Game Review, 2012: Chattanooga

Chattanooga 28, The Citadel 10.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Notes, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery from The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Notes, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Kevin Higgins postgame presser (includes comments from  Bay Amrhein)

Postgame release from The Citadel

Box Score

The Citadel has now lost two consecutive games to Chattanooga at Johnson Hagood Stadium by the same exact score: 28-10. In 2010, the Bulldogs rushed for 238 yards and did not force a turnover. In 2012, the Bulldogs rushed for 232 yards and did not force a turnover…

I was disappointed in the game on Saturday night; I think the same could be said for all the home fans, as well as the players and coaches. The loss was complete and total and it is hard, at least less than 24 hours later, to find too many positives.

From my vantage point, the Bulldogs simply got beat up front on offense. That happened on defense as well, but in all honesty I felt The Citadel lost the coaching battle on that side of the ball too. I don’t pretend to be much of an expert when it comes to that kind of thing, so I’m not going to say much about it, but our defensive players always seemed a step behind last night, unprepared for the play that was developing.

Then we had a punt blocked — or, to be more precise, smothered.

All of this is a reminder that at The Citadel, when it comes to success on the field (or court), the margin for error is very small. It doesn’t take much of a dropoff for things to go south in a hurry. That is the nature of athletics at a small military college. The good times at 3-0 are now not so good at 3-2, with a road trip to 4-1 Samford looming.

It’s not a disaster, though. The wheels have not come off the season, to paraphrase a comment I saw on a certain message board.

The Bulldogs are 3-2. If you were a fan of the team and were asked at the beginning of the season, “Would you take 3-2 after five games?” Well, 90% (or more) knowledgeable supporters would have taken 3-2 and not thought twice about it. It would have meant that The Citadel had beaten either Georgia Southern or Appalachian State, for one thing.

Well, we know now that the Bulldogs beat both GSU and App State. Saturday’s loss to UTC was bad, both as a home loss and in the way the Bulldogs played, but the team’s success in the early part of the September has arguably entitled it to a mulligan of sorts.

Actually, next week is an opportunity for The Citadel, too. A win at Samford would put things right again.

Quick takes on the UTC game:

– The kickoff return teams were improved. I appreciated the tough running by Keith Gamble, too.

– A long run in the fourth quarter pushed Darien Robinson over 100 yards for the game. He finished with 132 yards rushing on only 12 carries. He really needed more than 12 carries.

– It wasn’t a good night for the defense, but Derek Douglas was back and you could tell. He had three tackles for loss, including a sack.

– Sadath Jean-Pierre finished with eleven tackles, including seven solo stops.

– The Citadel passed the ball with some success later in the game when it trailed by a substantial margin. The Bulldogs finished with 13 pass attempts. I’m usually of the opinion that The Citadel ought to stay in run-run-run mode whenever possible, but I do wonder if maybe the Bulldogs should have opened things up a bit more before falling behind by three scores. That may be hindsight fanboy talk, though.

– The Bulldogs averaged 5.2 yards per rush, but if you take out the two long runs by Robinson and Aaron Miller, The Citadel only averaged 3.3 yards per carry for the game. Of course, occasionally breaking a long gainer is a key component of the triple option, so taking those rushes out of the equation is probably unfair. On the other hand, I think it is telling that outside of Robinson, the rest of the offense rushed 33 times for only 100 yards.

– The Citadel did not tackle particularly well for the second game in a row. Terrell Robinson’s scramble-then-throw for UTC’s first TD pass was especially frustrating to watch. On that play, I was amazed that Chattanooga didn’t have an ineligible lineman downfield. That’s not a criticism of the officials; for all I know, the Mocs didn’t have any linemen leave the line of scrimmage during the play. If so, more power to them.

– Okay, I want to quickly riff on an off-the-field subject…

My understanding (which could be wrong) is that The Citadel’s band plays at certain, designated times — in other words, its activity is coordinated with the videoboard, PA, etc. I can understand that.

The problem is that as a result, the opposing team’s band sometimes winds up playing a lot more often than our own band. This was definitely the case on Saturday night.

I’m sitting in the stands, waiting for our band to play something, and in the meantime the UTC band is playing its little choo-choo number every chance it gets between plays, along with that Pitbull song which should have been declared illegal by now.

I’m not one to harp on this subject (although I know more than a few alums who will be glad to do so), but I admit I was a little frustrated on Saturday. Part of my issue with this is that I think the corps is most involved with the game when it is “warmed up” by the band. The same is true for the home crowd in general.

I know we’ve got a supersonic video board/PA system, and we want to use it, and sometimes it comes in handy. The corps did get into the spirit of things when the now-ubiquitous “Gangnam Style” was played near the end of halftime, and that was very enjoyable to watch. It was fun, even if Psy attended a school (Boston University) that dropped football.

However, during the game I would like to hear our band more often. At the very least, it should play at least as much as the opposing band.

Speaking of the PA, there were apparently some technical difficulties that led to the crowd being surprised by the sudden playing of the National Anthem. No big deal, although some of our fans do need a bit of a warning.

– I took a bunch of pictures. My performance in picture-taking on Saturday was rather poor, even by my mediocre standards. I am including some less-than-great shots anyway.

2012 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel vs. Chattanooga, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 29.  The game will not be televised, although it will be streamed on Bulldog Insider (subscription service) and can be heard on radio via the twelve affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Danny Reed (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Josh Baker, with Lee Glaze roaming the sidelines and Walt Nadzak providing pre-game, halftime, and post-game commentary. 

Links of interest:

The Citadel game notes

Chattanooga game notes

SoCon weekly release

FCS Coaches Poll

The Sports Network FCS Poll

UTC coach Russ Huesman’s weekly press conference

The Kevin Higgins Show, Part 1 and Part 2

Okay, I had to post this too. It doesn’t have anything to do with the game on Saturday, but who cares. From Chattanooga’s athletics website [Link]:

Bath Fitter, a proud sponsor of the Chattanooga Mocs, has officially launched the “Bath Fitter Ugliest Bathtub Contest” which will run during the entire Chattanooga Mocs Football season. Bath Fitter is seeking out Mocs fans that claim to have the UGLIEST BATHTUB in Chattanooga! The winner of the contest will receive a FREE brand new bathtub or shower and installation courtesy of Bath Fitter.

Entering is easy. Simply take a picture of your ugly bathtub or shower [etc.]…

Last year’s game between The Citadel was one for the books, although it isn’t a story that the Mocs will want to read again. The Bulldogs pulled off the biggest comeback in school history, spotting Chattanooga 27 points before scoring 28 unanswered points of their own and holding on for a 28-27 victory.

That game was just one of a surprising number of close contests to have been played in this series over the years. In fact, in the last twenty-five games between Chattanooga and The Citadel, seventeen of them have been decided by a touchdown or less; eleven of those seventeen have been decided by three or fewer points.

Seven of those seventeen contests have been played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, with The Citadel winning four of them. Of those, probably the most memorable (and important) was the 1988 game, won by the Bulldogs 23-17. UTC pushed for a last-gasp TD to win the game, and had first-and-goal on the three-yard-line, but The Citadel made a big defensive stand to preserve the victory. It was the third of seven straight victories for the Bulldogs that season.

Note: if you read the linked game story, writer James Beck seems to imply that The Citadel got more than a little help from the officials at the end of the contest. I am not sure what game he was watching that day. For example, the clip on Jay Jackson was rather obvious.

As for the final play, no one in the press box (and few in the stands) could really see it because it happened in the far corner of the end zone, on the side opposite the Touchdown Cannon Crew. 

Yes, I’m being a touch defensive — but the first six paragraphs in Beck’s article were devoted to an angle that wasn’t really true. What is perplexing is that later in the same story he quoted the UTC receiver on the final play: “‘I had the ball until I hit the ground and then it popped loose,’ Philpot admitted.” Well, there you go.

Gene Brown, in the middle of his memorable one-year run as the Bulldogs’ quarterback, got hurt in the UTC game and missed the next two contests. Tommy Burriss started those two games, and led The Citadel to victories over Boston University and East Tennessee State. Both of those schools later dropped football.

Tommy Burriss, program killer.

Odds and ends, some relevant, some not-so-much:

– During his press conference, UTC coach Russ Huesman seemed to be under the impression that The Citadel was a private school. He made a reference suggesting as much when asked why the Bulldogs had “jumped up” to compete in the league this season. According to Huesman, The Citadel has “spread [itself] out” geographically to recruit better players, something that “places like that, smaller private schools, [have to do].”

The Citadel has never been a private school, but some folks might be surprised to know that until 1969, the University of Chattanooga was a private school. At that time, it merged with the University of Tennessee system.

– UTC lost three games last year by the exact same score, 28-27. All came in league play, and all three came against the three SoCon schools that run the triple option. That is an amazing coincidence.

The Citadel had never been involved in a contest that ended with a 28-27 score in its history before last season’s game.

– Kevin Higgins has mentioned that he likes to have a bye week occur after playing an FBS squad, a luxury the Bulldogs don’t have this year. During his seven-plus seasons as head coach of The Citadel, the Bulldogs have played the week immediately following a game against an FBS opponent on four occasions. The Citadel is 2-2 in such games, all at home.

The two losses were the triple-OT loss to Furman in 2005 (after playing Mississippi) and the horrific loss to CSU in 2006 (which following a game against Texas A&M). The Bulldogs beat Presbyterian 26-14 in 2010 (following a long trip to the desert to face Arizona) and edged Chattanooga 24-21 in 2006 (after playing Pittsburgh the week before).

– Of UTC’s six losses last season, five were by a total of twelve points. The Citadel lost seven games last year; four of them were by a total of seventeen points.

– The Citadel was the least-penalized team in all of FCS last season, both in terms of number of penalties and yardage. Chattanooga was fourth nationally in both categories, so there should be a lot of disciplined players on the field this Saturday.

– Looking through UTC’s game notes, I noticed that Jack Douglas holds the record for most rushing attempts by an opponent against the Mocs, rushing 38 times in the 1991 game (for 155 yards). Douglas’ 38 carries are the second-most by a Bulldog in a game, only bettered by Andrew Johnson’s 47 carries against William & Mary in 1974 (Johnson rushed for 241 yards against the Tribe).

The Bulldogs had 83 rushing attempts as a team in that 1991 contest, a 33-26 loss at Chattanooga, the most by an opponent against UTC, and also the most attempts The Citadel has ever had in a contest.

That was the first game for The Citadel after ditching an ill-fated experiment with the “split back veer”. From the Chattanooga game onward, the Bulldogs ran the wishbone for the rest of Charlie Taaffe’s tenure as head coach of The Citadel.

– Another Bulldog, Nehemiah Broughton, holds the distinction of having made the longest TD run from scrimmage by an opponent against the Mocs, a 92-yarder in 2004 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Citadel won that game 44-24. It was the third-longest run in The Citadel’s history, only eclipsed by Bob Carson’s 95-yard TD versus Boston University in 1971 and Travis Jervey’s 96-yard touchdown against VMI in 1994.

Jervey will be inducted into The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend.

– Halftime adjustments and speeches, ahoy: The Citadel has outscored its opponents 52-7 in the third quarter this season.

– In the 1988 game against Chattanooga I mentioned earlier, the Mocs’ head coach was Buddy Nix. He is now the general manager of the Buffalo Bills.

– There has been some talk about beer being sold in the concessions stands at Finley Stadium during Chattanooga home football games, but no decision will be made on that until UTC hires a new chancellor and director of athletics. Chattanooga averaged 10,436 fans per game last season at Finley.

Chattanooga basically ran a “pro-style” offense last season, which took advantage of the talents of starting quarterback B.J. Coleman. Without Coleman, and with two quarterbacks who can both run and pass, the Mocs looked to transition into a spread attack this season.

There have been a few speed bumps along the way, none bigger than the drama of three weeks ago, when Terrell “Silk” Robinson quit the team on September 4, then changed his mind and rejoined the squad two days later.

Robinson was the 2011 co-freshman of the year in the SoCon for his efforts replacing Coleman after the latter was injured midway through the season. Robinson started three games at quarterback for the Mocs last year, and also started this year’s season opener against South Florida. However, he was replaced during that game by Jacob Huesman, who has started at QB for the last three games.

Jacob Huesman is, of course, the son of the head coach, and so this isn’t your average quarterback controversy. Of course, not everyone is willing to admit it is a controversy at all.

Regardless of which one takes the majority of the snaps on Saturday, expect Robinson to be on the field in some capacity on most offensive downs. Russ Huesman had this to say about how the offense was going to be structured against The Citadel:

The bottom line is that Terrell and Jacob better get touches. This is the last week I’m going to say that. They are our two best players when the ball is in their hands. They have to touch the ball.

In his press conference, Huesman mentioned Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and the KSU offense as a model for what he would like to see from the Mocs. Against Oklahoma last Saturday, Klein threw 21 passes and had 17 rushing attempts. That is presumably the kind of output Huesman would like to see from the quarterback position, with (I’m guessing) some additional “touches” for Robinson as a receiver.

That certainly didn’t happen last week against Appalachian State. In that game, the two QBs combined to throw the ball 35 times, with only 14 rushing attempts (and four of those were sacks). It did not help that 12 of UTC’s 27 plays on first down were “spike plays” — plays that gained zero yards, or lost yards, and thus no better than just spiking the football.

Hey, I’m providing trendy, cutting-edge terminology in these previews.

Chattanooga’s offensive line has some experience, with 80 career starts among the five projected starters on Saturday, but left tackle Brandon Morgan is questionable for the game against The Citadel with a shoulder injury, and his backup is recovering from a knee problem. Starting left guard Synjen Herren is the least experienced of the starting group, as he is a redshirt freshman. Right tackle Adam Miller has started 36 games in his career and was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection.

Marlon Anthony, who caught six passes against the Bulldogs last season, is UTC’s leading returning receiver, but he has been slowed by an ankle injury (he started his first game of the season against App State). The Mocs’ top passing target is actually tight end Faysal Shafaat, a 6’5″, 240-lb. native of Orlando who leads UTC in both receptions (16) and receiving yardage (177) after four games. He will be a difficult matchup for The Citadel, as will Anthony (who is also 6’5″).

Three different running backs have started for the Mocs this season.Between them, they are averaging 3.6 yards per carry. The most experienced of the three, senior J.J. Jackson, is a dependable receiver out of the backfield, with seven receptions this year (12.7 yards per catch).

By the way, the longest play from scrimmage by a UTC player so far this season was a 62-yard run by Jacob Huesman against Jacksonville State. That came on the first play of his first career start.

“Typically throughout the years, Russ and this defense have played the option as good, if not better than everybody else in our league,” The Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said during Tuesday’s Southern Conference media teleconference.

Huesman didn’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but he did say he felt “about as good as you can feel going into an option game.”

UTC defense — 2011

The Citadel: 265 yards rushing, 4.6 ypc
Georgia Southern: 326 yards rushing, 6.2 ypc
Wofford: 358 yards rushing, 5.6 ypc

UTC defense — 2010

The Citadel: 238 yards rushing, 4.2 ypc
Georgia Southern: 255 yards rushing, 5.2 ypc
Wofford: 295 yards rushing, 4.5 ypc

The 2011 numbers for the three teams against Chattanooga are very close to what they averaged per game on the ground that season. The Mocs won two of the six games listed above, beating both The Citadel and Georgia Southern in 2010.

One curiosity in the schedule is that in each of the last three years (including this one), Chattanooga has played the three triple option teams in the same order — The Citadel first, followed by Georgia Southern and then Wofford. This year is different in that the Mocs have a bye week after playing the Bulldogs. In the previous two seasons, UTC played The Citadel and Georgia Southern in back-to-back weeks.

UTC does have a number of outstanding defensive players, and will definitely be a challenge for Triple O’Higgins. One major difference between last year’s team and this season’s squad is the presence of two big (and I mean big) newcomers in the middle of the defensive line. Derrick Lott is a 6’4″, 303-lb. transfer from Georgia, while his backup Chris Mayes is a 6’3″, 295-lb. transfer from the Naval Academy. Both will see time, and both will be more than a handful for the Bulldogs’ o-line.

They join proven performers like Buchanan Watch list member Wes Dothard, the Mocs’ outstanding middle linebacker; defensive ends Josh Williams (an all-conference performer) and Davis Tull (who already has four sacks this season); and excellent defensive backs D.J. Key (strong safety) and Kadeem Wise (cornerback).

Nick Pollard is the regular placekicker and punter for the Mocs this season, after just handling FGs and PATs last year (and handling them fairly well). On kickoffs and long field goals, UTC will usually trot out freshman Henrique Ribiero. In this case, it appears “long field goals” means more than 40 yards. Ribiero is a native of Brazil who made a 57-yard field goal in high school.

The Mocs employ the “rugby style” of punting, which they went to late last season after some punt protection problems (notably the punt blocked by Chris Billingslea for a Rod Harland TD in The Citadel’s victory over UTC).  It will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs’ punt return team adjusts to this particular punting technique.

Chaz Moore is a solid kickoff returner who the Bulldogs must contain. The Citadel allowed a long kickoff return in the App State game, something that got overshadowed by the fact that the Bulldogs had so many kickoffs in that game. Both of The Citadel’s kickoff return units must improve on Saturday.

I think Saturday’s game is going to be a tight affair. Chattanooga almost has to win the game if it has any hopes of making a playoff push, while The Citadel needs to regain any momentum lost following the NC State game.

Points may be at a premium, which wouldn’t be the best omen for the home team. Kevin Higgins is now 2-36 when one of his Bulldog teams fails to score more than 20 points in a game. UTC is also a decent road team (6-6 in its last twelve SoCon road contests).

I’m not trying to be pessimistic. I’m just worried about facing a somewhat desperate but talented team, one that remembers all too well the game it let get away last season.

There are positive developments to consider as well, though. Derek Douglas should see more snaps on Saturday, which can only help the defense, particularly the defensive line. Speaking of the d-line, Mark Thomas has played like a potential star, a very nice bonus this year.

After just four games, The Citadel is only 40 yards away from surpassing its aerial yardage total from all of last season. Think about that.

Saturday’s game will feature halftime ceremonies honoring the newest members of The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame. I already noted that one of them is Travis Jervey. The others are former baseball pitchers Jim Scott and Brian Wiley, 800-meter runner Mike Cason, and former basketball coach and AD Les Robinson.

I hope a good crowd shows up for this game. There is a chance for thunderstorms in the Charleston area on Saturday night, which could be a problem in terms of walk-up attendance (that was certainly the case for the GSU game). Still, I would like to think that with the way the Bulldogs have performed so far this season, there is an uptick of support, and a corresponding increase in the number of people in the stands. We shall see.

Can’t wait for Saturday.

College Football TV Listings 2012, 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 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 2012, Week 5

Additional notes:

– I include ESPN3.com games; they are denoted as “ESPN3″.

– I’ve listed the regional network affiliates for the SEC Network “national” game of the week (Arkansas-Texas A&M) 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-Wake Forest) can be found here:  Link

– I’ve listed the regional nets carrying the ACC Network “regional” games of the week (Middle Tennessee State-Georgia Tech and Idaho-North Carolina) in comments on the document.

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

– I’ve listed the regional network affiliates for the Big East Network game of the week (Buffalo-Connecticut) in a comment on the document.

– Also listed on the document in a comment are the regional nets carrying the following games: Missouri-UCF, Houston-Rice, and TCU-SMU.

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

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

– USA Today Coaches Poll (FBS):  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, which cannot be lauded enough. It’s a must-bookmark for any fan of college sports, to say the least. 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, 2012: North Carolina State

North Carolina State 52, The Citadel 14.

Links of interest:

The Post and Courier game story

Notes from The Post and Courier

The News and Observer (Raleigh) game story

The News and Observer photo gallery

Box score

Postgame video with Kevin Higgins, plus Darien Robinson and Derek Douglas

I’m not going to write much about this game. I wasn’t there in person, as I brought a mild case of the flu back home from Chicago. Perhaps it was just as well, although I am disappointed I couldn’t go support a team that certainly deserves as much support as it can get.

I watched the ESPN3 feed of the game, which featured analysis by the one and only Paul Maguire, backed by play-by-play man Mike Gleason in the role of Abbott to Maguire’s Costello. For the record, Gleason is not Jackie Gleason’s son, as Maguire faux-claimed late in the broadcast. At least, I’m fairly sure he’s not…

Also, the ESPN3 graphic about Maguire near the game’s end was wrong to about the 4th power. Maguire, curiously, only seemed to care about the error regarding TD receptions, which I thought was funny.

I was a little surprised that the NC State offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage as easily as it did. Not shocked, but surprised. That is the kind of thing that tends to happen in an FBS vs. FCS matchup, though.

This loss doesn’t bother me too much. As long as none of the players for The Citadel suffered any major injuries, and the team doesn’t have a sudden loss of confidence because of the result, the outcome shouldn’t have an impact on any of the Bulldogs’ long-term goals for this season.

I get the sense that a few people get upset when the Bulldogs lose games against FBS teams by significant margins. They wonder why The Citadel can’t be more competitive with these teams. Often, a comparison is made to the glory days of the late 1980s-early 1990s.

However, that era was definitely an outlier in terms of the school’s history in these matchups. There are two remarkable things about the games The Citadel played against FBS teams from 1988 through 1992. One is that of the eight such contests played during that time, the Bulldogs threatened to win seven of them. The other, and perhaps more amazing statistic, is that the Bulldogs actually won six of those seven (the exception being the 1990 game versus Air Force, which the Falcons won 10-7).

The Citadel won six of eight games against FBS competition from 1988-92 despite having a negative point differential in those contests (thanks to losing the 1988 game against Duke 41-17).

Other than that six-year period, though, even being in the mix against larger schools has not happened too often. Sure, The Citadel beat Air Force soundly in 1976, and knocked off Vanderbilt in 1979. I’ve written about the great victory over South Carolina in 1950, and you can throw in the 0-0 tie against Florida State in 1960 as well. There have been close calls, too, like the game against the Gamecocks in 1984 or the Wyoming loss in 2002.

Most of the time, though, the games are more along the lines of  the “76 Trombones” game against Georgia in 1958, or the 52-0 loss to Vanderbilt in 1970, or the 61-0 setback at Maryland in 2003 — and none of those defeated squads were terrible (heck, the 2003 Bulldogs won six games).

There is hope, then there is reality. Expectations need to be managed.

Now as for the players, they are in a different category. I realize that the players are disappointed. They are competitors, after all. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

All that said, I think there are a few takeaways from the game worth mentioning. In no particular order:

– It was a tough night for special teams. Not only did the Bulldogs allow a punt return TD, the kickoff return team struggled, both in execution and decision-making. That unit needs to improve as The Citadel resumes SoCon play.

– Derek Douglas returned to the field. I was a little surprised to see him get snaps on Saturday, but he is now apparently ready for the stretch run. That is obviously great news for The Citadel.

– The Bulldogs didn’t tackle particularly well in this game.

– The triple option offense can work against any team. Even a well-coached outfit can have breakdowns, and if you make your blocks, and the opposing middle linebacker overruns the play, then Darien Robinson is going to have a very enjoyable sprint to the end zone.

On Robinson’s touchdown, I was interested in the fact that he actually went off-tackle as opposed to right up the middle, a slight alteration in play design that proved to be quite effective.

– Robinson rushed for 103 yards, becoming the first Bulldog to rush for over 100 yards against an FBS opponent since Nehemiah Broughton rushed for 175 yards against Wyoming in 2002. Robinson was the first Bulldog to rush for over 100 yards against an ACC team since Stanford Glenn rushed for 123 yards against Georgia Tech in 1982.

– Not that it matters, but NC State’s final touchdown of the first half should not have counted. Mike Glennon was the recipient of not one, but two pushes from his linemen towards the goal line, which is illegal. It was obvious, but the officials let it go. That said, I’m not losing sleep over it.

– The Citadel’s three starters at linebacker (Rah Muhammad, Carl Robinson, Carson Smith) combined to make 30 tackles, led by Robinson’s 13.

– Of Walker Smith’s six tackles, three came on special teams.

– A total of fifty-two Bulldogs saw action during the game.

It’s time to get back to SoCon action. Next up is Chattanooga, on Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium. I think the team is looking forward to that game. I know that I’m looking forward to it.

2012 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. North Carolina State

The Citadel at North Carolina State, to be played at Carter-Finley Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 22.  The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with play-by-play from Mike Gleason, analysis by Paul Maguire, and sideline reporting from Sarah Stankavage. The contest can also be heard on radio via the twelve affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Danny Reed (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Josh Baker, with Lee Glaze patrolling the sidelines and Walt Nadzak providing pregame, halftime, and postgame commentary. Bulldog Insider will also provide free audio. The Citadel Sports Network broadcast can be heard on the radio in Carter-Finley Stadium via 90.3 FM.

Links of interest:

The Citadel game notes

North Carolina State game notes

SoCon weekly release

FCS Coaches Poll

The Sports Network FCS Poll

Map of Carter-Finley Stadium and surrounding parking lots

Video of NCSU head coach Tom O’Brien’s weekly press conference

I was travelling last weekend, so I wasn’t in Boone to watch The Citadel play Appalachian State (obviously my loss). I wanted to know what was going on, of course, so occasionally I would get out my smartphone and check for scoring updates. (Okay, maybe more than occasionally.)

When the game started I was wandering around the extremely impressive Oriental Institute on the campus of the University of Chicago (a school that was once a member of the Big 10, by the way, and is still a member of that conference’s academic consortium). By the time it ended I was at the underrated Loyola University Museum of Art, just off of Michigan Avenue. Hey, I’m not just a sports geek; my nerdiness is multi-faceted.

The Oriental Institute wasn’t quite as impressive, however, as The Citadel putting FIFTY-TWO POINTS ON THE BOARD IN BOONE. Fifty-two points…and in only three quarters!

Three Bulldogs rushing for over 100 yards? Another with over 100 receiving yards? Unbelievable, and also unprecedented, for while The Citadel did have three 100-yard rushers in a game against VMI in 1998, there was no 100-yard receiver in that particular contest.

I’ve spent the past couple of days trying to reconstruct the App State game before taking a look at this week’s game against North Carolina State. Kevin Higgins may give his charges only 24 hours to enjoy a victory before focusing on the next game, but I can take more time to review things.

The highlights were great fun to watch. The two TD runs by Ben Dupree, the long pass plays, the blocked punt for a TD, the sacks/pressures, and the “truck jobs” by Rickey Anderson and Van Dyke Jones — they were all good, especially with Danny Reed roaring in the background.

I think everyone by now has a good idea of what happened in the game, so I’m not going to rehash all of it. I will say, though, that while the offense was responsible for 45 points (the punt block providing the other TD) and an astounding 618 yards of total offense, it seems to me the defense may have been the more consistent unit against the Mountaineers.

I’m not sure the offense’s productivity last Saturday is sustainable, at least not in the manner it was accomplished.

As I wrapped up my preview of the Appalachian State game last week, I wrote:

The Bulldogs were only 3 for 14 on third-down conversions against Georgia Southern. That won’t be good enough against Appalachian State.

This is something I actually got right. The Citadel turned that third-down conversion stat on its head, as it went 11 for 14 on third-down conversions against the Mountaineers. That is quite a switch, but a closer look tells a more remarkable tale.

Four times against Appalachian State, the Bulldogs were faced with a third down needing six yards or more to move the chains. In fact, all four of those conversion attempts were 3rd-and-8 or longer. The Citadel’s average gain on the four plays? 36.25 yards, with two of them resulting in touchdowns (Dupree’s long scampers) and another leading to a first-and-goal (the 32-yard pass reception by Domonic Jones).

That is an absurd success rate, both in terms of percentage and resulting yardage. In contrast, the Bulldogs had eight third down plays against Georgia Southern in which they needed to gain at least six yards for a first down. The Citadel converted only one of those against the Eagles (the first TD of that contest, a 26-yard pass from Dupree to Jones on a 3rd-and-7).

When The Citadel played Charleston Southern, the Bulldogs converted twice on third-and-six but were 0-3 on third-down conversion attempts longer than that (and 3-for-9 overall).

I’m not trying to take anything away from the offense. After all, The Citadel only faced a third-and-long situation four times in twelve drives, which is excellent. However, those conversions led to 21 of the Bulldogs’ 38 first-half points. It could have been a very different game if The Citadel had converted on, say, only one of those long-yardage situations.

Going forward, The Citadel can’t count on that type of success on third-and-long. It’s nice to know, though, that the Bulldogs are capable of making big plays on offense when necessary. Another huge plus: no turnovers.

As for the defensive effort against the Mountaineers, it was just what the doctor ordered. Appalachian State had averaged over 42 points per game in the previous six contests against the Bulldogs at Kidd Brewer Stadium, so holding App to 14 points through three quarters was a welcome change.

The Mountaineers had nine full possessions in those three periods and were limited to 239 yards of total offense. Five of the nine App drives ended in punts, one in an interception, and another on a lost fumble. Six of those non-scoring drives were over in five or fewer plays, so the defense played its role in The Citadel’s huge edge in time of possession (the Bulldogs had the ball for over 38 minutes in the contest).

The defense did an excellent job preventing Mountaineers QB Jamal Jackson from making big plays (his longest pass completion of the day was only 15 yards). I am a little puzzled by App’s seeming unwillingness to throw the ball deep. Perhaps it was more a case of being unable than unwilling. The Citadel got a lot of pressure on Jackson when he did attempt to go long (Mark Thomas put his stamp on the game twice in this respect).

Now the Bulldogs will play a football game in another city in North Carolina. It won’t be a conference game, though. North Carolina State is this year’s FBS opponent, as The Citadel will pocket $375,000 for appearing at Carter-Finley Stadium this Saturday.

North Carolina State is different in at least one respect from The Citadel’s recent FBS opposition. South Carolina, Arizona, and North Carolina are all schools that have never produced a player who had a significant career as an NFL quarterback. Briefly reviewing those three schools’ histories with regards to signal-callers:

– Before Nick Foles was selected in the third round of the most recent NFL draft, Arizona had not had a QB picked in the draft since 1985. The Wildcats haven’t had an alum start a game at quarterback in the NFL since 1974.

– T.J. Yates started five regular-season games (and two playoff games) for the Houston Texans last season, which was remarkable enough. More remarkable, perhaps, is that he became the first UNC player to ever start a game at quarterback in the NFL.

– Anthony Wright, with 19 career starts, is one of only two former South Carolina players to start an NFL game at quarterback.

NC State, with a program arguably on the same level historically as those schools, is QBU by comparison, with three alums (so far) making an impact on the NFL scene at the quarterback position.

Roman Gabriel was the first. Gabriel, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, was the second overall pick in the NFL draft in 1962. He played for 16 years in the league with the Rams and Eagles, winning the NFL MVP award in 1969. Gabriel was in a movie with John Wayne; he also portrayed a headhunter on Gilligan’s Island.

Erik Kramer’s NFL career wasn’t quite as distinguished as Gabriel’s, but in ten seasons Kramer did make 67 starts. His claims to fame include an appearance on Married with Children (as himself). Most notable, however, is the fact that Kramer is the only man alive to have quarterbacked the Detroit Lions to victory in a playoff game.

Philip Rivers is a known quantity to current football fans. By the time the month of October rolls around, he will have started 100 games in the NFL and thrown for over 25,000 yards. Unlike Gabriel and Kramer, Rivers has yet to make an appearance in a network sitcom.

Russell Wilson may not be as well known as Rivers yet, but odds are he will be sooner rather than later; he has already made his first commercial. Russell was the Pack’s starting QB for three seasons before spending his final year as a transfer grad student at Wisconsin (leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl). He won the starting QB job for the Seattle Seahawks this year as a rookie despite only being a third-round pick.

Wilson’s move to Madison was a controversial one, and could have backfired on NC State head coach Tom O’Brien. It didn’t, though, largely because O’Brien had another potential NFL quarterback in Mike Glennon waiting in the wings. Glennon wasn’t a sure bet this time last year, however, and so O’Brien was the subject of a lot of criticism.

Criticism of O’Brien isn’t exactly a new concept. O’Brien has always had a particular kind of rap against him, that of being a decent coach with a definite ceiling. At Boston College, he took over a program racked by scandal and patiently built it into a perennial bowl team, consistently winning eight or nine games every season.

After a while, though, BC fans began to tire of never winning “the big one” and playing in middling bowl games (which O’Brien usually won; he is 8-2 in bowls). O’Brien also apparently didn’t get along with his AD, and so he wound up taking the NC State job. The school needed an experienced, steady disciplinarian (O’Brien went to the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps).

O’Brien had a slower start in terms of wins and losses at North Carolina State, but in the last two years the team has won nine and eight games, respectively. Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple last year, as not only had Wilson departed, but due to scheduling two FCS teams, the Pack had to win seven regular season games to qualify for a bowl.

A befuddling loss to O’Brien’s old team, Boston College, meant that NC State had to win its last two games to get to seven victories, and one of those was against eventual ACC champ Clemson — but the ever-erratic Pack smashed the Tigers, 37-13. Then in the season finale against two-win Maryland, NC State trailed 41-14 in the third quarter before scoring 42 straight points to win the game and a berth in the Belk Bowl (slacks for everybody!).

Fans of NC State are unsure if the Pack can win a title with Tom O’Brien as a coach. He is not known for recruiting at a championship level, he isn’t an offensive innovator, and there is nothing in his history that suggests he can take the program to the “next level”.

On the other hand, he wins more than he loses, he runs a relatively tight ship, and he knows how to beat UNC (5-0 against the Heels). Maybe one year, a few more breaks will go his way, and NC State will wind up in the Orange Bowl.

O’Brien has also inspired TOBing, easily one of the great college football memes of this century, good enough to be the subject of newspaper articles. It has been mentioned by ESPN and NC State’s own game notes. The TOBing craze was instigated by longtime blogger Akula Wolf of Backing the Pack.

The coach has a couple of Low Country connections. His youngest daughter works for the Historic Charleston Foundation. O’Brien is also one of the 1,989 college football and basketball coaches who owns a vacation home along the South Carolina coast.

When Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, that put the onus on Mike Glennon to deliver an all-star type of season. He did just that in 2011, completing 62.5% of his passes for 3,054 yards and 31 TDs. In his last four games, Glennon threw for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The 6’6″ Glennon struggled in this year’s opener against Tennessee, throwing four interceptions, but has been pick-free in two wins over Connecticut and South Alabama. He threw three TD passes against the Jaguars.

While Glennon is established as the snap-taker, that same sense of stability cannot be found at running back for NC State. Irmo High grad Mustafa Greene will not play against The Citadel, as he has been suspended. James Washington and Tony Creecy should get the bulk of the carries. Washington is the last NCSU player to rush for 100 yards in a game; he did so against North Carolina last season.

NC State is averaging 2.6 yards per rush through three games, a number that includes lost yardage from sacks, but is still not very good. The Pack has not had a player rush for over 1,000 yards since 2002.

Part of not having a 1,000-yard back  can probably be attributed to offensive line play, which has been a sore subject for Pack supporters during the O’Brien era. The coach has not been able to consistently develop the kind of quality o-line talent in Raleigh that he had in Chestnut Hill.

This season a couple of regulars were shifted around (“new” starting left guard R.J. Mattes has now played in four different spots on the o-line in his career). NC State is already on its second left tackle of the campaign after Rob Crisp was injured against Tennessee.

Several receivers are capable of making big plays for the Pack. Bryan Underwood has two TD receptions this year of more than 40 yards. Quintin Payton is a 6’4″ wideout who is averaging almost 20 yards per reception; he had 129 receiving yards versus Tennessee. Tobais Palmer had five TD catches in 2011. He is also NC State’s primary kick returner. Another receiver, Rashard Smith (who caught a touchdown pass against South Alabama), returns punts.

Mike Glennon will also occasionally throw to his tight ends. Actually, Glennon will throw to just about anybody, as he has already completed passes to twelve different players this season through just three games.

NCSU’s strength on defense lies in its secondary, which has talent and experience. All-American David Amerson is an amazing ball-hawk; he intercepted 13 (!) passes last season and already has two picks this year. He got burned a couple of times against Tennessee, but that can happen to the best of DBs.

Amerson is joined in the defensive backfield by safeties Earl Wolff (such a good name for an NC State player) and Brandon Bishop, who have combined to start 69 games for the Pack. The two aren’t afraid to mix it up, either, as they have accounted for a combined 54 tackles through three games this season.

Incidentally, Wolff’s mother is currently serving overseas in the military.

North Carolina State’s linebacking corps is not nearly as experienced. Middle linebacker Sterling Lucas is back after missing the 2011 season due to injury. Lucas is easily the best-educated of all the Pack players, although he has yet to inform the school’s athletic media relations department that it has the name of his high school listed improperly in the game notes.

NCSU has a couple of promising younger players in sophomores Rodman Noel (whose younger brother, Nerlens Noel, is a super-hyped freshman basketball player at Kentucky this year) and Brandon Pittman. Noel will start in the Pack’s base 4-3, but Pittman will play a lot.

On the defensive line, NCSU will rotate up to ten guys. The key players in this unit on Saturday might be veteran right end Brian Slay and 315-lb. DT Thomas Teal.

Over the last two games NCSU has held its opponents to a meager 2-for-23 on third down conversion attempts, with South Alabama pulling an 0-fer in the category (in eleven tries). Tennessee was 9-for-19 converting third downs against the Pack.

Both of NC State’s kicking specialists started as freshmen last year. Niklas Sade is the Pack’s placekicker. He has made 50 consecutive PATs and was 11-16 on FG attempts last year, although so far this season Sade is only 2-5. His career long is 45 yards.

Wil Baumann is NC State’s punter. From what I can tell, based on the stats, he is more of a directional kicker than a true “boomer”. This could be a tough week for fans of the Domonic Jones Puntblocking Experience (DJPE), however, as NC State hasn’t had a punt blocked in over three seasons, and hasn’t had one blocked and returned for a TD since 2005.

For the third consecutive week, The Citadel will play in a game designated as Military Appreciation Day. NC State has an impressive history of producing military officers, and I would anticipate a particularly good show at Carter-Finley.

It is hard to really predict how Saturday’s game will go. The Citadel was very competitive in its last matchup against an FBS opponent, and that was against a nationally ranked South Carolina squad at the close of last season. On the other hand, it is also true that the Gamecocks did not punt in that game.

I don’t think this NC State team is as good as that South Carolina outfit (at the very least, there will be no Alshon Jeffery with which to contend), but the Pack is a solid ACC program that features a fine quarterback and several playmakers.

By my count, Tom O’Brien is 10-0 against I-AA/FCS schools in his head coaching career. One of those wins came in 2007 against Wofford, in O’Brien’s first season in Raleigh. NC State won that game 38-17, a good approximation of what the smart money says Saturday’s result will be.

NC State has played Georgia Tech in each of the last two years, so it is not unfamiliar with the triple option. The Pack did not always defend the Jackets’ offense very well in those games, but then Georgia Tech has a different level of athlete in its system than does (for the most part) The Citadel. At any rate, NCSU was already preparing for this game before the season began.

Much of the focus for this week’s contest has been on how NC State will defend Triple O’Higgins, but it may be that The Citadel’s biggest task will be for its defense to stop a potent (if occasionally inconsistent) Pack offense. In most FBS vs. FCS contests, the main advantage the FBS school has is on the line of scrimmage. How the Bulldogs solve that problem will go a long way to determining how close the game will be.

To me, this game is a freeroll for the Bulldogs. A loss doesn’t affect any of the team’s long-term goals in any way, except for having a winning season, and even there The Citadel will have plenty of opportunities to get three more victories.

What is important is that The Citadel comes out of this game with A) no serious injuries, B) confidence intact, and C) a cashed check for $375K.

Ben Dupree was asked if a win over NC State would “validate” the program. He correctly said no.

To beat an FBS team, you have to be on your ‘A’ game. I don’t think winning this game would validate us, but it would get us some more national attention. We’re hoping to win this game and be a top 5 team.

Exactly right.

In a bit of an oddity, The Citadel could be the team on Saturday night in danger of suffering a letdown. I hope that doesn’t happen, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise for the Bulldogs to come out flat after two enormous (and potentially program-altering) wins.

That said, the bandwagon is starting to fill up. A win in Raleigh would fill it to near capacity.

College Football TV Listings 2012, 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 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 2012, Week 4

Additional notes:

– I include ESPN3.com games; they are denoted as “ESPN3″.

– I’ve listed the regional network affiliates for the SEC Network “national” game of the week (Kentucky-Florida) 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 (Army-Wake Forest) can be found here:  Link

– I’ve listed the regional nets carrying the SEC Network “regional” game (South Carolina State-Texas A&M) in a comment on the document.

– I’ve listed the regional nets carrying the ACC Network “regional” game of the week (Miami [FL]-Georgia Tech) in a comment on the document.

– The local affiliates for the Southland Conference Network game of the week (Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas) can be found here: Link

– Also listed on the document in a comment are the regional nets carrying the Mississippi-Tulane game.

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

– ABC/ESPN2 coverage map for the 3:30 pm ET games: Link

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

– USA Today Coaches Poll (FBS):  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, which cannot be lauded enough. It’s a must-bookmark for any fan of college sports, to say the least. 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.

2012 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Appalachian State

The Citadel at Appalachian State, to be played at Kidd Brewer Stadium, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday, September 15.  The game will not be televised. The contest can be heard on radio via the twelve affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Danny Reed (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Josh Baker.  Bulldog Insider will also provide free audio; the only video available for this game is being provided by Appalachian State as part of a subscription service.

Links of interest:

The Citadel game notes

Appalachian State game notes

SoCon weekly release

FCS Coaches Poll

The Sports Network FCS poll

I included the two main FCS polls this week in my list of links because, hey, The Citadel is ranked in both of them! The Bulldogs are #21 in the TSN poll and #23 in the coaches’ poll, the first time The Citadel has appeared in a poll in four years.

That’s what happens when you win a big game. Now, though, it’s time to move on. As Kevin Higgins would say, the 24-hour period of celebrating is over. The Bulldogs now face their next challenge, and quite a challenge it is.

Appalachian State has won 17 of its last 18 meetings against The Citadel. That includes an eight-game winning streak against the Bulldogs. The average score of those 18 games (including The Citadel’s 24-21 victory in 2003) is Appalachian State 38, The Citadel 18. The Mountaineers have scored 40 or more points in nine of those contests.

When the Bulldogs last played in Boone, in 2010, the offense was still finding its way in the first year of Triple O’Higgins. The result was an ugly setback in which the Bulldogs:

– did not complete a pass
– allowed two TD passes of 60+ yards
– had not one, but two bad snaps on punts
– were abysmal returning kickoffs

It’s amazing the final score was only 39-10. It helped that The Citadel blocked two PATs and also forced two turnovers (one on an interception by Brandon McCladdie).

The Mountaineers last lost to The Citadel in Boone in 1992. The Bulldogs pitched a 25-0 shutout at Kidd Brewer Stadium that year, just one of many impressive victories in a championship season.

It will be Military Appreciation Day at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday, the second of three consecutive games for The Citadel in which that will be the case.

Appalachian State lost its opening game in sauna-like conditions at East Carolina, 35-13, but rebounded by beating Montana 35-27 in a rare regular-season intersectional clash of top 10 FCS squads.

I watched part of the App-ECU game on TV before leaving for The Citadel’s game against Charleston Southern. I thought the Mountaineers held their own against the Pirates. Appalachian State led early and was still in the game midway through the third quarter, trailing 14-13, before East Carolina gradually wore the Mountaineers down and took control of the contest.

Appalachian State actually finished with more yards of total offense than ECU, but gave that advantage back with penalties (11 for 100 yards). The Mountaineers also allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a score. App State’s D had trouble getting off the field, as East Carolina was 9 for 16 on third down conversion attempts, a big reason the Pirates had a significant edge in time of possession.

A crowd of 30,856 (described by App State’s game notes package as “raucous”) was in attendance for the game against Montana, and the home team delivered with a victory. Though it was a back-and-forth affair, the Mountaineers never trailed after taking a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.

For Appalachian State, the Montana game was in some respects a reverse of the ECU contest, not just because it was a win, but in the statistical profile. Montana outgained the Mountaineers, but was set back by turnovers (App State intercepted three passes and forced a fumble on a kickoff return). One week after its opponent held the ball for 33:18, Appalachian had a time of possession of 33:10.

Allow me a brief historical digression in honor of the fact that Saturday’s game marks the 50th anniversary of the first game played in what is now called Kidd Brewer Stadium…

When it first opened in 1962, Appalachian State’s football stadium wasn’t called Kidd Brewer Stadium, but Conrad Stadium, in honor of an R.J. Reynolds executive who had held trustee positions at both App State and Wake Forest. It was renamed in honor of Kidd Brewer (a former head coach at App in the 1930s) in 1988, when he was 80 years old (Brewer died in 1991).

Brewer had quite a resume — in athletics, in politics, and in business. In 1963, he went to prison for a while, and then ran for governor when he got out. Brewer later made a fortune in real estate (he was the developer of the Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh and owned a lot of land in that area). He is described by several references as having been ‘colorful’. When he got out of jail, he was asked what he planned on doing next. He reportedly answered that he was going to “peddle influence”.

Appalachian State wants to move up to the FBS ranks and compete for bowl bids rather than playoff berths. That, you know. Did you know, however, that the Mountaineers have played in nine bowl games in their history? App State’s coach for the first two of those bowls was Kidd Brewer himself.

Neither of those bowls, by the way, had an official name, and are thus recorded as “Unnamed” bowls, though at least one source suggests the first of these was referred to as the “Doll and Toy Charity Game”. Appalachian State’s opponent for the second bowl game was Moravian College; I would have called this game the “Cookie Bowl”.

The Mountaineers would eventually play in bowls that were actually named/sponsored, including the Burley Bowl on four occasions. Appalachian State also played in the Pythian Bowl and the Elks Bowl.

Sometimes I am wrong. Okay, maybe more than sometimes.  My preview of last year’s App State game was one of those times:

In the SoCon media teleconference, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore described his quarterback, DeAndre Presley, as “very questionable” for the game this Saturday…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.

Presley didn’t play. Instead, Jamal Jackson made his first career start at quarterback for the Mountaineers and promptly completed his first fifteen pass attempts. Jackson wound up throwing three TD passes as App State scored touchdowns on all but one of its first eight possessions.

Jackson remained as the starting QB for the Mountaineers after that game (why not?) and continued to perform well. He has thrown for at least 200 yards in each of his starts for App State and is a true dual-threat QB (he has nine rushing TDs in nine career starts). Through two games this year he has completed 65.3% of his passes. Jackson’s father Greg was a defensive back in the NFL for 12 years, and his uncle Bob Whitfield was an NFL offensive tackle for 15 seasons.

Appalachian State running back Steven Miller rushed for over 100 yards against The Citadel last season and will probably get the bulk of the carries for the Mountaineers this Saturday, particularly as fellow RB Rod Chisholm is doubtful for the game due to injury. Other than Miller and Chisholm, App has very little experience at the position, not that experience is a prerequisite for a running back.

The Mountaineers moved some guys around on their offensive line and are also breaking in two new starters, but the o-line has been solid thus far in the 2012 campaign. Appalachian State had a fortuitous streak of stability on the offensive line in the three seasons prior to last year, but its luck in that department ran out in 2011.

You would never have known that by looking at App’s numbers versus The Citadel last year, though. The Mountaineers rolled up 552 yards of total offense at Johnson Hagood Stadium, the most allowed by the Bulldogs all season.

Sean Price caught eight passes for 103 yards last week against Montana, but he may serve the back end of a two-game suspension against The Citadel. As I write this, I am unsure whether he will in fact play. I tend to think he will not, but it is possible that he suits up against the Bulldogs and sits out App State’s game versus Chattanooga.

Nevertheless, the Mountaineers will still have plenty of options at wideout, including Tony Washington (over 100 yards receiving against ECU) and Andrew Peacock (who is averaging 13.4 yards per reception through two games). Washington caught a 28-yard touchdown pass against The Citadel last season. Malachi Jones, a freshman who at the very least has a cool name, is also a pass-catching threat.

Appalachian State’s defense last year versus the SoCon’s three triple-option teams:

– at Wofford; allowed 407 yards of total offense, 24 first downs, 5.5 yards per rush
– Georgia Southern; allowed 201 yards of total offense, 11 first downs, 2.6 yards per rush
– at The Citadel; allowed 361 yards of total offense, 15 first downs, 5.9 yards per rush

In 2010:

– The Citadel; allowed 197 yards of total offense, 10 first downs, 3.7 yards per rush
– at Georgia Southern; allowed 301 yards of total offense, 18 first downs, 3.5 yards per rush
– Wofford; 275 yards of total offense, 17 first downs, 3.6 yards per rush

The one thing that jumps out of those numbers is that Appalachian State has fared much better against these teams at home than on the road, which isn’t really that surprising, since most teams play better at home. Still, a total offense differential in home/away splits of over 130 yards on average is noteworthy.

Kevin Higgins singled out Appalachian State’s linebacking corps during his Q-and-A session at the weekly SoCon teleconference, calling it the strength of the Mountaineers defense. He mentioned the significant experience of LBs Jeremy Kimbrough and Brandon Grier, and also discussed two veteran defensive backs, Troy Sanders and Demetrius McCray.

Kimbrough was a first team All-SoCon selection in 2011 by the coaches. He had eleven tackles against The Citadel last year.  Grier entered the 2012 season as the active SoCon leader in tackles, with 171. He and Kimbrough have combined to make 27 tackles over the first two games of this season.

McCray intercepted two passes last week against Montana and had five picks last season. Sanders, who has started 27 consecutive games, had 10 tackles and an interception versus East Carolina.

Appalachian State is going to have to combine all that experience with some unproven talent, however. Four freshmen defensive linemen are on the two-deep. There are also three freshmen listed on the depth chart at linebacker.

Then there is the secondary, which could be a problem area for the Mountaineers going forward, if not in this game. Due to injuries and another suspension, Appalachian State is likely to start a true freshman at the cornerback spot opposite McCray. All of the backup positions in the defensive backfield are manned by freshmen as well.

The two best punters in the league will be in Boone on Saturday, as App’s Sam Martin was a second-team All-SoCon choice last season. Against The Citadel last year, however, Martin had a punt blocked and returned for a TD by Domonic Jones, one of two punts the Mountaineers had blocked in 2011.

Martin is also Appalachian State’s kickoff specialist. Seven of his nine kickoffs so far this year have been touchbacks. The placekicker for the Mountaineers is Drew Stewart, who became the regular field goal kicker midway through last season. He kicked six field goals against Western Carolina.

The Mountaineers lost DB/returner Doug Middleton for the season in the ECU game, a tough break on two fronts. In general, Appalachian State needs to substantially improve its special teams play. You may recall that The Citadel ranked #1 in Phil Steele’s FCS special teams ratings. App State finished #98, the lowest among all SoCon schools.

In last season’s meeting, The Citadel scored 42 points, the most points given up by App State in a SoCon game since September 22, 2007, when Wofford beat the Mountaineers 42-31. The blocked punt for a TD helped, but the Bulldogs also had three scoring drives of eight or more plays, including the last two drives of the game.

That performance, combined with the results from the first two games of this season, should give The Citadel confidence that it can move the ball on offense on Saturday. The Bulldogs have only turned the ball over once in the last six quarters, a positive trend that needs to continue if The Citadel has hopes of pulling the upset.

The Bulldogs were only 3 for 14 on third-down conversions against Georgia Southern. That won’t be good enough against Appalachian State.

The Bulldogs’ defense will face a much different challenge this week than it has so far this season. App State’s offense is multi-dimensional and has a tendency to turn games into track meets. The Citadel won’t fare well in that type of contest. The Bulldogs have to slow the Mountaineers down, which is much easier said than done. The Citadel must also maintain an edge over Appalachian State in special teams play.

This matchup, at least in Boone, has been an easy victory for Appalachian State in recent years. I will be disappointed if that is true on Saturday. Winning the game may be a tall order for The Citadel, but it should be a competitive game, and I wouldn’t be completely surprised if the Bulldogs came away with a victory.

After all, I saw last week’s game.