fumble recovery by the Bulldogs on the Phoenix’s second possession had stood. It didn’t, because the officials ruled that the play never happened.

The reason for that ruling? An “inadvertent whistle”.

I didn’t hear the whistle, and no one around me heard it either. It did not affect the action, as in fact the play was run as if nothing happened (possibly because nothing did happen).

This is the kind of thing that sours fans on officials. At best, it was a demonstration of complete incompetence that dramatically benefited the home team, a member of the same conference that provided the men in stripes.

(Admittedly, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if the officials had been from the SoCon.)

– The onside kick was exquisitely timed and wonderfully executed, from Jacob Godek’s inch-perfect kick to Ryland Ayers’ recovery on the run.

– The Bulldogs were a little slow to run plays on their final (full) drive, in my opinion. It wasn’t terrible and it didn’t impact the outcome of the game, but I think The Citadel should have gone into more of hurry-up mode at about the three-minute mark.

– Announced attendance: 5,071. There was a decent contingent of Bulldog fans at the game, though not quite as many as I was expecting. The weather was warm and the sun was bright and powerful.

– Forty-eight Bulldogs played in the contest, one fewer than last week.

– Elon has a nice gameday setup, but some of the staffers working parking didn’t seem very sure of where people were allowed to park. That seemed sub-optimal.

– The new uniforms are growing on me, and I kind of liked them already. There is one issue with wearing all white, though:

I wasn’t overly disappointed after last week’s game, but Saturday’s contest was more frustrating. The Bulldogs really struggled on both sides of the ball, with the offense not really getting into gear until the fourth quarter, and the defense never establishing itself at all.

The special teams were fantastic, and it seemed a shame to “waste” that advantage in a game that The Citadel didn’t win.

There are positives — for one thing, the Bulldogs yet again showed resilience after falling behind. However, that isn’t enough to turn defeats into victories.

Hopefully, the Bulldogs will begin winning games like this when SoCon play begins. There are still two games to go before that stretch of play begins, though.

Next week: the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech, in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets beat South Florida 14-10 on Saturday to win their first game of the campaign.

I’ll post about that game later this week.

This week’s pictures are below. I started having battery issues with my cellphone at halftime, so there are just a few third-quarter shots and none from the final period.

Don’t worry, though — the ones I did take are still lousy.

 

 

 

2019 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Elon

The Citadel vs. Elon, to be played on McKinnon Field at Rhodes Stadium in Elon, North Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on September 7, 2019. 

The game will be streamed on FloSports. Taylor Durham will handle play-by-play, while Matt Krause supplies the analysis.

The contest 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. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

– News from Camp Bulldog

– Game notes from The Citadel and Elon

– SoCon weekly release

CAA weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Elon’s website

– Phoenix seeks fixes up front

Elon head coach Tony Trisciani on the CAA teleconference

The Dogs:  Episode 2

Well, here we go again. Another year brings us yet another hurricane that will have an impact on the Bulldogs’ preparation for a football game.

Obviously, the potential issues associated with Hurricane Dorian are about a lot more than football. In this limited context, though, it has to be very frustrating for the coaches and players to have to go through this scenario once more.

At least Brent Thompson and company know what to expect from the team’s home away from home, Look Up Lodge, a/k/a The Citadel’s branch campus in the Upstate. By now, everyone should know the routine.

This week’s game is being streamed on FloSports, which is the official streaming provider of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

If you want to watch the game on FloSports, you will have to fork out $12.50 to do so. That is the cost of a monthly fee (you can’t get a per-game deal). Oh, and it automatically renews for another month if you don’t cancel.

That strikes me as a good excuse to make the trip to Elon on Saturday.

I realize not everyone can do that. The Citadel has fans all over the country (and all over the world, for that matter). For those who can’t make it to the game, I recommend listening to Luke Mauro and Ted Byrne call the action on the radio.

It is definitely the right option — and, after all, it is also free.

The agreement the CAA has with FloSports is for four years. I think it might be best if The Citadel tried to avoid scheduling road games against CAA opposition over that four-year period, just because of this contract.

The SoCon’s deal with ESPN+ is better (and cheaper).

In 1889 several Alamance County mill owners and farmers gave or sold parcels of land for the site of a new educational institution named Elon to take the place of the nearby Graham College.

Originally, there was a two-year higher education institution in the town of Graham, North Carolina, and various leaders of that school wanted to establish a four-year college. The North Carolina legislature granted a charter for the school, which was founded by followers of what is now called the United Church of Christ.

The decision was made to build the new school near a local freight depot called Mill Point. Then the founders had to figure out what to name their new college.

If they could have found a major donor, they would gladly have named it after him (or her). That didn’t happen, so eventually they settled on Elon, which means “oak tree” in Hebrew (there were a lot of oak trees in the immediate area).

Sadly, the founders did not get to use their first choice of a school name — Bon Air.

Tangent: imagine if the school actually wound up being named Bon Air. Then, over a century later, the ludicrous action movie “Con Air” would have almost certainly given the institution tons of accidental free publicity. The school’s College of Arts and Sciences could have taken full advantage of this, hosting symposiums on topics like “Was Nicolas Cage’s accent the very worst in motion picture history, or just in the top five?” and “Trisha versus LeAnn, or Live versus Liiiiiieve”.

By the mid-1930s, Elon was in serious trouble, having briefly lost its accreditation and suffering from a serious financial crisis, thanks in part to the Great Depression. In 1931, there were only 87 students, and that didn’t change much over the next several years.

During World War II, however, 672 Army Air Corps pilots trained on campus, and their enrollment helped the school survive. After the war, veterans and the G.I. Bill led to a further increase in students.

Today, Elon has over 6,000 undergraduates, and its ten graduate programs include about 800 more students.

Elon has had only six school presidents in the last hundred years. The current holder of that office is a familiar name to folks at The Citadel, as Connie Ledoux Book was previously the provost at the military college before taking the top job at Elon.

Book had previously spent 16 years at Elon as a faculty member and administrator, so she was no stranger to the school.

Elon’s varsity athletic teams used to be called the “Fightin’ Christians”, but in 2000 the institution dropped that in favor of “Phoenix”, which is a reference to the college’s rebuilding after a devastating fire in 1923.

Thus, Elon no longer features great logos like this one:

There was also a Fightin’ Christians mascot, as can be seen in the photos here: Link

Elon was a member of the Southern Conference from 2003 to 2014. While 36 different schools have left the league over the years (some more than once), Elon may have left on the worst terms with the conference than any of them.

This statement was part of an official release from then-SoCon commissioner John Iamarino:

“In recent years, it became increasingly evident that Elon’s negative view of the diversity in the Southern Conference was not shared by the majority of the membership.”

A lot of the anger seemed to be directed at the president of Elon at the time, Leo Lambert, who was reported to have opposed the re-admission into the league of East Tennessee State and VMI. Lambert later denied that he had not wanted VMI back in the SoCon (he more or less remained mum on ETSU), but it is clear there was significant conflict between the school and the rest of the conference.

Lambert and Iamarino are both now retired. Elon is presumably happy in the CAA, and the SoCon is motoring along just as it has since 1921. I think everyone has moved on.

Elon has made the FCS playoffs in each of the last two seasons. The Phoenix were not dominant in either year, to be sure, but qualified for post-season play anyway. Both times, there were somewhat unusual circumstances at play.

In 2017, Elon lost its opening game to Toledo, 47-13. The Phoenix then won eight straight games by a combined margin of 31 points, meaning that late in the season Elon was 8-1 despite being outscored by its opponents.

The Phoenix began the victory streak by edging Furman 34-31, then won seven more games by scores of 19-17, 36-33, 6-0, 25-17, 35-34, 19-14, and 33-30 (that last contest in 2OT).

A team has to be good to keep winning games in such a fashion. Eventually, however, things will begin to swing in the other direction, and Elon lost its last three games of the season, including a one-point playoff defeat to none other than Furman.

The 2018 season began with a loss to South Florida, but then Elon began winning games again, including victories over Furman (a 45-7 mauling), Charleston Southern, New Hampshire, and an extremely impressive road win over James Madison.

The Phoenix were 4-1, ranked 5th in the AFCA FCS poll, and looking like a cinch playoff team and a probable seed. Then…well, let’s look at some charts.

Statistics of note for Elon’s offense in 2018 against FCS opponents, broken down into three distinct phases of its season:

Plays Yds/play Rush att Rush Yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Lost fumbles Int. 3rd Down conv 3rd Down att RZ TD conv RZ TD att
@Fur 58 7.72 41 6.76 17 10.06 0 0 6 11 2 2
@CSU 77 5.79 50 4.47 27 7.74 1 0 6 14 4 5
UNH 79 5.71 48 4.02 31 8.32 1 0 7 18 2 5
@JMU 72 6.92 39 5.56 33 8.52 0 0 1 15 2 4
Totals 286 178 108 2 0 20 58 10 16
Average 71.5 6.44 44.5 5.11 27 8.51 34.5% 62.5%

 

Plays Yds/play Rush att Rush yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Lost fumbles Int. 3rd down conv 3rd down att RZ TD conv
RZ TD att
@Del. 70 4.13 37 3.49 33 4.85 0 0 5 18 1 3
Rich. 69 6.64 55 4.96 14 13.21 1 0 8 16 2 4
URI 55 6.44 47 6.78 8 4.38 0 0 3 10 1 2
Towson 59 4.03 37 6.19 22 0.41 1 0 4 14 1 2
Totals 253 176 77 2 0 20 58 5 11
Average 5.29 44 5.40 5.05 34.5% 45.5%

 

Plays Yds/play Rush att Rush yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Lost fumbles Int. 3rd down conv 3rd down att RZ TD conv
RZ TD att
@Maine 88 4.91 36 4.67 52 5.08 2 1 7 19 1 4
@Woff. 60 4.33 28 1.82 32 6.53 1 1 8 13 1 2
Totals 148 74.00 84.00 3 2 15 32 2 6
Avg. 4.67 37 2.96 42 5.63 46.9% 33.3%

 

Davis Cheek started at quarterback for Elon in all 12 games in 2017. He also started in last year’s victories over Furman, Charleston Southern, New Hampshire, and James Madison. With Cheek calling the signals, the Phoenix offense had outstanding numbers in terms of yards per play, yards per pass attempt, and Red Zone TD rate.

Then, disaster. Cheek tore his ACL early in Elon’s game against Delaware and was lost for the season.

Jalen Greene took over as QB. Greene was a capable runner, but not much of a passer. That is reflected in the statistics for the next four games, including the loss to Delaware and a 41-10 setback against Towson in which Greene was sacked three times while completing only five passes.

However, Elon was able to win the other two games during this stretch, including a crucial 24-21 Homecoming victory over Rhode Island. After the win over the Rams, Elon was 6-2 and had moved back up to #5 in the rankings.

The loss to Towson dropped the Phoenix to #12.

Greene started the regular-season finale at Maine, but in the second quarter of that game he was replaced by Daniel Thompson — who had been Elon’s starting QB in 2015 and 2016. Thompson threw 43 passes against the Black Bears in a comeback that fell just short (27-26).

Elon was 6-4, and certainly not the same team it had been with Cheek at QB, but the Phoenix made the playoffs anyway, thanks mostly to its outstanding early-season wins.

Against Wofford in the first round of the playoffs, Thompson got the start, but Elon never really got going (and also didn’t have the ball that much, as the Terriers had over a 14-minute time of possession advantage). Wofford won, 19-7.

Elon’s success in 2017 and 2018 came under the tutelage of Curt Cignetti, who had arrived after a very good run at D-2 Indiana of Pennsylvania. Cignetti, a former assistant at Alabama under Nick Saban, is now the head coach at James Madison, taking that job after Mike Houston was named head coach at East Carolina.

The new boss of the Phoenix is Tony Trisciani, who had been Cignetti’s defensive coordinator. Trisciani’s career has included being on the same staff with Chip Kelly (when Kelly was an assistant coach at New Hampshire) and two different tours of duty at Elon, with the first of those a one-year stint (in 2006) as special teams coordinator.

After five years at Villanova, where he was both the recruiting coordinator and (later) the defensive coordinator, Trisciani was hired by Cignetti as his DC. Now, two years later, Trisciani is a college head coach for the first time.

Elon began this season ranked #21 in the AFCA FCS poll, but is now unranked for the first time since September 2017 after losing at North Carolina A&T, 24-21. The Aggies won the game with a last-second, 52-yard field goal.

All three of the Phoenix’s touchdowns came on long drives of at least ten plays. The possessions were all around five minutes in game length.

Davis Cheek was back at quarterback for Elon, and he was 16 for 27 passing, with one TD. However, he was also sacked five times.

The Phoenix struggled to run the ball, averaging 2.1 yards per rush (not including sacks). Elon’s longest run from scrimmage was just 12 yards.

Defensively, the Phoenix were respectable, although North Carolina A&T quarterback Kylil Carter was only sacked once (he had 27 pass attempts), and the Aggies scored touchdowns all three times they advanced into the Red Zone.

Just a few of Elon’s offensive players to watch:

Davis Cheek (6’3″, 210 lbs.): As mentioned above, Cheek has been very successful during his career at Elon. Before his injury last season, he had completed 65.8% of his passes, averaging 8.48 yards per attempt (sacks not counted), with four touchdowns against two interceptions. A native of Matthews, North Carolina, Cheek is a redshirt junior.

Jaylan Thomas (5’9″, 195 lbs.): Thomas is a sophomore running back from Carrolton, Georgia. Last season, he was named the CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year (despite missing three games due to injury) after rushing for 761 yards and four TDs, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

Thomas had an 86-yard touchdown run against Rhode Island, a key play in that contest. He wasn’t asked to catch the ball much, but he did have seven receptions.

Matt Foster (6’4″, 250 lbs.): A senior from Williamsville, New York, Foster has been Elon’s starting tight end since midway through the 2016 campaign. Last year, he caught 17 passes, averaging 8.8 yards per reception. In 2017, though, Foster averaged 12.7 yards per catch (19 receptions).

Kortez Weeks (6’0″, 173 lbs.): Weeks caught 36 passes last season, averaging 13.4 yards per reception. The junior from Mt. Ulla, North Carolina was a third-team all-CAA selection in 2017, when he had 60 receptions.

Cole Taylor (6’4″, 215 lbs.): Yet another tall target for the Phoenix, Taylor caught 31 passes in 2018. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch. Taylor is a senior from Marietta, Georgia.

Matt Kowalewski (6’4″, 285 lbs.): The senior right guard from Charlotte has started 27 games for Elon during his career, tied for the most (with Foster) of any offensive player for the Phoenix. Kowalewski is one of two returning starters from last season’s offensive line.

The projected starters for Elon’s o-line average 6’4″, 296 lbs.

Defensive players to watch for the Phoenix include (but are by no means limited to):

Marcus Willoughby (6’3″, 253 lbs.): A defensive end from Durham, Willoughby was a third-team all-CAA choice last year after compiling 58 tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks. The senior was the league’s defensive player of the week after a performance against New Hampshire that included 4 1/2 tackles for loss (two sacks).

Tristen Cox (6’3″, 324 lbs.): The mammoth nosetackle has 24 career starts. Cox recovered three fumbles last season, leading the team. The junior from Piqua, Ohio had seven tackles (including a sack) against Furman.

Greg Liggs, Jr. (5’11”, 198 lbs.): Last season, Elon’s free safety was a second-team all-CAA pick after making 65 tackles (second-most on the team) and intercepting four passes; he broke up nine others.

A senior from Greensboro, Liggs has started 25 games for the Phoenix.

Daniel Reid-Bennett (6’1″, 193 lbs.): Reid-Bennett has appeared in all but one game during his career at Elon, with 22 starts. The senior cornerback from Lexington, North Carolina had 55 tackles (42 solo stops) in 2018.

Jalen Greene (6’2″, 195 lbs.): As discussed above, Greene started four games at quarterback for the Phoenix last season, but has now moved to the other side of the ball. The junior from Durham is not listed as a starter on the two-deep, but as one of the team’s fastest players, I would not be surprised to see him in action on Saturday.

Elon’s kicking specialists from last season both return. Placekicker Skyler Davis (5’8″, 151 lbs.) was 17 of 22 on field goal tries, only missing once (in 15 attempts) from inside 40 yards. He did not miss a PAT.

Davis, a sophomore, went to the same high school (Allatoona, in Acworth, Georgia) as Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Rainey and wide receiver Raleigh Webb.

Hunter Stephenson (6’5″, 220 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Wake Forest, North Carolina, is in his third season as Elon’s punter. Eighteen of his 54 punts last year were downed inside the 20; he only had one touchback all season.

Elon’s primary kick returner is Shamari Wingard (6’0″, 174 lbs.), a sophomore from Charlotte who also handled kick return duties last year.

Another Charlotte sophomore, Bryson Daughtry (6’0″, 184 lbs.) is listed on the depth chart as the lead punt returner. Of note, Elon only returned nine punts all of last season, for a total of 29 yards; its average of 3.22 yards per punt return was sixth-lowest in FCS.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday at Elon, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 87 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Elon (as of Wednesday evening) is a 7 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 51 1/2.

When the line opened on Tuesday, Elon was a 5 1/2 point favorite, so the spread moved two points in the Phoenix’s direction in a 24-hour period.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  VMI is a 16 1/2 point favorite over Mars Hill; Chattanooga is a 6 1/2 point underdog at Jacksonville State; East Tennessee State is a 40-point favorite over Shorter; Furman is a 7-point underdog at Vols-vanquisher Georgia State; and Western Carolina is a 42 1/2 point underdog at North Carolina State.

Presumably because the game wasn’t scheduled until Monday, the Mercer-Presbyterian game has no line. Wofford and Samford are both off this week (and play each other next week).

– Also of note: Towson is a 21 1/2 point favorite over North Carolina Central; Charleston Southern is a 40 1/2 point underdog at South Carolina; and Georgia Tech is a 6 1/2 point favorite over South Florida.

Coming off its big win over Wofford, South Carolina State is a 32-point favorite over Lane College.

The biggest favorite in the FCS ranks is Abilene Christian, a 51 1/2 point favorite over Arizona Christian (an NAIA school). In matchups between FCS teams, the largest spread is 44 1/2, with Illinois State favored over Morehead State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 61st in FCS (down 11 places from last week), while Elon is 41st.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 30% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Elon 28, The Citadel 21 (kind of a familiar scoreline, isn’t it?).

The top five teams in Massey’s FCS rankings this week: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, Princeton, and UC Davis.

Other rankings this week of varied interest: James Madison (6th), Towson (18th), Kennesaw State (21st), North Carolina A&T (29th), Furman (39th), Jacksonville State (46th), Wofford (49th, down 25 spots), Mercer (50th), Chattanooga (51st), South Carolina State (62nd, up 30 places and the biggest riser in the sub-division), East Tennessee State (68th), Samford (69th, down 27 spots with the largest drop this week in FCS), Western Carolina (91st), Charleston Southern (95th), VMI (102nd), Davidson (114th), Presbyterian (122nd), and Merrimack (126th and last).

– Elon’s notable alumni include broadcaster Wes Durham, actor Grant Gustin, and basketball coach Frank Haith.

– Elon’s roster includes 44 players from North Carolina. Other states represented:  Virginia (14 players), Georgia (8), Ohio (7), New Jersey (7), Florida (3), Connecticut (3), Pennsylvania (3), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (2), South Carolina (2), and one each from Kentucky, Indiana, California, Alabama, Louisiana, and New York.

No member of Elon’s team is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This failure to recruit players who have worn the fabled maroon and orange will hover over the football program like a malignant cloud, probably for decades. Why the current or former coaching staff has not attempted to bring in stars from the celebrated gridiron powerhouse is a great mystery, unless the school is simply not interested in being competitive in football in the long term.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– This week’s two-deep only has two changes from the one from last week. Clay Harris is listed as one of the kick returners, and Jay Girdner makes an appearance on the depth chart at strong safety.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 2-3 for games played on September 7. The two victories both came over Presbyterian.

  • In 1985, the Bulldogs edged the Blue Hose 14-7 before 18,000 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Despite controlling the clock and having the edge in total offense, The Citadel didn’t take the lead until the fourth quarter, when Kip Allen threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Williams. Allen also connected with Clay Morphis for a TD. Tommy French’s interception with 17 seconds to play sealed the win. Also worth noting: Greg Davis attempted a 59-yard field goal at the end of the first half; it hit the crossbar but did not go over.
  • In 1991, The Citadel beat PC 33-10 on a soggy evening before 17,660 spectators. Employing a split-back veer (a brief experiment during the Charlie Taaffe era, never to be repeated), the Bulldogs accumulated 444 yards of total offense. Jack Douglas rushed for 106 yards and threw a 76-yard TD pass to Willie Jones, while Cedric Sims added 115 yards rushing. Lester Smith intercepted a pass (returning it 66 yards) and also forced a fumble.

This is a key game for both teams, as neither wants to start the season 0-2. The major unknown, in my opinion, is how the Bulldogs will react to their unplanned relocation from campus. The fact that The Citadel was scheduled to play a road game probably alleviates some of the negatives associated with the break in routine. At least, I would like to think so.

Elon has been a very good team over the previous two years with its full complement of players, and Davis Cheek and Jaylan Adams are both back in action for the Phoenix. The loss to North Carolina A&T wasn’t a shock (the Aggies have been an outstanding program in recent years), but it may still have come as a bit of a surprise (Elon was a 3 1/2 point favorite).

Defensively, the Bulldogs need to take advantage of Elon’s relative inexperience on the offensive line (three new starters) and put pressure on Cheek. The Citadel cannot afford to give Cheek time to find open receivers, especially considering his receiving corps is a veteran group with good size.

On offense, The Citadel will have to first figure out how the Phoenix will defend the triple option. Then, the Bulldogs will have to execute properly, avoiding turnovers and other costly mistakes (like penalties). The Citadel also needs more big plays on offense this week.

It should be a good game. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m ready for Saturday. So is everyone else, I suspect…

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 2

This is a list of every game played during week 2 of the 2019 college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school. All games are listed, televised or not.

For the streamed/televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline reporters (where applicable). I put all of it on a Google Documents spreadsheet that can be accessed at the following link:

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 2

Additional notes:

– I include streaming information for games on CBS Digital, ESPN.com, ESPN3, Fox.com, Fox Sports Go, NBC Live Extra, Pac-12 Digital, Facebook, Stadium, and FloSports.

– I also list digital network feeds provided by various conferences. For some of these feeds, the audio will be a simulcast of the home team’s radio broadcast. Other online platforms have their own announcers.

For now, the digital networks I am including in the listings are those for the Big Sky (Pluto TV), NEC (Front Row), WCCCUSAMountain West, and Patriot League. Some of the feeds for those conferences are provided by the Stadium platform.

Occasionally individual schools (almost always at the FCS level) provide video feeds. When that is the case, I list those as well.

– As I did last season, this year I am including pay-per-view telecasts and streams. These matchups are sometimes listed as “PPV” telecasts or (in the case of feeds from individual schools) “All-Access” streams, though an occasional stream with that description is actually free.

– I also note which games are on ESPN College Extra (those matchups tend to be released later in the week).

– BTN “gamefinder”:  Link

– AP Poll (FBS):  Link

– AFCA Coaches’ Poll (FCS):  Link

A lot of the information I use in putting this together comes courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s comprehensive and indispensable site College Sports on TV, a necessity for any fan of college football and/or basketball. Another site on the “must-bookmark” list is lsufootball.net, particularly for devotees of the central time zone.

I must also mention the relentless information gatherers (and in a few cases sports-TV savants) at the506.com. I am occasionally assisted as well by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.