Furman 31, The Citadel 14.
From The Citadel’s perspective, the general takeaway from this game has been fairly positive, both from the point of view of the coaches and the fans. While the Bulldogs lost, there were signs of progress. The Citadel outgained Furman, ran 28 more plays, and had a significant edge in time of possession (by almost 14 minutes). The Bulldogs rushed for almost 300 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry.
All of that is well and good, but on the other hand, the team lost by 17 points. I like to look at the bright side of things, too, but a loss is a loss. However, it’s a transition year. As long as the squad shows improvement, most supporters are going to be reasonably satisfied, and that’s the way it should be.
Just a few observations:
— It’s hard to win on the road in the Southern Conference when the defense does not force a turnover or sack the quarterback. The Bulldogs’ d-line did provoke the Paladins into committing two holding penalties. (Jon Gruden claimed during the Packers-Bears game on Monday Night Football that a holding penalty was just as good as a sack, and if Gruden said it, it must be true.)
— Here is something I haven’t seen discussed much, but I think it’s worth noting. Of Furman’s 296 total yards, 123 came on the two drives to open each half, both resulting in touchdowns. The Paladins only faced a third down three times during those drives (technically just two, actually, because one third down was wiped away by a Bulldog penalty).
Furman’s other three scores were a field goal at the end of the first half that came after a busted coverage in the secondary resulted in a 45-yard pass completion, and two short touchdown drives at the end of the game following an interception and failed onside kick, respectively.
It’s just one game, but the defense has to be able to adjust more quickly on opening drives. The Citadel’s offensive and special teams units aren’t good enough to offset points given up by the defense like that. Kevin Higgins has noted that the offense has done better following its first possession (or two) after seeing how the opposing defense is playing the triple option. That’s understandable, but the Bulldog defense can’t be afforded the same luxury. It has to stop the opponent right out of the gate.
— I like the idea of using both quarterbacks in each game. My general impression (which could be wrong) is that Matt Thompson played better after re-entering the game. Perhaps watching Sam Martin from the sidelines helped give him a greater understanding of what was happening on the field. While as a rule I think it’s best to have one clear-cut starter at QB, this year is different — again, it’s a transition season. Let’s see what both players can bring to the table.
— I have been pleasantly surprised at the improvement of the offensive line, particularly considering those players weren’t recruited for this type of offense. That is a credit to them and to the coaching staff. There are still blocking issues, but that has more to do with the slotbacks and receivers than the line.
— It was a tough day at the office for punter Cass Couey, who had been so good the first three games. I expect him to bounce back on Saturday.
— Somebody, anybody, catch the ball…
— In the past 15 games, Bulldog placekickers are 4 for 4 converting field goals against FBS opposition, but 7 for 15 against everyone else.
Now it’s back to Johnson Hagood Stadium for consecutive games, the first on Saturday against Western Carolina, which will be starting a 6’7″, left-handed true freshman quarterback. Here is his first-person account of his recruitment. More on that game later.