The Citadel vs. Appalachian State, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, October 15. The game will not be televised. There will be a webcast on Bulldog Insider (subscription service), and 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.
This post will serve as a combo review of Wofford/preview of Appy. I’m going to be having “combo posts” for at least two more weeks, if not longer.
Wofford 43, The Citadel 14.
I’m not sure there is a lot to say about this game that isn’t blindingly obvious, but I’ll try my best anyway.
— In his weekly press conference, Kevin Higgins noted that Wofford’s punt return TD “took the wind out of [the team’s] sails”. I would say it probably just solidified things in that department; the die was cast when the Terriers moved down the field with ease on the opening possession of the game and scored their first touchdown.
— The horrendous start probably put the kibosh on any cadet corps frivolity, as it’s hard to get wound up for a game when it takes on “no hoper” status that quickly. I’ve seen some criticism of the corps for its lack of enthusiasm on Saturday, but to be honest I’m inclined to give the cadets a mulligan.
Plus, the issues with the atmosphere at Johnson Hagood Stadium go a lot further than the corps. The scene on Saturday was particularly jarring, as the tailgating crowd was huge, but when I turned around to survey things shortly before the game started, there just weren’t many people in the stands. It did fill in a bit a few minutes later; I guess folks knew there was no reason to show up on time, since the Bulldogs don’t score in the first quarter anyway.
I guess a lot of people just wanted to stay in the parking lots and listen to the game on the radio, or perhaps watch/listen to the South Carolina game instead.
It’s a problem. I’ve typed that before, and I suspect I’ll be typing it again. Getting those people into the stands is going to be a tall order, at least until The Citadel starts winning on a consistent basis.
The game against Appalachian State will likely be a bit different, as it will be Parents’ Weekend.
— Wofford did not commit a turnover on Saturday and also did not commit a penalty, which was a story in itself, as the Terriers entered the game as the most-penalized team in the Southern Conference. That was something of an anomaly, as Wofford is usually not a heavily-penalized outfit (much like The Citadel).
In the last four games against The Citadel, Wofford has committed a total of five penalties (for a combined 30 yards). That includes a delay-of-game penalty the Terriers took on purpose in order to set up a short punt in the 2008 contest. Only one of the penalties was for more than five yards (a holding penalty in that same 2008 game).
I am not a defensive coordinator, and never will be, and I’m not going to pretend to understand the intricacies involved in running a defense. When I see a box score in which the opponent did not commit a turnover or a penalty, though, I wonder if the problem is at least partly a lack of aggression.
Wofford aggressively defended The Citadel’s option by having a man go “down hard to attack the fullback“. The tactic led to bad reads and mistakes by the Bulldogs. In other words, the Terriers forced the issue.
Mike Ayers was quoted after the game as saying that to “stop the triple option, [you] have to put teams in negative plays.” Wofford did that. The Citadel’s defense did not. That has been a theme for the Bulldogs D against Wofford for a number of years now, as the Terriers have scored at least 28 points against The Citadel in every game of the Kevin Higgins era.
— This is possibly the best team Wofford has ever had, which is one reason I wasn’t expecting The Citadel to win on Saturday. However, I wasn’t expecting a walkover, either, and I was really disappointed by the outcome. A lot of other alums/fans are just plain angry about the way the series with Wofford has gone in recent years, and you know what? They have every right to be upset. There is no excuse.
Something to think about: there are only 11 seniors listed on Wofford’s entire roster. Eight of them are on the two-deep (The Citadel had nine seniors on the two-deep released for the game against Wofford). Now, Wofford does not list redshirt juniors as seniors, but as juniors (including Eric Breitenstein), but the fact is that a lot of the Terriers will be back next season.
They probably won’t be as good in 2012. The eight seniors on the two-deep include starting quarterback Mitch Allen and all three starting defensive linemen (one of whom, Ameet Pall, is Wofford’s best player). The Terriers will continue to run their stuff on offense and defense, however, and will probably run it well.
— I felt badly for Cass Couey, who had an excellent game punting the ball, but whose efforts were almost completely wasted. The punt that was returned for a TD was outstanding, with his coverage unit having plenty of time to get to the returner; they just didn’t get the job done. Then he boomed a magnificent 66-yarder to the Wofford one-yard line — but the Terriers promptly went right down the field and scored.
— For Military Appreciation Day, the Bulldogs made yet another helmet change, although this one was more subtle and did not involve the logo, but rather the stripe. You can see the change in this photo of Ben Dupree: Link
It’s a “digital camo” stripe, to match the “C” logo on the helmet. My verdict: an interesting idea that did not work. It looked from some vantage points like a regular stripe decal that had been partially scraped off.
Before I get to Appalachian State, some SoCon stats…
— The Bulldogs are in last place in the league in a number of different offensive categories, including third-down conversion rate, fourth-down conversion rate, scoring, total offense, first downs, pass efficiency offense, and red zone offense (although the last one is a touch misleading; I would rate The Citadel’s red zone O ahead of Samford’s, based on TD/FG ratio).
I included pass efficiency and not passing offense in that list, because it’s not surprising The Citadel would be last in total passing, given the triple option. Wofford is next-to-last in that category — but the Terriers are third in the league in pass efficiency. When it does pass the ball, Wofford tends to make it count.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are solid statistically across the board, with the exception of defensive pass efficiency, which is a little puzzling.
The Citadel is also last in the league in both kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. The Bulldogs really need to pick it up in those areas. To me, the returners have seemed a little too tentative when moving upfield after receiving kicks.
In the SoCon media teleconference, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore described his quarterback, DeAndre Presley, as “very questionable” for the game this Saturday after suffering an injury to his throwing shoulder against Wofford two weekends ago (Appy had a bye last week). However, there is a chance he could play.
Not everyone remembers this, but Presley was questionable for the game against The Citadel last year, too. He started and threw five touchdown passes in three quarters of action.
I’m guessing Presley plays this Saturday, too.
— In that teleconference, Moore was clearly annoyed by his team’s play this season, and seemed (at least to me) overly upset about the Mountaineers’ big loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener. I realize that Appy as a program thinks it can be competitive against any team, even a traditional FBS power (and of course, the Hokies had lost the year before to James Madison, so it wasn’t exactly the impossible dream). I was struck by how much the loss seemed to bother the veteran coach, though.
— Appalachian State starts two freshmen on the offensive line (the center and left tackle), which may explain in part its sluggish offensive numbers (just two offensive touchdowns in its last two games). On the other hand, there is still plenty of experienced talent on the offense, including Presley, the dangerous running back/returner Travaris Cadet, and the aptly named Brian Quick.
Fans of The Citadel may remember Quick catching a 74-yard TD pass late in the contest at Johnson Hagood two years ago, which tied a game the Mountaineers would eventually win in overtime. That wasn’t unusual for Quick, who is the FCS active leader in reception yardage and yards per reception.
On defense, the Mountaineers are led by nosetackle Dan Wylie. The regular starting defensive ends for Appy are “true” freshmen. Appalachian State has a bevy of experienced linebackers and defensive backs, including Jeremy Kimbrough, who was suspended for the Wofford game after some hijinks in the Mountaineers’ win over Chattanooga.
Appalachian State’s front seven is big; the three starters on the d-line average 287 lbs. per man, and the linebackers are a solid 224 lbs. on average.
Last year, of course, the Bulldogs did not complete a pass against the Appy defense (0-6).
Placekicker/punter Sam Martin is usually reliable, although he had a tough afternoon against Wofford, missing all three of his field goal attempts (two of which were 33-yarders).
I don’t know what’s going to happen on Saturday. I am expecting, however, a better performance from the Bulldogs than I saw against Wofford. Not a better effort, as I don’t question last week’s effort. I would also like to see The Citadel break its first-quarter offensive duck. It’s time for Triple O’Higgins to get off to a quick start.
I’ll be in attendance on Saturday, along with a lot of proud parents, and a bunch of seniors with shiny new rings. Good for them. I must admit I treasure my diploma a bit more than my ring, but I understand the importance of that band of gold.
Speaking of diplomas…is The Citadel going to continue handing out sheepskin? I certainly hope so.