Game review, 2012: Charleston Southern

The Citadel 49, Charleston Southern 14.

Links of interest:

Game story in The Post and Courier

Postgame notes in The Post and Courier

The Post and Courier‘s video review of the game

The Citadel’s release

Video of the postgame press conference

Charleston Southern’s release

First, an exercise in perspective…what if the second half of last night’s game had actually been the first half, and vice versa?

In the second half against Charleston Southern, the Bulldogs rushed 34 times for 255 yards. They completed both of their pass attempts. The Citadel scored five touchdowns (by four different players) in the half and did not fumble. The Bulldogs committed one penalty, for five yards.

Defensively, the Bulldogs held Charleston Southern to 113 total yards in the second half. It forced three turnovers (two fumbles and an interception). CSU did not score in the half.

In the first half, The Citadel scored twice and moved the ball with relative ease (the Bulldogs did not punt during the entire game), but the offense fumbled six times (two lost). In addition, an ill-timed penalty cost The Citadel three points.

The defense played fairly well in the first half, but allowed a long touchdown drive after the first lost fumble, and appeared to have some communication issues in the secondary.

If The Citadel had raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead, and then settled for a 49-14 victory after some sloppy second-half play, I think the fan reaction would have been almost uniformly positive. There would have been some admonitions about letting up, and maintaining focus, but the general opinion of the fan base for the game would have probably been “solid effort”.

That’s not what happened, of course, and as a result the Bulldogs played last night to mixed reviews. On the one hand, a win is a win, especially if you root for The Citadel, and the second-half effort was an encouraging response to a disappointing first-half performance.

However, that doesn’t excuse a first half that gave supporters flashbacks to two years ago, when just trying to run the offense was a major challenge. At various points in the half, I was more annoyed with the team than I had been during the Georgia Southern game in 2010, when the Bulldogs fumbled nine times in one of the all-time Johnson Hagood Stadium debacles.

Of course, it really wasn’t the same as that GSU game. For one thing, the Bulldogs did run the triple option effectively, at least in terms of yardage and possessions. Oh, those fumbles, though…and that penalty…and that long CSU drive against the defense, during which the Buccaneers converted a 3rd-and-7 from their own 5-yard-line, then added a 29-yard pass play and a 25-yard run, and capped it off with a 15-yard TD pass that came when one of the Bulldogs appeared to blow a coverage assignment.

Frustrating. Still, it was a victory, and in truth The Citadel was in control of the game throughout, with the exception of that brief window when the Bulldogs trailed 14-7. After the second of Rickey Anderson’s three touchdowns tied the game just before the half, however, it was simply a question of whether The Citadel would fumble six more times in the second half, or win the game going away. Thankfully, all the fumbling after the break came from the Buccaneers.

“The good thing is, we executed the option real well,” coach Kevin Higgins said. “The fumbles were not as much on exchanges as they were down field, the ones that hurt us. That’s a matter of protecting the ball and being smart.

“Our guys know they didn’t play as well as they could have, and that they have work to do next week. That’s probably good with a team like Georgia Southern coming in.”

Ah yes, Georgia Southern. I earlier mentioned the 2010 game with all the turnovers. That was the last time the Eagles journeyed to Johnson Hagood Stadium.

In a way, next week is part of an unintentional round-robin. Georgia Southern’s opponent on Saturday was Jacksonville, and the Dolphins will play at Charleston Southern next week while the Eagles tangle with The Citadel.

Last year, JU played at The Citadel in the home opener and played creditably, losing 31-9 to the Bulldogs. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, their starting quarterback and several other key players graduated after last season. Georgia Southern crushed JU 58-0, with 41 of those points coming in the first half. GSU had 557 total yards, all rushing (the Eagles were 0-8 passing).

Georgia Southern was ready for the season to begin. The Citadel needed a half to work out some kinks. The Bulldogs won’t be getting any mulligans next Saturday against the Eagles. More on that game later in the week.

I took a few photos last night, though not as many as I would have liked. Not unlike the Bulldogs, the first game of the season was a struggle for me at times, too.

The first picture is a shot of the parking lot that replaced the old gym that used to be across the street from the stadium.


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