2011 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel at Chattanooga, to be played at Finley Stadium, with kickoff at 6:05 pm ET on Saturday, October 1.  The game will not be televised.  The game can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network, with “Voice of the Bulldogs” Danny Reed calling the action alongside analyst Walt Nadzak.  Bulldog Insider will also provide free audio; the only video available for this game is being provided by Chattanooga as part of a subscription service.

This post will serve as a combination review of the Elon game and preview of the Chattanooga contest.  I’m combining them because A) I’ve been a little busy, and B) I’m not sure I have enough to say about the two games to justify separate posts.

I’ll have to do the same thing next week, because I definitely won’t have the chance to write a review of the UTC game, as I will be travelling.  I won’t even be able to listen to Danny Reed and Walt Nadzak call the game on the radio.

That’s what I did for the Elon game, as I had another obligation.  As a result I found myself listening to Reed and Nadzak as I drove through a series of thunderstorms (one would pop up about every five minutes; it was ridiculous) while trying to navigate I-26 on a football Saturday.  Between the rain and the Gamecock fans heading to Columbia (some of whom drove about as well as Stephen Garcia threw the ball that night), it was a bit of an adventure.

I concentrated on Reed’s call, though, and he did a solid job informing his listeners about the game.  I also learned he likes to call running backs “sidecars”.

I did go back and look at some of the game later, courtesy of Elon’s video recording, which came in handy.  It helped flesh out some of the observations that follow, though it’s not the same thing as seeing the game “live”, either in person or via an internet stream.

I want to talk about play-calling for a moment.  Specifically, I’m going to write about two play calls in the first quarter.  Now, I don’t pretend to be any kind of coach; as I have said numerous times before, I’m just a dude with a computer.  It’s obviously not an easy task to coordinate an offense or defense, or call plays and formations.  There was a good article on this subject in The Post and Courier last week that featured Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.  It was quite illuminating (I have to say part of Steele’s routine struck me as overkill, but what do I know).

Anyway…

— On the first series of the game, the Bulldogs had second and eight from their own 31-yard line.  The Citadel ran an end-around receiver pass, with wideout Luke Caldwell’s toss to Kevin Hardy falling incomplete.  The play did not appear to fool the Elon defense.

I’m not sure that’s a good play to run at the beginning of the game, when you’re trying to establish an offensive rhythm.  Having said that, a variation of that play helped The Citadel win the game against Samford last year (and worked perfectly in one of the pre-season scrimmages).

It didn’t matter much, because on the next play Ben Dupree reversed field and scampered for 36 yards, extending the drive.  That would eventually lead to the play call that really bothered me.

— The Bulldogs had third-and-goal on the Elon three-yard line.  Dupree got the snap, took a quick drop, and threw a slant pass in the general direction of Domonic Jones. The pass was not accurate, but would not have been completed even if it had been.  It was well defended.

1) The team is on the three-yard line, with two downs to score, running the triple option.  Even if the Bulldogs don’t score on third down, the opportunity is there to go for it on 4th down if The Citadel picks up a yard or two.  That’s what the offense is all about.

2) Okay, so the coaches want to mix things up with a pass — but why on third down? That’s the one down Elon might have expected a pass play.  In that sequence, I think throwing the ball on first or second down is the better plan.

3) Also, the pass itself included no play-action.

4) Jones is 6’5″.  Maybe a fade might have been a better idea than a slant.

A lot of people probably concentrated on the short field goal that was missed following that play, but to me the real missed opportunity occurred one or two plays earlier.

Speaking of the kicking game, I am on record as saying I don’t blame the kickers. One thing that anyone following The Citadel knows is that the placekicking has been inconsistent for several years.  That’s not about the kickers, the holders, or the snappers.  That’s coaching.  Either the players need to be coached better, or the coaches need to find better players.

The missed field goals are frustrating, but almost as problematic is the kick return unit, which is averaging less than 20 yards per return.  Against Elon, the Bulldogs started at their own 29-, 10-, 27-, and 30-yard lines after Phoenix kickoffs.  That needs to improve.

I thought Elon coach Jason Swepson inadvertently assisted The Citadel on Saturday with a couple of curious decisions.  After an Aaron Mellette touchdown reception gave Elon a 12-7 lead with 12:55 remaining in the third quarter, Swepson elected to go for two points, despite the fact that almost 28 minutes remained in the game.  The Phoenix didn’t make the conversion, which struck me as justice served, because nobody should start chasing points with so much time left in a game.

After a Bulldog fumble, Elon had the ball at The Citadel 38-yard line with 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.  After a Phoenix first down moved the ball to the 27-yard line, Elon ran the ball (and the clock) to set up a 44-yard field goal attempt, which was missed.  In my opinion, the Phoenix settled too quickly for the long FG try.

After The Citadel’s game notes indicated the Bulldogs were going to wear white jerseys and white pants against Elon, The Citadel broke out navy pants instead.  The Bulldogs wore that combo once last season, versus Wofford.  The Bulldogs lost that game 35-0.  In the two white jerseys/navy pants games, five different Bulldog passers have combined to go 3-14 for 21 yards, and the team has averaged just 7.5 points per game, which is actually worse than the 9.7 ppg the team has averaged in the ten SoCon games played since installing the triple option.

Maybe they should have worn the white pants…

I wrote this three years ago about Chattanooga’s football program, which was in the middle of a 1-11 campaign:

You know it’s been a bad season when the beat writer for the local paper notes that “punter Jeff Lloyd, who lost his starting job for three games, may be the Mocs’ most productive player.”

Later in the column he writes that Lloyd has been effective “when he has been able to get a punt off.”

UTC’s struggles have presented an opportunity for assorted anti-football advocates to step forward and call for the program’s elimination.  The loudest of these voices is a computer science professor at UTC named Joe Dumas.  From the link:

“This is a perfect time for UTC to get out of the football business for good and concentrate on academics while maintaining successful athletic programs like basketball, golf, tennis, etc.”

Well, Chattanooga didn’t drop the football program.  Instead, the school hired alumnus Russ Huesman to coach the team, and that proved to be a very good decision.  Huesman currently has a winning record in both league play (9-8) and overall (14-12), which is quite impressive when you consider the state of the program when he took over.

I did a little googling, but could not find any recent proclamations by Dr. Dumas on the subject of UTC football.  He is still at the school, but seems to be a bit more interested in politics right now, at least from what I could determine.  It is probable he still feels the football program should be eliminated, but it’s hard to make your voice heard on such matters when people are loudly celebrating victories.

Even though the Mocs lost a tough game last week at Appalachian State, you could make an argument that Chattanooga has been the most impressive SoCon team so far this season.  After a 40-7 loss to Nebraska in which the Mocs did not embarrass themselves, UTC reeled off consecutive non-conference FCS wins over Jacksonville State (38-17) and Eastern Kentucky (23-14), the latter a road victory.

Entering the game against Appy, Chattanooga had the most impressive early-season resume of any conference squad.  Against the Mountaineers, UTC did not allow an offensive touchdown, but two defensive TDs by App State did in the Mocs.

B.J. Coleman is in his third year as UTC’s starter after transferring from Tennessee, and is a major reason why the program is on the upswing.  Coleman has 48 career TD passes (against 26 interceptions).  I remember the game two years ago, when Coleman led a comeback victory over The Citadel by throwing 61 passes, somehow including no rushing attempts or sacks.

Coleman’s primary target is Joel Bradford, who was first-team all-SoCon last season and is well on his way to repeating that honor.  Bradford had 15 receptions for 162 yards in the win over Jacksonville State.

Chattanooga rushed for 212 yards against Jacksonville State, but only 32 yards at Appalachian State.  Interestingly, Huesman seemed more upset with his receivers’ blocking than that of his offensive line versus Appy.

On defense, UTC has been solid since the Nebraska game, particularly excelling on third down; its last three opponents as a group only converted 19% of the time in that situation.  Redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Wes Dothard has been the SoCon defensive player of the week for two of the last three weeks.  UTC’s strong linebacking corps also includes Ryan Consiglio, who had 13 tackles in the loss to Appalachian State, and all-name candidate Gunner Miller.

The defensive backfield is excellent, and includes 2010 SoCon freshman of the year Kadeem Wise (who had seven interceptions last season) along with veterans Chris Lewis-Harris and Jordan Tippet.

The Mocs will miss Nick Davison, as the defensive tackle is out for the season after an ACL injury.

Punter Mike Hammons is a three-year starter, but placekicker Nick Pollard is a freshman who has yet to make a field goal of longer than 30 yards.

The Citadel’s defense has been really good so far, to state the obvious.  I was really glad to see the excellent play in the red zone against Elon (after struggling in that department last season against the Phoenix), and the forced turnovers.  It was an outstanding effort from the entire unit.

In the last two years against Chattanooga, though, the D has A) let the quarterback throw the ball 61 times without being sacked, giving up a big lead in the process, and B) allowed 222 rushing yards in a game.

I don’t expect either of those things to occur on Saturday, but UTC’s offense will again pose a stiff challenge.  Obviously giving up around 30 points or so isn’t going to work for The Citadel, given the offensive issues.

At his news conference Monday, Higgins reaffirmed his belief in starter Ben Dupree, while leaving open the possibility of using backup Matt Thompson or even true freshman Aaron Miller.

“Possibly,” Higgins said when asked about using other QBs. “Ben has only started five games now, so there is still a learning curve. He obviously has to get better. Ben has to improve, but if we need to use Matt or Aaron, we will.”

The Citadel had plenty of less-than-stellar passing days last season where Dupree wasn’t involved, like the aforementioned 2-8 (11 yards, plus an interception) against Wofford, or the 0-6 performance versus Appalachian State, or the “3 for us, 3 for them” outing in the Georgia Southern debacle (3 completions, 3 interceptions), or last year’s game against UTC (2-8 for 25 yards and a pick).

I don’t think passing in and of itself would be enough to dislodge Dupree from the #1 QB spot.  If he is having trouble making the reads in the Triple O’Higgins, that would obviously be a different story.  I don’t think that’s what this is about, though.  It’s really about the passing component of the triple option in general not working, whether because of passing, blocking, receiving, play-calling, or all of the above.  Whatever it is, it’s clearly bigger than just one player.

I’ll find out sometime on Sunday how the game went.  I hope it’s worth the wait.

Go Dogs!

College Football TV Listings, Week 5

This is a list of every game played during week 5 of the college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school.  All games are listed, televised or not.  For the televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline analysts/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 2011, Week 5

Additional notes:

— I include ESPN3.com games; they are denoted as “ESPN3”.

— I’ve listed the satellite affiliates for the SEC game of the week (Kentucky-LSU) in a comment on the document.  There are numerous local affiliates, a listing of which can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the ACC Network “national” game of the week (Wake Forest-Boston College) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the Big East Network game of the week (Rutgers-Syracuse) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the Southland TV game of the week (Lamar-Southeastern Louisiana) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the SoCon Network game of the week (Appalachian State-Wofford) can be found here:  Link

— Affiliates for the Montana Television Network (televising Northern Colorado-Montana) can be found here:  Link

— Also listed on the document in comments are the regional nets carrying the following games:  Texas Tech-Kansas, Arizona-Southern California, Washington-Utah, UCLA-Stanford, Mississippi State-Georgia, and Towson-Maryland.

— There are comments in the document with additional information for several other games.

— ABC/ESPN/GamePlan coverage maps for the 3:30 pm ET games (Michigan State-Ohio State, Georgia Tech-North Carolina State, Baylor-Kansas State):  Link

This week, Michigan State-Ohio State will be available nationally on either ABC or ESPN as the primary “reverse mirror” game.  Depending on where you live, Georgia Tech-North Carolina State and Baylor-Kansas State will only be available for television viewing via GamePlan (all three games will be on ESPN3.com).

— BTN (formerly Big Ten Network) “gamefinder”:  Link

— USA Today Coaches Poll:  Link

— FCS Coaches Poll:  Link

A lot of the information I used in putting this together came courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s alarmingly comprehensive and completely indispensable website College Sports on TV, a must-bookmark for any fan of college sports.  Also to be credited, as always, are the indefatigable information gatherers (and in some cases sports-TV savants) at the 506.com.  I am also assisted on occasion by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.

2011 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Elon

The Citadel at Elon, to be played at Rhodes Stadium, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday, September 24.  The game will not be televised.  There will also be a webcast on Bulldog Insider (subscription service, and perhaps audio-only), and the game can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network, with “Voice of the Bulldogs” Danny Reed calling the action.

A successful athletics program contributes to a sense of community and institutional pride, is of great interest to students and alumni, and contributes greatly to national visibility.

The above sentence is from Elon’s website; not from its athletics site, but an offshoot from its primary educational URL.  It’s part of the “Elon Commitment“,  which is Elon’s strategic plan for the next ten years — or really eight, as it was formulated in 2009.

Elon is big on long-range goals, and is also big on accomplishing those goals.  As I wrote two years ago, the school has had an amazing transformation over the past four decades.  The money that has been put into Elon is remarkable; it is surely one of the great fundraising success stories in higher education.  The administration at Elon also deserves credit for its master plan to spend that money, a plan helped considerably by a very sensible land purchase made in the early 1970s.

School president Leo Lambert noted two years ago that the Elon Commitment would require about $500 million to come to complete fruition, which is a very ambitious target, but it’s hard to bet against Elon not getting there given what has already been accomplished.

In 2001, Elon opened its new football facility, Rhodes Stadium (named in part for trustee Dusty Rhodes; I guess it’s a rule that if your last name is Rhodes, your nickname has to be “Dusty”).  Earlier this year, the Phoenix put the finishing touches on Alumni Field House, a structure that includes all the ancillary football necessities (including a “hydrotherapy area”; sounds impressive, but for all I know it’s just a shower stall).  Oh, and since this is 2011:

Alumni Field House is pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which is the nationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings…The automatic irrigation system will be part of the campus wide system, which is supplied with reclaimed stormwater collected on campus.

There is an interactive touch screen…[with] access to the campus wide electricity monitoring system, which provides real-time electricity consumption information for over 50 campus buildings and will include the Alumni Field House.

You get the idea.  Elon has money, is spending that money, plans on raising more money, and will spend that money too.  One other thing, though.  From one of the above links:

Elon’s athletic peers are fine universities such as William and Mary, Richmond, Furman and Davidson, schools that believe strongly in the student-athlete ideal and understand that the intercollegiate athletic experience is wonderful preparation for leadership in life.

I have to point out that Elon’s “athletic peers” include a school that doesn’t play scholarship football (Davidson), a school that competes in the Atlantic 10 in all sports save football and women’s golf (Richmond), and a public school with quite a few more varsity sports than Elon (William and Mary).  I am not completely sure what Elon’s ultimate goal is for its athletics program, other than fully funding athletics scholarships in all sports, a benchmark expressly stated by the school.

I was listening to the SoCon media teleconference as Jason Swepson, Elon’s new head coach, started talking about the upcoming game.  Swepson spent the last four seasons at North Carolina State under Tom O’Brien, but prior to that he had been on O’Brien’s staff at Boston College, which is Swepson’s alma mater.  Swepson is a Massachusetts native, and four years in the south haven’t made a dent in his accent.

A question about defending the triple option was posed to him by Burlington Times News sportswriter Adam Smith.  Swepson noted that Elon had allocated ten minutes to defending the option for all of its preseason practices, and had also “tweaked” its weekly in-season practice schedule for this week to be better prepared for it. Swepson also mentioned that Phoenix defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham had experience with defending the triple option against Army and Navy while working at Colgate and Rutgers (Pinkham spent five years on staff total in New Brunswick, including serving as the co-DC for the last two seasons).

That got me thinking.  What kind of defense is Pinkham likely to employ against The Citadel?  Could he take a page from his days at Rutgers?

Rutgers beat Army in both 2009 and 2010, both triple option years for the Black Knights; Rutgers won easily, 27-10, in 2009, holding the Cadets to 213 total yards.  In the second meeting, Army outgained Rutgers in yardage by over 150 yards (404-250) but lost 23-20 in OT, thanks in part to two lost fumbles (in a game marred by Eric Legrand’s injury).

The Scarlet Knights last played Navy in 2007 and 2008.  Rutgers beat the Midshipmen 41-24 in the first meeting, which won’t go down as one of Rutgers’ best moments. Navy rushed for 254 yards but passed for only 35, and had three of those throws intercepted.  In 2008, however, the Middies amassed 289 yards rushing, a further 89 passing (including a TD), and did not turn the ball over, leading to a 23-21 Navy win.

I decided to consult The Birddog, who as I have mentioned before is the world’s leading Navy football blogger and a noted devotee of the triple option.  What kind of scheme did Rutgers run against Navy’s attack?

Via tweet, he replied that “Main takeaway from Rutgers is that they like playing cover 3 w/FS taking the pitch.”

Now, I don’t understand all the “x and o” stuff about the triple option, which is one of the few things I have in common with Craig James, but from what I gather, the free safety taking the pitch man might mean that occasionally running a play more to the middle of the field could be worthwhile.  Something like, say, the midline option.

That link to The Birddog’s site is a good primer on the midline, and includes two video examples of Navy running the midline against Rutgers.  Video from the same game is also on his review of that (2008) contest:  Link

Another team that ran a similar defensive scheme was Georgia, against Georgia Tech in 2009.  It didn’t work real well.  One other thing about this particular defensive scheme is that one way to combat it is the ol’ play-action pass.  I am guessing that would be a call Kevin Higgins would be more than willing to make.

Now, I don’t know if Elon is going to run a similar defensive alignment against The Citadel.  The Phoenix might do something completely different, making all the above information meaningless.  On the other hand, I think the midline option is going to be something to watch as far as the Bulldogs’ offense is concerned anyway, whether against Elon or any other opponent.  One reason might be a certain coach now at The Citadel.  From that midline post:

Craig Candeto used to call the QB-FB midline his favorite play because he only had one read, and the DT tends to take the fullback most of the time.

Gee, I wonder what Craig Candeto is doing now.  Might he be mentoring a young quarterback?  Hmm…

Oh, one other thing:  The Birddog told me that Kansas ran a similar defensive look against Georgia Tech last week, as did Delaware against Navy three weeks ago. Combined rushing yardage for the Jackets and Midshipmen in those two games: 995.

As there can only be one Phoenix at any time, please refer to the Phoenix in the singular.

– Elon football game notes

Elon is 2-1 on the season, with victories over Division II Concord (42-10) and a new member of the MEAC, North Carolina Central (23-22).  The Phoenix lost its season opener 45-14 to Vanderbilt.

I don’t think the games against Concord and Vandy were too surprising (although it should be noted that the Phoenix actually had more total yards than the Commodores).  The contest with North Carolina Central shouldn’t have been, either. Elon, heavily favored, outgained its opponent 525-219 and had almost 15 more minutes of possession.  The Phoenix kept the Eagles in the game, though, by committing five turnovers; one of Elon’s three interceptions was returned 75 yards for a touchdown.

North Carolina Central had a chance to win the game late, but a field goal attempt went awry and Elon hung on for the victory.

I wish Elon had saved some of those turnovers for this week’s game…

Phoenix quarterback Thomas Wilson played, after some concern over whether he would be able to do so, and threw for 416 yards (albeit with those three picks).  This is Wilson’s first season as the starter, following the seemingly never-ending career of Scott Riddle.  Wilson did have one previous start at Elon, though — the game last year against The Citadel.

Riddle was unable to play in that game due to injury, but Wilson more than held his own, leading a methodical attack.  He made no big mistakes and was particularly effective on third down (9-13) and in the “red zone” (Elon scored a TD on each of its four trips inside the 20; two of those TDs were one-yard rushes by Wilson).

Wilson’s primary target is wide receiver Aaron Mellette.  Mellette caught 16 passes last week, for 237 yards and a touchdown.  The Eagles had no answers for him, but they shouldn’t feel too badly about that, as Mellette posed tough questions for teams all last season (among other highlights, he had 18 receptions against Richmond).

Mellette was named first-team all-SoCon after last season.  He gets compared a lot to former Elon star Terrell Hudgins, which could be a bit unfair (Hudgins, a former high school quarterback, may have been a better athlete), but there’s no doubt he’s a threat on any play and must be accounted for by the Bulldogs at all times.  In last year’s game, Mellette was held to just three catches, one of the few positives for the Bulldogs’ D.

Elon is averaging 130 yards per game rushing, but that number is inflated by a 199-yard performance against Concord.  The Phoenix rushing attack may have taken a hit with an injury to 6’4″, 311-lb. senior right guard Rodney Austin, who broke his foot last week and will be out for at least two months.  Austin was a preseason second-team all-SoCon selection.

The Phoenix is one for three in field goal attempts this season, after only making eight of fifteen last year.  However, placekicker Adam Shreiner was a perfect 45-45 in PATs last year and that streak has continued this season (10-10).

On defense, players to watch for Elon include middle linebacker Joshua Jones, a preseason second-team all-SoCon pick who leads the Phoenix in tackles, and free safety Blake Thompson, who had eleven tackles last year against The Citadel.  As noted above, Thompson may be a key man as Elon battles against Triple O’Higgins. Jones and Thompson are responsible for over one-quarter of the Phoenix’s tackles for loss.

Elon’s defensive line is not particularly large, with three of the starters weighing less than 250 lbs., but noseguard Tony Thompson checks in at 270 lbs. and already has two sacks this season.  A backup of interest is David Wood, who played baseball for Elon the last two seasons and is now a reserve defensive back on the football team (Wood is also a kick and punt returner).

Fashion alert:  The Citadel’s game notes this week indicate the Bulldogs will wear white jerseys and white pants at Elon.

I don’t think there are any secrets as to what The Citadel needs to do this week. Avoiding turnovers, as always, is a must.  So far this year the Bulldogs have been okay in that respect, though there are still too many fumbles.

When a big play is out there for the offense, it must take full advantage.  That didn’t happen against Furman, and the Bulldogs paid for it.

The defense needs to get off the field on third down, something it repeatedly failed to do against Elon last season.  The D also needs to force some turnovers and sack the quarterback a time or two, or six.  Jeremy Buncum has three tackles for loss this season, leading the team.  The Citadel needs more of those types of plays.

Based on early reports, there may be a very good crowd at Rhodes Stadium on Saturday, which is good (nothing worse than a dead atmosphere, at home or on the road).  The last time The Citadel played at Elon, the Bulldogs lost 43-7 in a miserable performance, one of a number of less-than-stellar road outings in recent years.  The Citadel has lost 15 of its last 17 road contests, although it is riding a one-game winning streak away from Johnson Hagood Stadium (last season’s finale at Samford).

It would be nice to add to the road winning streak on Saturday.

Conference Realignment — Back to the Future?

Admittedly, there have already been a few billion words wasted on the subject of conference realignment, but I’ll throw in a few comments about the subject as well…

There is some discussion about a merger of sorts between Conference USA and the Mountain West.  This would create a confederation of (at least) 22 teams, which sounds ridiculous.  It would not be unprecedented, however.

The Southern Conference formed in 1921, with 14 original members.  Those schools: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee.  Six schools joined shortly thereafter:  LSU, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.  By 1931, Duke, Sewanee, and VMI had become members.

That’s right.  One major conference, 23 member schools.  It was an unwieldy amalgamation, and destined for a breakup.  It wouldn’t be the last time a league split into pieces because it got too big.

Tangent:  It really wasn’t the first time, either.  The SoCon itself was a product of a split, as those 14 original schools were breaking away from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which by 1921 had 30 members.

In December of 1932, 13 of the SoCon schools left to form the Southeastern Conference:  Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Sewanee, and Tulane.  The final three schools listed would eventually leave the SEC, with Sewanee departing in 1940 after eight years in the league; the Tigers had played 37 conference football games and lost all 37 of them.

Now the SEC has 12 schools (with Arkansas and South Carolina added in the early 1990s) and is poised to add a 13th, Texas A&M.  Conference commissioner Mike Slive has stated that the league can stay at 13 members for the time being, and why not — it was a 13-school league for the first eight years of its history.

There has been a lot of talk about BCS “superconferences” with 16 schools.  It wasn’t that long ago that there was a Division I league with 16 members — the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which expanded from 10 to 16 schools in 1996.  This proved to be a mistake, as several of the “old guard” WAC schools did not like the new setup.  After three years, the 16-school league was a memory, as eight members left to form the Mountain West.

Eleven of the schools that were in the sixteen-member WAC are now in either the Mountain West or C-USA.  I wonder what they think about possibly becoming part of a 22-school association…

Another one of the “WAC 16”, TCU, was set to become the Big East’s 17th member next year (10 for football, all for hoops).  Now that league will be losing at least two of its schools, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

There are a lot of reasons why the Big East is in trouble, but trying to satisfy the agendas of so many different institutions is surely one of them.  That’s one reason I was surprised when Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com reported that the Big East had considered adding Navy and possibly Air Force to its roster (as football-only members) prior to the sudden departures of Pitt and Syracuse.

Random thoughts:

— If a school isn’t sure which conference it should join, maybe it can join two at once, like Iowa, which was a member of both the Big 10 and the Big 8 from 1907 to 1911.

— If your conference ceases to exist, like the Southwest Conference, that might be sad.  It could be worse, though.  Phillips University, which was a member of the SWC for one year (1920), closed up shop in 1998, two years after the league in which it was once briefly a member met its demise.

— It’s sometimes instructive (and occasionally amusing) to look back at what schools were once members of various leagues.  I’ve already mentioned original SEC member Sewanee.  The Big 10 once included the University of Chicago (and that school is still a member of the conference’s academic consortium, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation).

Southwestern University was a charter member of the SWC.  Washington University (MO) was an original member of the Big 8, which also featured for a time Drake and Grinnell College.  The league now known as the Pac-12 once had both Idaho and Montana as members.

— Then there are schools like West Virginia, a BCS school (for the moment, anyway) that until 1968 was a member of the Southern Conference.  Virginia Tech was a SoCon stalwart for four decades, leaving in 1965.

Rutgers has gone from being one of the “middle three” with Lafayette and Lehigh, and a historic rivalry with Princeton, to big-time athletics in the Big East; now it is searching for a way to ensure it continues to hold its place in that sphere as its conference appears on the verge of collapse.  Another Big East school, South Florida, did not hold its first classes until 1960 and did not field a football team until 1997 (history records that the Bulls’ first loss on the gridiron came at the hands of The Citadel, at Johnson Hagood Stadium).

The University of Arizona started playing football in 1899, before Arizona was even a state.  Arizona (the school) and Arizona State were members of the Border Conference, which included Hardin-Simmons and West Texas A&M, and then left that league to join the WAC (long before the 16-member WAC) before becoming members of the renamed Pac-10.

The history of conference realignment is that leagues have been transient by nature, as the fortunes on and off the field of the various schools have ebbed and flowed.  In 1899 no one would have dreamed that the state of Arizona would have a population boom thanks (in part) to air conditioning, so that by the end of the century that state’s universities would be much larger than anyone would have anticipated one hundred years before.  There are a lot of stories like the Arizona schools and South Florida, and a few on the other side as well (like poor Phillips).

In other words, trying to anticipate how things will shake out can be dicey at best. Even as I type this, my twitter feed has exploded with the news that the Pac-12 (which was once the Pac-10, and before that the Pac-8, and before that the AAWU, and before that the PCC) has decided not to expand, for now.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

College Football TV Listings 2011, Week 4

This is a list of every game played during week 4 of the college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school.  All games are listed, televised or not.  For the televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline analysts/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 2011, Week 4

Additional notes:

— I include ESPN3.com games; they are denoted as “ESPN3”.

— I’ve listed the satellite affiliates for the SEC game of the week (Georgia-Mississippi) in a comment on the document.  There are numerous local affiliates, a listing of which can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the ACC Network “national” game of the week (Temple-Maryland) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the WAC Network game of the week (Fresno State-Idaho) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the Southland TV game of the week (Northwestern State-Nicholls State) can be found here:  Link

— Also listed on the document in comments are the regional nets carrying the following games:  SMU-Memphis, California-Washington, Southern Mississippi-Virginia, and Florida Atlantic-Auburn.

— There are comments in the document with additional information for several other games.

— ABC/ESPN2 coverage maps for the 3:30 pm ET games (Oklahoma State-Texas A&M and Colorado-Ohio State):  Link

— BTN (formerly Big Ten Network) “gamefinder”:  Link

— Associated Press Poll:  Link

— The Sports Network FCS Poll:  Link

A lot of the information I used in putting this together came courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s alarmingly comprehensive and completely indispensable website College Sports on TV, a must-bookmark for any fan of college sports.  Also to be credited, as always, are the indefatigable information gatherers (and in some cases sports-TV savants) at the 506.com.  I am also assisted on occasion by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.

Game Review, 2011: Furman

Furman 16, The Citadel 6.

It wasn’t a terrible performance by the Bulldogs.  It just wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t completely frustrated by the way things turned out, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with positive vibes either.

Links of interest:

Jeff Hartsell’s article on the game

Hartsell’s post-game notes

The Citadel’s release

Furman’s release

The Post and Courier‘s “photo gallery” of the game

Click on that last link to see photos of the Bulldogs wearing their “Big Red” jerseys.  I was disappointed with the decision to break out these uniforms for the game. This was supposed to be a special, unusual uniform set designed to commemorate the return of “Big Red” (the flag) to The Citadel.

I wrote about these uniforms last year when they were first worn, for Homecoming. What I said then:

I didn’t have a problem with breaking out the red jerseys for this game.  The original Big Red, of course, arrived on campus in March; its disappearance and rediscovery is an interesting tale.  Wearing red jerseys for the Homecoming following that development seemed reasonably appropriate (and a good way to push merchandise).

I’m not sure I would want to see them again, however.  I certainly don’t want the football team wearing red jerseys to become a yearly event.  I think doing that would make it much less special, and also detract from the school’s traditional colors for its sports teams.

Of course, it could be argued that the parade of different football uniform color combinations this season has already devalued the tradition of wearing light blue and white. In ten games, the Bulldogs have worn six different jersey/pant color combos, including four different looks for the six home games.

In fact, I think the fact The Citadel did not have a standard uniform combination this season made the red jerseys seem a little less unusual. Let’s face it, if the Bulldogs had lined up wearing silver or black, nobody would have been all that shocked, so the red jersey wasn’t that much of a departure.

I still feel that way.  If anything, I feel more strongly about it after seeing the game against Jacksonville, when the Bulldogs wore a new uniform that actually looked pretty good.  I am afraid that we are going to continue this multiple uniform combo deal throughout the season.  I also wouldn’t be all that surprised if someone in the department of athletics is trying to figure out how to justify wearing black or silver jerseys/pants/helmets.

I’ll get off my uniform soapbox for now, because I know folks are probably tired of the constant drumbeat about the unis (or at least tired of my constant drumbeat), but I want to make three more points:

— The Bulldogs wore the new helmet logo with this “Big Red” set, which made it look even weirder (and which was obviously inconsistent with the uniform as a whole).

— The game notes now actually feature a chart listing The Citadel’s uniform combinations for each contest.  While it is arguably sad that such a chart is necessary, I will give the media relations staff credit for it, because I think it’s a good idea.  The problem, of course, was that the notes for the Furman game listed the uniform combo as being “Citadel blue tops, white bottoms”.  I guess not everybody got the message.

— The light blue “side panels” on the red jerseys look even worse when compared to the no-panel look of last week’s jerseys.

I’m not going to rehash the game.  I’ll just make some observations, many of which are probably faulty…

— On The Citadel’s first drive to open the game, the Bulldogs threw two passes (both incomplete) in three plays and punted.  I know that the element of surprise is always a consideration, and that Triple O’Higgins probably features more passing than some other triple option offenses, but I would have liked to see the team try to establish an offensive rhythm early by sticking to the ground game.

— This game could have looked a lot like last year’s matchup in Greenville, when Furman scored a TD right out of the gate and the Bulldogs played from well behind for the entire day, but for a big play by Brandon McCladdie on third-and-goal from the Bulldogs 4-yard line.  Chris Forcier would have scored if McCladdie had not kept containment and made what amounted to an open-field tackle.  If The Citadel had come back and won the game, McCladdie’s play would have been huge.  It was still noteworthy.

— Furman’s coaches treated Forcier more like a freshman than a senior in terms of play-calling.  I’m not sure what to make of that.

— Jerodis Williams is a tough back.  Very impressive.  I also thought Paladins linebacker Kadarron Anderson had a good game.

— Things that are still a work in progress:  Ben Dupree’s passing, and the Bulldogs’ o-line play in general.  Both can improve, though.  I’ll take some overthrows and missed blocks now for pinpoint passing and solid line play later.

— Dupree is going to frustrate a lot of SoCon opponents with his ability to turn broken plays into positive yardage.

— On The Citadel’s sixth drive of the game, the Bulldogs chewed up just over seven minutes of possession, eventually facing a 4th-and-8 on the Paladins 35-yard line. The Citadel took a delay of game penalty and then punted.  The punt went into the end zone for a touchback, so the net was 20 yards (a de facto 15-yard net, really, considering the penalty).

I think Kevin Higgins, if he had to do it all over again, would have gone for it.  I certainly believe he should have.  The Bulldogs trailed 13-6 at the time, and there were four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

In that situation, if a field goal attempt isn’t a realistic option, going for it is the right move.  In fact, I think it’s the right move in most situations, but you definitely have to go for it in a game when the possessions are limited.  The Citadel only had eight possessions in the entire contest (and one of those was a one-play drive to end the first half, so the Bulldogs in effect only got the ball seven times).

You simply aren’t going to get that many opportunities to make a play in your opponents’ territory.  Higgins did make the correct decision on The Citadel’s next possession, however, going for it on 4th-and-6 at the Furman 49.  It didn’t work out, but it was the right call.

— The tailgaters were out in force on Saturday.  Larry Leckonby probably spends a fair amount of time wondering how to get most of the people tailgating in the lots surrounding the stadium to actually enter the stadium.  It’s a problem.

Now The Citadel has a week off before its first road game of the season, a trip to Elon. The Phoenix are playing this weekend, as they travel to Durham to face North Carolina Central.  Elon is 1-1, with a loss to Vanderbilt and a victory over Concord.

I’ll close with some photos.  My usual lack of skill in picture-taking was combined on Saturday with a dying battery in my camera, so I didn’t take quite as many as usual.  I did get a few off-field shots of note, though, including the 1961 SoCon championship trophy and the mascot for Bojangles, apparently named “Bo” (what a surprise).

Speaking of mascots, I got a picture of General too, relaxing on a block of ice covered by a blanket.  General is a very cool dog (quite literally on Saturday, despite the late-afternoon heat).  He and his buddy Boo made a lot of new friends, including quite a few Cub Scouts.  I also appreciated Boo’s handler moving the SoCon trophy around so I could get a half-decent shot of it.  Many thanks.

College Football TV Listings 2011, Week 3

This is a list of every game played during week 3 of the college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school.  All games are listed, televised or not.  For the televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline analysts/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 2011, Week 3

Additional notes:

— I include ESPN3.com games; they are denoted as “ESPN3”.

— I’ve listed the satellite affiliates for the SEC game of the week (Mississippi-Vanderbilt) in a comment on the document.  There are numerous local affiliates, a listing of which can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the ACC Network “national” game of the week (Duke-Boston College) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the MAC Network game of the week (Central Michigan-Western Michigan) can be found here:  Link

— The local affiliates for the WAC Network game of the week (Nevada-San Jose State) can be found here:  Link

— There are two ACC Network “regional” games this week.  I’ve listed the regional nets carrying each game (Kansas-Georgia Tech and Arkansas State-Virginia Tech) in comments on the document.

— Also listed on the document in comments are the regional nets carrying the following games:  North Texas-Alabama, Colorado State-Colorado, and Oklahoma State-Tulsa.

— There are comments in the document with additional information for several other games.

— ABC/ESPN coverage maps for the 3:30 pm ET games (Texas-UCLA and Washington-Nebraska):  Link

— BTN (formerly Big Ten Network) “gamefinder”:  Link

— USA Today Coaches Poll:  Link

— The Sports Network FCS Poll:  Link

A lot of the information I used in putting this together came courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s alarmingly comprehensive and completely indispensable website College Sports on TV, a must-bookmark for any fan of college sports.  Also to be credited, as always, are the indefatigable information gatherers (and in some cases sports-TV savants) at the 506.com.  I am also assisted on occasion by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.