Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Presbyterian

This week’s game is something of a blast from the past, at least for older alums and supporters of The Citadel.  Fans under the age of 35 may not realize the lengthy series history between the football programs of The Citadel and PC, though.

Saturday’s game will be the 61st meeting between the two schools, with The Citadel having won 48 of those previous 60 games (with one tie).  The series was played annually from 1921 to 1960, except for the three years during World War II when The Citadel did not field a team.

After the 1963 game (which was played in Savannah), there was a break in the series that lasted until 1971.  From that year through 1988 Presbyterian and The Citadel would meet 16 more times (not playing in 1972 and 1976).  Since the 1988 season, however, there has been only one more encounter, a 33-10 victory for the Bulldogs in 1991.

PC has not hosted The Citadel in football since 1950.  Since then, every game has been played at Johnson Hagood Stadium (except for that 1963 game).  The matchups during the 1950s were frequently either Homecoming or Parents’ Day games.  In contrast, the games played in the 1970s and 1980s usually served as the home openers for the Bulldogs.

Speaking of those games during the 1950s, a while back when I was doing some research for a post about The Citadel’s football uniform history, I came across a series of photos taken by Life Magazine that included action and crowd shots from the 1955 Homecoming game at Johnson Hagood between The Citadel and Presbyterian, won by the Bulldogs 14-13.  I posted links to some of the photos in that piece, but I’ll repost a few here for anyone interested:

Picture 1 (Mark Clark in the stands watching the game)
Picture 2 (the team runs out onto the field in what may have been a photo op and not a “real” run-out)
Picture 3 (same as Picture 2; I think the third coach from the left is Al Davis)
Picture 4 (same as Pictures 2 and 3)
Picture 5 (shot of John Sauer during the game; the coach appears to be a bit anxious, despite the snazzy bow tie)
Picture 6 (PC players are wearing the white jerseys)
Picture 7 (The Citadel has the ball, deep in its own territory)
Picture 8 (I love the scoreboard in this picture)

The Citadel is 26-3 at Johnson Hagood Stadium against Presbyterian, including the first victory for the Bulldogs at JHS, which came in 1949.  Despite the lopsided nature of the series in terms of wins and losses, many of the games have been close.  Particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s, the Blue Hose (one of my favorite college nicknames) would make things tough for the Bulldogs.

Under the direction of longtime coach/AD Cally Gault, PC defeated The Citadel in 1971 and 1979 and lost several other tight contests, which included final scores such as 6-0, 13-7, 21-14, 21-16, 14-7, and 15-13.  Back then it seemed every year for The Citadel started off with a narrow home victory over Presbyterian.

It was, at least to me, a rather congenial rivalry.  I remember going to games at Johnson Hagood as a kid and hearing the occasional “Hose ’em!” chant from a boisterous-but-not-particularly-serious PC supporter (often a stray student who had made his way down from Clinton for the game).  The games were generally competitive, if not always of the highest quality.

My personal favorite matchup in the series is the 6-0 Bulldog victory in 1974.  In that game The Citadel scored the game’s only points in the 3rd quarter, after PC fumbled deep in its own territory.  The extra-point attempt following the touchdown nearly decapitated one of the officials standing beneath the goalposts.  I believe Brian Ruff had approximately 500 tackles in the contest.

The series ended as Presbyterian began its transition from an NAIA school to an NCAA Division II program.  Now, of course, PC has moved up into the ranks of the FCS (I-AA), joining the Big South in the process.  It’s a good move for the school and that league.

What it may also mean is that there could be more opportunities in the future for The Citadel and Presbyterian to meet in football.  One of the disadvantages of The Citadel playing a non-Division I school in football is that if the Bulldogs have hopes of making the FCS playoffs, a win over a non-D1 doesn’t count as far as playoff eligibility is concerned.  A team angling for an at-large berth has to win at least 7 games against Division I opponents (either FCS or FBS).

I think this puts PC on the list of schools that The Citadel can play in its “non-return home game”.  In other words, because the Bulldogs will play a “money” game against an FBS squad each season, a matching contest is needed against a school willing to forgo a home-and-home series.

Presbyterian and Charleston Southern both strike me as candidates to feature in that spot on a semi-regular basis (with Newberry’s Division II status being an impediment to scheduling that school).  Essentially the yearly schedule would be eight Southern Conference games, one game against an FBS school (always on the road), one game against the likes of PC or CSU (always at home), and VMI (with that series resuming in 2011).

Presbyterian’s game against The Citadel will be the fourth and final game the Blue Hose will play against a Southern Conference opponent this season.  PC’s remaining seven games will include six Big South league matchups and a contest against first-year football program Old Dominion.

In its first three games PC has only led once, against UT-Chattanooga.  Presbyterian has been outscored by more than 24 points per game and has been dominated statistically across the board, including allowing opponents over 5 yards per rush attempt, part of the reason why opponents are converting 3rd downs against PC at a 60% clip.

Presbyterian averages a relatively meager 5.7 yards per pass attempt, with a completion percentage of only 52.5%.  The Blue Hose are averaging just 2.5 yards per rush.  PC was more competitive in its last outing, when it led UTC briefly in the second quarter before the Mocs gradually pulled away.  In the other two games, Furman pummeled the Blue Hose (Paladin QB Jordan Sorrells was 24-30 passing), while Elon simply routed PC, running 90 plays to Presbyterian’s 46 and controlling the ball for over 38 minutes.

Basically, this is a game The Citadel should win fairly easily.  That doesn’t mean it’s a lock, though.  PC obviously isn’t going to be intimidated playing yet another game against a SoCon opponent, and may have some confidence after not getting blown out by UT-Chattanooga.

It isn’t a game the Bulldogs are likely to overlook, however.  Sure, the “real season” begins next week with the start of the conference campaign, but this is the home opener, and an opportunity to establish a tone for the games to come.  Things I want to see on Saturday night include:

  • The offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage (PC is giving up 5+ yards per rush — enough said)
  • Receivers catching the ball (the number of dropped passes against Princeton was alarming)
  • Sacks by The Citadel’s defensive front seven (no sacks against Princeton)
  • Turnovers created by the Bulldog defense (especially in the first half)
  • A big play by Andre Roberts (it’s time for one, at least if his ankle is okay)

I’m looking forward to watching a game at Johnson Hagood again.  I’ll be interested to see what the attendance is like.  With South Carolina playing earlier in the week on Thursday night, and an instate school as the opponent, along with it being the home opener, there is a chance for a nice crowd.  Of course, figuring out potential attendance is more complicated than that, as I wrote about earlier this summer.

I was glad to see Presbyterian on the schedule when it was released a few months ago.  I hope I will still be glad to have seen PC on the schedule after Saturday night.

2 Responses

  1. Presbyterian is clearly using athletics to raise the profile of the school. They are the southern frontier of Division I lacrosse, at least until Jacksonville University gets underway next year. Probably not the best time to be making the leap from an economics standpoint.

  2. I read last week that PC’s lacrosse coach has left that school to go to Mercer, which apparently will go D-1 in 2011.

    In the case of PC moving to D-1 in all sports, it’s a tough move to make, especially right now, but it says almost as much about inequities in Division II as it does the “riches” of Division I. I get the impression that the school felt D-2 had become a wasteland.

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